‘Nationalist hysteria’ July 6, 2016Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
Always interesting to read Newton Emerson, or rather to consider the subtext of what he says. For this week he writes in the Irish Times about ‘nationalist hysteria’ over Brexit. Take it away Newton.
The aftermath of the EU referendum has not been quite so overwrought, but it is already carrying a strong sense of overreaction. Some of the totemic fears of the past few weeks are simply wrong: The European Convention on Human Rights and its court at Strasbourg have nothing to do with the EU. Young British people can continue to study abroad – that fabled Erasmus programme has been open to the whole world since 2009.
Curious. It’s a bit broader than that… take the business and financial aspects. I suppose with Sterling hitting 31 year lows against the dollar, or the FTSE 250 now ‘10% below pre-referendum levels’ and the suspension of an increasing number of property funds, some might think that overreaction isn’t exactly unreasonable. After all, this is near unprecedented. No, wait, this particular set of circumstances is unprecedented.
But panglossian is as panglossian says. For example:
Taking a calmer look at existing compromises around the edge of Europe, it is clear that the UK can get any deal it wants. It just has to agree on what that is.
Any deal it wants? Really? Wow. Tell us more:
Turkey trades freely in goods without free movement of people via the EU customs union. The six Nordic countries keep their common travel area, despite three being outside the EU. Switzerland is a global financial centre. EU scientific and academic bodies offer associate membership to non-EU countries. Greenlanders left the EU but retain EU citizenship.
Is he sure that, for example with the customs union that Britain would be happy to have to accept the following:
One of the consequences of the customs union is that the European Union negotiates as a single entity in international trade deals such as the World Trade Organisation, instead of individual member states negotiating for themselves.
Or that Nordic Passport Union, to use the technical term? Attractive indeed until one learns that the six states, three of which are indeed outside the EU, are all signed up to Schengen. Can’t see London going for that.
Switzerland? Relations are ‘framed by a series of bilateral treaties whereby the Swiss Confederation has adopted various provisions of European Union law in order to participate in the Union’s single market‘. Can’t see the Brexiteers happy to go there.
And while it is true that there are indeed associate memberships open to non-EU states, all have negative aspects in terms of input etc. But hey that’s okay. He’s decided that ‘the UK can get a uniquely good deal of its own, as that is how all these precedents were set’.
If only it were quite as simple as that.
Though he has to acknowledge that ‘regional questions’ are problematic.
How different would Brexit feel if there was no prospect of Scottish independence? The UK would still be looking at an expensive and disruptive decade of negotiating itself back to roughly where it is now, but in the grand scheme of things that is merely a nuisance.
What makes it a crisis is the threat of the UK breaking up – a threat issued solely from Edinburgh, irrespective of how much London provoked it.
But interestingly for him the bigger issue seems not to be that problem, but the response of the Irish to it. For him this is apparently ‘ambivalence’. Well the truth is that none of this is a problem of Ireland’s making, whether north or south. And it is near impossible to determine where it will end, so yes, ambivalence is the order of the day. I’d bet the state, and many others, would be much happier with the status quo ante, but that’s not a runner.
Yet he can write:
Within Northern Ireland, the Irish nationalist population feels distraught at being dragged out of the EU against its wishes and aghast at the UK’s cavalier disregard for the European context of peace. Yet in the Brexit referendum, nationalist-majority areas of the North recorded by far the lowest turnouts in the UK.
Perhaps so, but that merely indicates a broader antipathy across Nationalist and Unionist communities than some might like to acknowledge.
Frankly from there it gets worse.
Before the referendum, the European dimension of the peace process had scarcely been mentioned since the 1990s, when John Hume was crucified by Sinn Féin for referring to “post-nationalism”. The EU is cited nine times in the Belfast Agreement, but only in passing. Brussels has no formal role in any of the agreement’s institutions.
Even the all-Ireland EU funding body is not specified in the agreement’s text – and EU funding can continue by treating Northern Ireland as a border region.
But before the referendum there was nothing calling the GFA/BA into any sort of question. The states, the parties within the North, almost all were in lock step, yea, verily, even the DUP, in accepting the dispensation. And being relatively comfortable with the broader dispensation, whatever about the manner in which other issues were beginning to come to the fore. The point being that the EU links weren’t relevant, because, and I know this is tricky, both states were within the EU. And it was, lest he forget, a Tory government that entered the first, second and many more notes of uncertainty into all this.
And while he may like to think that there’s no ‘formal role’ the truth is that the EU is the only supra-national entity in the text of the document. That’s not nothing. As to whether the UK itself would accept ‘border region’ funding…
Anyhow, he concludes:
I would not wish to downplay genuine concerns, but nationalist hysteria over Europe seems more wind than candle. For the Irish as for the British, it is, as honest partisans will concede, all about Scotland.
If the SNP fails again, the likeliest long-term outcome of Brexit for the island of Ireland is that daily life will be unaffected apart from the creation of another exaggerated grievance.
And sure, what’s one more of those?
Well… I think this goes well beyond supposed ‘exaggerated grievances’. It really does.