USUK – You Suck! And So Do EU!
Due to the phenomenal success of Rebecca, Daphne Du Maurier was too often classified as a romantic novelist. Yet most of her prolific output, especially her short stories, contained a dark or even nasty side. Moreover, her final book prophesied Brexit – even before our initial membership of the European Economic Community had been confirmed by the 1975 referendum.
Hastily reissued in 2016, Rule Britannia portrays the United Kingdom storming out of the EEC then seeking refuge in a full-blown political, economic and military alliance with the United States. As a contingent of American marines are parachuted into the author’s beloved Cornwall to slap down a local resistance movement, USUK soon comes to be pronounced “You Suck” in that gentle corner of the Celtic Fringe.
A crude and zany state-of-the-nation novel was how Du Maurier’s literary swansong was easily dismissed for four decades as the Common Market gradually evolved, like a political caterpillar, into a far more integrated entity. But that changed abruptly on 23 June 2016.
Since the Leave campaign’s shock referendum victory, several prominent UK neoliberals and neocons in the UK Cabinet seem to have been treating a wacky piece of fiction as a diplomatic instruction manual.
Liam Fox, the international trade secretary, recently told the American readership of Time magazine: “The relationship between our countries has been ‘special’ for many years, but Brexit has given us a once-in-a-generation opportunity to raise it to a new level.”
For the gung-ho defence secretary Gavin Williamson, that means “enhancing the reach and lethality of our forces and reinforcing that the United States remains our very closest of partners.”
Naïve adoration of America is nothing new among the British political class and their favoured courtiers in the metropolitan media. All those freebie trips to the Land of the Free – which an offshoot of the CIA laid on over several decades for rising political stars and opinion formers across the US’s satellite states – were not all a waste of federal funds.
The British American Project and other secret elite conclaves also implanted Atlanticism into the minds of a succession of Labour Party leaders. Much of which was driven by a determination in DC to maintain a not-very-British nuclear deterrent at the mouth of the Clyde – a source of massive orders for the American military-industrial complex.
Even Jeremy Corbyn, a lifelong advocate of unilateral nuclear disarmament, has caved in to plans for the renewal of Trident. But nobody close to him doubts that he remains instinctively opposed to external domination by Washington – and by Brussels.
Even when Theresa May’s original Brexit strategy plainly lay in tatters, Corbyn was remarkably slow in angling for a second referendum. While some of that can be attributed to a sensible fear of antagonising Leave voters in Labour’s heartlands, it also suggests he was not personally heartbroken by the outcome of the first People’s Vote.
For Nicola Sturgeon it was a nightmare. ‘Scotland in Europe’ had been the SNP’s holy grail for decades. Suddenly the guarantee that stance seemed to provide of totally uninterrupted trade with both England and EU post-independence was plunged into severe jeopardy.
The shock among the party’s high command perhaps explains why it no longer seems capable of calm, joined-up thinking. Amid the Brexit bourach, the SNP’s chieftains have become feverishly committed to the speedy creation of a Scottish currency and a Scottish Central Bank, ditching their previous desire to keep the pound for as long as judged necessary.
Their Damascene conversion will doubtless be endorsed at the party’s spring conference in Edinburgh at the end of the month, during which the foot soldiers will finally be allowed to debate Andrew Wilson’s Sustainable Growth Commission report. A few dissident voices will get a turn at the microphone, but this top-down policy change seems certain to be publicly rubber-stamped just as opposition to Nato was ditched back in 2012.
There is a case to be made for a Caledonian version of the punt but it cannot be credibly combined with advocacy of rejoining the EU somewhere down the line. One point this massive monetary union is very clear about is that any new member state must be fit and willing to enter the Eurozone.
In practice that would mean submission to the tight fiscal constraints the European Central Bank in Frankfurt imposes upon every finance ministry from Dublin to Tallin – something our current finance secretary knows most Scottish voters would not be prepared to stomach if the full implications were spelled out to them. As they were by Wilson.
Determined not to frighten the horses as he did, Derek Mackay recently sought to water down the corporate PR man’s projection of further painful austerity post-independence. The implication of Mackay’s sunny statement in early March was that the Growth Commission massively underestimated how rapidly and spectacularly Scotland’s economy could grow once it had wrested full macroeconomic levers from the Treasury.
They can put whatever spin they like on this drastic revision of Wilson’s original toxic document, but it suggests that body’s supposedly distinguished membership – which did not include a single trade unionist – didn’t really know what they were talking about when they drew up their conclusions.
Plucking wild figures out of the air, as both Wilson and Mackay have been doing, could fatally undermine the Yes campaign in any future IndyRef2. It certainly won’t impress the powers-that-be in Brussels or Frankfurt if a future Scottish Government does ever lob in an application for renewed EU membership.
Make no mistake – and check with the Greeks if you need confirmation – the EU can be a brutal behemoth. Not only would an independent Scotland need to adopt the Euro, it would be forced to free up its ample fishing grounds again and submit once more to the monstrosities of the CAP.
Great news for all those fat cat farmers up in Aberdeenshire who have become a perennial feature in the Sunday Times Rich List on the back of huge public subsidies. But the rest of us?
Those who imagine a small fledgling nation-state on the north-western edge of Europe could drive a great membership deal should take a long, hard look at how Brussels has played hardball with Britain throughout the Brexit negotiations. ‘Scotland Loves Europe’ and ‘Don’t EU want me, baby?’ were smart demo placards, but such grovelling sentiments won’t cut much ice come the crunch talks.
As soon as the true nature of full European integration dawned upon the chief architect of the SNP’s (always oxymoronic) ‘Independence in Europe’ strategy, he completely disassociated himself from it. A lifelong democratic socialist, Jim Sillars came to grasp that the EU could never deliver pan-continental socialism or democracy to its powerless citizens.
‘Stay in and we’ll shift it leftwards from within’ is the prevailing wisdom among all sorts of Scottish progressives. But the stark reality is that a United Socialist States of Europe isn’t even as much as a pipedream.
Danny Nicol, Professor of Public Law at the University of Westminster, has spelled it out: “The EU treaties not only contain procedural protections for capitalism – as is the case in the US Constitution – they also entrench substantive policies which correspond to the basic tenets of neoliberalism.
“Unless those who seek such change face up to the constitutional obstacle that confronts them, the only progressive reforms to materialise will be confined to the realms of their own minds.”
Andrew Wilson and Derek Mackay, along with all their pinstriped pals, would be perfectly content if that turned out to be the case. But those of us committed to nationalism without neoliberalism should not stoop to begging our European neighbours for anything. Nor should we be hoping or praying that the Anglo-American empire will agree to an orderly and amicable withdrawal from Faslane.
It’s time to take a stand for true self-determination by sending a clear, uncompromising message to Washington, Whitehall and Brussels: USUK, you suck! And so do EU!