Wednesday, 30 January 2013

I want to be British and I want to be European. Why are the extremists trying to stop me?

Guest Post by Willie Samuel

If I were to be going out for a drink and a nice meal or whatever, and I was given the choice between the UK and the continent I know what I’d choose. I’d choose the continent. Unlike the streets of any UK city, you don’t have to negotiate the vomit and your chances of being drawn into a fight are much less. For me, it offers a poignant  analogy for the debate around membership of the EU.

The argument of the (mainly English) Right is that all things British are better, and that these nasty Europeans are trying to take our jobs and control our wonderful way of life.  Whilst the Right argues against the EU on the grounds that European directives on working hours and safety get in the way of exploitation of labour, you know that isn’t their main concern. It’s all about Johnny Foreigner telling us what to do. 

I fail to see what’s so good about our great British way of life. Public transport in Europe is cheap, efficient and frequent. Streets are safe. As somebody on the centre Left, I believe in breaking down barriers between states. I think it is great that I have the right to live and work in Spain, France, Greece et all were I to so choose.

The forces of Capitalism broadly agree with me. Indeed the Labour Party has placed itself on the side of business. It is odd to see much of Business and the Tories at odds over this, but it shows that the simplistic Marxist analysis doesn’t always apply.

Indeed the far Left and far Right are (not for the first time) often as one in the desire to exit the EU. The far Left see the European Union as an agent of oppression, just as the far Right do. 

David Cameron, in his speech last week, unleashed forces which could lead, not simply to departure from the EU. It could also swing the Scottish Independence referendum towards a YES vote.

Alex Salmond has been handed a useful weapon in his argument that the UK is going in the wrong direction. He can, with some justification, point towards an English Right which is determined to take the course of departure from the EU to pursue their vision of a country free from human rights, working time directives, health and safety regulations to name a few. The Tories remain a small sect within Scotland, they aren’t going to win much support for their departure plans.

Suppose, therefore, that this persuades more Scots to vote for independence in 2014. England, from that point on, has a natural Tory majority. It is then, pretty likely that in 2017 a referendum with take place in England, Wales and Northern Ireland regarding EU membership. Without Scotland the Tories can carry forward their agenda. It is quite conceivable that the remainder of the UK may vote to leave the EU in 2017, whilst Scotland chooses to apply to stay.

So it is a distinct possibility that Scotland will become an independent country, within the European Union, possibly with the Euro as it’s currency. England will depart the EU, taking Wales and Ulster with it. Are we sure that Wales and Ulster will wish to head this way? Tied to a country with David Cameron, (or Boris Johnson) as a leader.

It’s a brief illustration of just how the Tory Right could rip the country apart, simply because of a dislike of the continent. It isn’t quite so far fetched either. It’s why the centre ground of politics needs to wake up.

I can’t end this without a mention of the (extreme) Left. I’ve already pointed out how often they agree with their supposed opponents on the Right. In Scotland they champion an ‘independent socialist country’ and tell people to vote YES for independence. They tend to oppose the European Union, although they seem to have little to say about it right now. My money is on them backing an OUT vote in the IN/OUT referendum.

In summary, both Left and Right are working towards the same scenario which may leave England as an isolated backward looking little country dreaming of a golden age that never was. Scotland as a small insignificant province of a European federation, with Wales and Ulster wondering what to do next. 
It is really time that the progressive centre ground of politics began to assert itself, before a toxic combination of prejudices tears us apart. 

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