Wednesday 13 November 2019

UK fighting for 'The Rock' could make EU look great

Cartoon by Jim Cogan
Cartoon by Jim Cogan
Declan Lynch

Declan Lynch

There was a certain surprise that in the days after triggering Article 50, the British seemed to be getting excited about Gibraltar - with a former Tory leader seriously suggesting that this may justify his country going to war with Spain.

But in fact it is perfectly normal for anyone in the grip of nationalism to be taking up such positions, nationalism being perhaps the purest and the deadliest form of eejitry known to man.

They are not alone in this of course. All across Europe and America there are various loopers determined to make their countries great again, because that usually ends well.

And in this quest they are all agreed that the worst thing in the world is the EU - that the Eurocrats represent all that is degenerate in mankind, draining the vital juices of once-proud nations, and giving them back nothing but ridiculous rules imposed with fat-cat disdain.

It is to be expected that the Farages and the Le Pens will always find some such enemy to demonise - and indeed their loathing of the EU could be seen as a routine manoeuvre in the nationalist playbook... if it wasn't for one slightly awkward thing: there was a time just a couple of years ago, when nearly everybody felt like that about the EU.

Everyone (apart from people like John Bruton and others who were actually dining at the Eurocrats' table, eating those very big dinners) was forming the view that in relation to the meltdown in Greece, the EU was disgracing itself.

Why, I was forming that view myself, and loath though I am to be quoting my own articles - I will leave that to others - I think you'll agree it is worth reminding ourselves that in July 2015 it seemed quite reasonable to be writing lines such as this:

"Personally I was never in any doubt that 'Europe' was a vast slush fund for the political class, but I had also regarded it ultimately as a benign force. It had helped to extricate Paddy from some of the more unfortunate consequences of his enslavement to religion and to eejitry…

"Now we see no benign force, just the vast slush fund, its beneficiaries with nothing much in their heads except the enabling of a form of economics so disgraceful and so deeply ridiculous, even the IMF has finally stood against it - when you're looking at the IMF and seeing some kind of a Vincent de Paul outfit, then you know it's all over…

"We tried to hold on to the last hope for 'Europe', the notion that it might be run by some very bad people, but perhaps it is a kind of antidote to nationalism, which is the worst thing of all.

"But in the chaos, it was hard to tell any more if 'Europe' was offering a cure for nationalism, or actually spreading the malaise."

By the end of that article, I have pointed out that a friend of mine living in London, a man of profoundly progressive leanings, has been so disgusted by the EU's treatment of Greece he would be voting 'Leave' in the referendum the following year.

'Austerity' as the guiding principle of the EU was leading otherwise civilised people towards the same conclusion as the primitives of Ukip, albeit for essentially different reasons. And while we seem to have largely forgotten that, it is a sign of how far things have sunk that we now look to that same EU as perhaps the one force with the potential to deliver us from darkness.

Now that senior British politicians are talking about declaring war on Spain, it is clear that that is becoming a very big ask. And yet the EU now has this astonishing opportunity not just to reclaim some vaguely decent sense of purpose, but to atone for the abysmal doctrine of austerity, and all the damage it has done.

What a thing it would be - for the EU to devote the same energies to the enormous issue of the employment rights of workers that it devoted to the insanely stupid humiliation of Greece.

For if there is one problem above all others eating away at the culture of the Western world and giving strength to all these nationalist delinquents, it is the fact that there are multitudes that do not have a proper job any more - that the de-unionised corporations, freed to abuse the individual according to taste, can no more restrain themselves from going there than they can explain the monstrosities of their executive remunerations.

Indeed, in the decision by the Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager to order our Government to collect billions from Apple, you could see something that is exceedingly rare in these times - a member of an august political institution coming down on the side of 'the people' as it were, and not the corporation.

Naturally our Government then sided with the corporation against the people - but it was still an extraordinary moment in recent political history, to see any member of the big dinners brigade informing some multi-national corporation that they couldn't in fact do whatever they wanted, wherever they wanted, whenever they wanted, now and until the end of time.

Yes what a thing it would be, if the EU were to align itself once more with a progressive vision, while the jackals of the medieval right are howling at the moon about Gibraltar.

It should be no contest.

Sunday Independent

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