Fintan O’Toole: Brexit: Ireland and the English Question

Fintan O Toole on the origins of the Brexit debacle …

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  1. Jenny Tizard says:

    Wow. That’s real time travel.
    And how reckless, corrupt, incompetent, vain and stupid the British government have been since then.

  2. Derek Thomson says:

    “Arguably, England was the first functioning nation state in the world”. In the twelfth century. Eh?

    1. John says:

      I enjoyed the piece and I thought there was a lot of truth in it .
      I would have termed the driver behind Brexit more AngloBritish exceptionalism with a hint of nationalism.
      I thought his point about lack of prospectus for Brexit as opposed to Scottish independence was well made.
      The Brexit referendum was promised by Cameron for political expediency. Mind you he did the same when he agreed to 2014 independence referendum. Bearing in mind support for Yes was around 30% in 2011 he assumed No would win and thought referendum would split Labour in Scotland and diminish support for SNP and independence. He therefore stayed aloof from debate until polls narrowed when he got an almighty fright but ultimately was too ignorant and arrogant to learn anything from 2014 referendum when stumbling into Brexit referendum which he only agreed to in order to heal divisions in Tory party and keep himself in power.

      1. Derek Thomson says:

        Aye, John, but you’ve not answered my “eh?” regarding England being a nation state before Scotland, or indeed the rest of the world. Not my understanding in any way, shape or form.

        1. John says:

          Apologies Derek my comment wasn’t meant as a direct reply to your comment.
          As you have asked me I am surprised at Finlan O’Toole appearing to make the mistake of both conflating England with UK (common mistake) and not recognising that Scotland was a self governing nation well before 1707 (very common assumption to many outside Scotland).
          Common denominator is an ignorance of Scotland and it’s history.

          1. Derek Thomson says:

            No worries John, it was just that you had used the reply function 🙂 I can’t believe someone as savvy as Fintan would have conflated England/UK so not sure what he’s on about, to be honest.

  3. Marybel Tracey says:

    Though I welcome at many times Fintan O Toole’s perspective I do not understand why this particular conversation has been posted. To relate what he said then to what is happening ? To frame this in relation to what did happen at that time? To look back and dwell on the stupidity of people ?

    Having heard a debate on the BBC some weeks ago those who voted for Brexit then would still do so.

    The rise of English Nationalism maybe so but it is the Union Jack that predominates on everything or nearly everything in the shops. It is that flag behind all the conservative and labour politicians. There seems to be a confused rhetoric at large.
    For me the vote for Brexit was a form of suicide, people pressing the self destruct button without thought for why they were doing so.

    Hearing a view from such a man as Fintan O Toole gives me further insight into the process, the ideas , the arrogance of people like Boris Johnston and his ilk. It does not however give me answers to now….?

  4. 230826 says:

    I hoofed it up to Edinburgh yesterday (4.5 hrs there and 4.5 hrs back on the bus) to see the Smash Hits of the English nationalist, Grayson Perry, at the Royal Scottish Academy. The Englishness he finds in his travels and explicates in his art is very different from the Englishness being stereotyped here.

    I suspect that there’s more than an element of ‘othering’ going in the posting of Jane and Fintan’s conversation.

    1. John says:

      You are being disingenuous- Grayson Perry is an English artist – I have never heard him described as an English Nationalist before. He is a Labour Party supporter who was keen on Jeremy Corbyn – how you equate someone like him to the the Brexiteers cheerleaders in UKIP and Tory Party who encourage the type of English nationalism (though I would use term AngloBritish), with its utter disregard and at times hostility for anything outwith England beats me.

      1. 230827 says:

        So, you’d have me believe that Grayson doesn’t explore and celebrate his Englishness in his work?

        Well, it’s evident from his Smash Hits (and the publicity surrounding them) that he does. His nationalism encompasses phenomena like Brexit, the Labour Party, UKIP, Conservatism, Jeremy Corbyn, xenophobia, cosmopolitanism, cricket, football hooliganism, the Royal Family, the NHS, the Windrush generation, Empire, counter-culturalism, decolonisation, and much, much more. It’s immensely inclusive. I can’t think of anything that comes close to equivalently celebrating the sheer gallimaufry of our contemporary Scottishness; Scottish nationalism seems to be too far up its own *rs* to emulate Grayson’s punkish variety. I love it.

        If you get a chance, go along to the RSA and lose yourself in some of his huge tapestries. But be warned: you might find some of the language and imagery by which he glorifies his English identity challenging (which is sort of the point).

        1. John says:

          Glad you enjoyed the exhibition but it is tangential in relation to the type of English nationalism being discussed here.
          I personally did not find Mr O’Toole’s comments unfair and you must appreciate how utterly irresponsible supporters of Brexit were in their utter disregard for the future of the Good Friday Agreement and peace in Ireland.
          To quote Grouch Marx it was obvious to a child of 5 that leaving Single Market meant that that some form of border would be required either on mainland or in Irish Sea and how this would be an enormous challenge to principles and basis of Good Friday Agreement. The fact that this was rarely mentioned by Brexit supporters shows their reckless ignorance of other parts of UK. The fact that Tory voters would rather have Brexit than keep NI in UK is a pretty good example of English nationalism in my opinion. I was not surprised by this, having lived in England & Wales at various times. I found my English friends and colleagues were by and large ill informed about Scottish and Welsh life, culture and politics which probably reflected how countries outside England are reported (ignored) in the media in England.
          When I went to live in Wales I should also add I was similarly I’ll informed about many aspects of Wales for same reason but experienced that feeling to a much lesser extent when living in England.

          1. 230827 says:

            Fintan’s comments are indeed fair. A desire to be independent of the EU does inform English nationalism, just as a desire to be independent of the UK informs Scottish nationalism.

            But it’s just unfair to suggest (which Fintan doesn’t do, but which I suspect is at least part of ‘why this particular conversation has been posted’) that this ‘Little Englander’ mentality is all that English nationalism is. That’s why I cited Grayson Perry’s English nationalism, which encompasses that mentality as only one of the many diverse and often contradictory aspects of Englishness, as a counter-example.

            The ‘Little Englander’ caricature of English nationalism, to which you want to limit the discussion here, is nothing but a bluntly essentialist, racial trope that’s employed by auld-farrant anglophobes (a.k.a. ‘Scottish exceptionalists’) to ‘other’ the English.

          2. John says:

            Reply to 230827 comment at 10.21pm.
            I am glad that you are able to agree with Finlan O’Toole’s commentary – although now out of date it is still relevant.
            I am aware that there are many different strands to English nationalism- a theme which Billy Bragg is vocal about just as there are many different strands of Scottish nationalism and I also dislike the ‘wha’s like us’, antiEnglish and antiIrish strands in our nationalism. My Scottish nationalism is restricted to Hampden & Murrayfield (not unlike most other countries) and I have become a supporter of independence primarily because I am fed up with having Tory governments and Brexit imposed on Scottish electorate and I have come to the opinion that Scotland with, the natural resources, it had would be a more prosperous and fairer country if it were self governing. This opinion has been formed by examining other similar sized countries within Europe.
            Your continued comparison of Brexit with Scottish independence is, as I have pointed out previously, completely specious.
            You have correctly pointed out that the electorate in England voted to leave EU but this decision and how it was to be implemented disregarded voter’s opinion in Scotland and Ireland as FOT pointed out.
            Lastly I would point out that research on voting patterns showed that the most important defining difference between Yes and No voters in 2014 was homeownership while the the defining difference in 2016 Brexit referendum was educational attainment. While there were some people who voted out of principle against Brexit, and I respect their opinion, there were many who were woefully uninformed about the EU having taken their opinions from the ill informed prejudices paraded in the press (eg Daily Mail, Daily Express) etc. I witnessed much nonsense being talked about Turks and NHS finance from some of my colleagues at work in Wales at time of referendum and it was depressing to hear people base their opinion and vote on such flawed information. I do not blame them personally but the people who perpetrated this type of nonsense have a lot to answer for which is one of the main points that Finlan O’Toole is making.

          3. 230828 says:

            The electorate in England didn’t vote to leave the EU, any more than the electorate in Scotland voted for the Union and for exactly the same reason: the vote on UK independence wasn’t a vote of the English or Scottish electorates (or the Welsh or the Northern Irish), but of the UK electorate. These are all very different entities. Within the jurisdiction of the UK government, there are no ‘Scottish’ or ‘English’ voters (or ‘Welsh’ or ‘Irish’ or ‘Polish’ or ‘Pakistani’ or ‘Nigerian’ or ‘Chinese’ voters), but only British voters.

            To put it another way, within the jurisdiction of the UK government, we don’t vote collegiately by nation; we vote individually by person, as equal subjects of that jurisdiction, irrespective of where we live or what national or ethnic allegiances we own. Likewise, within the jurisdiction of the Scottish government, we don’t vote collegiately by what I suppose you would call ‘regions’, but do so individually, as equal subjects of that jurisdiction, irrespective of where we live or what ‘regional’ or ethnic allegiances we own.

            The UK electorate as a whole decided narrowly in its vote to leave the EU. The Scottish electorate as a whole decided narrowly in its vote to remain in the UK. Any attempt to spin either result otherwise (e.g. that Dumgal et al kept Glaswegian voters in the UK against their will) is an almost Trumpian exercise in grievance-manufacturing.

          4. John says:

            Reply to 230828 at 8.42
            The electorate in Scotland voted 62% to 38% to Remain. All 32 Regions (including Dumgall) voted to Remain. According to you this is a narrow majority?
            Trump was a great Brexit supporter.
            As Finlan O’Toole pointed out Brexit was all concocted grievances which a lot of voters latched onto as a way of expressing their own grievances mainly due to Westminster.
            I will not be posting again to you as your last post fact free nonsense with a dose of personal insult thrown. I am off to paint my fence a far more worthwhile pursuit than debating with a Brexiteers who thinks a 24% majority is a narrow majority!

          5. 230829 says:

            But my point is that the Scottish electorate didn’t vote in the British independence referendum; the UK electorate did. This is the point you don’t seem (or want) to get.

            I voted (to remain in the EU) in that referendum as a British citizen, not as a Scottish citizen, as that referendum was a vote held by the UK government for the UK (and not the Scottish) electorate. Likewise, I voted in EU elections, not as a Scottish citizen nor as a UK citizen, but as an EU citizen. And likewise, when I vote in local government elections, I vote as a Dumgall citizen, on matters that fall under the jurisdiction of our local government.

            I did vote (for ‘neither of the above’) as a Scottish citizen in the Scottish independence referendum, however, as that was a vote held by the Scottish government for the Scottish (as distinct from the UK) electorate.

            It’s obfuscating to muddle the various electorates of which we are members. The purpose of that obfuscation is to manufacture grievance.

            But it’s true what you say: similar obfuscating tactics were used by British nationalists to manufacture grievance against the EU in their campaign for British independence, as Fintan points out.

            (BTW, you’re putting me to shame. The rain’s aff and the sun’s oot. I really should take a chair and go out and do some writing in my garden, which fortunately takes care of itself.)

          6. John says:

            Reply to 230829.
            UK independence Referendum?
            It was a referendum as to whether the UK should remain a member of EU. UK, along with the other EU states, was an independent nation that was a member of EU. This is Farage speak which is plain wrong along with you constant and utterly inappropriate conflation of 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum and 2016 Brexit Referendum.
            This type of talk along with you claiming 62/38% is a narrow margin indicates you are now trolling me.
            If I want to get a sensible conversation about Brexit and it’s impact on Scotland (never forget Better Together did state that we were virtually guaranteed to stay in EU if we voted to Remain UK in 2014) I will discuss with my fence when I finish painting it tomorrow.

          7. 230829 says:

            Sorry, but it’s simply not true that the polities that constitute the EU are independent states.

            The Council on Foreign Affairs (the independent, nonpartisan think tank that publishes the modules on that the History/Modern Studies department of our local High School uses to teach how nationalism, self-determination, and sovereignty shape the world we live in) has described the EU as ‘the world’s biggest sovereignty experiment’.

            Countries also voluntarily give up a certain degree of their sovereignty. When countries enter into international treaties (like the EU and UK treaties of union), they agree to forfeit their right to set their own rules (‘sovereignty’) and instead cede specific powers to those unions in return for the benefits of cooperation. The governments of such countries are no longer the ultimate decision-makers; in other words, they are no longer independent but become interdependent instead (as I pointed out before). The UK, for example, when it entered into the treaties that made it interdependent with other European countries, it agreed to cede its sovereignty with regard to (among other things) international trade, the use of force, arms control, and human rights.

            No organisation has gone as far as the EU in the ceding and pooling of sovereignty in a supranational authority. It exceeds even the UK in that respect. This is why our schoolchildren and college students are taught that the EU represents an unparalleled experiment in balancing national and collective interests.

            I’m a big fan of unionism, of the pooling of sovereignty in supranational authorities, which is why I voted for the UK to remain in the EU. I couldn’t vote for Scotland to remain in the UK because I don’t think the current UK is a good model of unionism. In particular, it lacks the principle of subsidiarity that underpins the unionism of the EU. And I couldn’t vote for Scotland to leave the UK because I don’t think the Scotland proposed in the White Paper that the Scottish government published was any better as a model of unionism, of the pooling of sovereignty (the right of local authorities like Dumgall to set their own rules) in a national authority. Again, it in particular lacked the principle of subsidiarity that underpins the unionism of the EU.

            BTW: the margin of the UK government’s defeat in the referendum it held on whether or not the UK should leave the EU was 48/52 on a 72% turnout of UK voters. Like I said, a Scottish electorate as such didn’t vote on the matter; voters in Scotland voted in that referendum as UK citizens like everyone else who voted. Democracy doesn’t discriminate within electorates by nationality or anything else. It’s the franchise that counts.

            The margin of the Scottish government’s defeat in the referendum it held on whether or not Scotland should leave the UK was a similar 45/55 on and 85% turnout of Scottish voters. Again, the Dumgall electorate as such didn’t vote on the matter; voters in Dumgall voted in that referendum as Scottish citizens like everyone else who voted. Again, democracy doesn’t discriminate within electorates; it’s the franchise that counts.

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