If there is one element of British life that the Yes campaign has working for it tirelessly, it must be the xenophobia of a wide section of the English public. Even assuming they can persuade Scots to embrace the concept that we might be “better together”, then a deep-seated virulence against the rest of our neighbours defeats their own rationale.
On the back of Cameron’s speech raising the possibility of another UK referendum on Europe, today’s Daily Express returns to its virulent anti-EU stance with a leader that struggles to revive the bulldog defiance of Napoleon and Hitler, viz:
“What is the point of Britain trudging on with this euro-albatross round its neck, dragging the dead weight of a failing currency and a ruthless Brussels-based regime that seeks to destroy our sovereignty, override our laws and drain money from British taxpayers like a vampire gorging on blood?”
Not analytical journalism’s finest hour, but at least UKIP now has plenty material for their next rant. Meantime, over at the equally xenophobic Daily Mail, former minister Liam Fox has invented a radical path to restart his career by advocating Britain’s withdrawal from the EU altogether. He wants a referendum now and bluntly warns Cameron:
“not to wait for EU leaders to recognise the failure of the ill-conceived euro before we set out what we want for the British people.”
Why should this ‘most successful union in history’ that Scotland is blessed to be part of—one proud of its imperial legacy, its globe-spanning trade, its powerful alliances, its seat on the UN Security Council—behave in this way? Such a petty and short-sighted attitude must call current unionist arguments over Scotland into serious question.
For. which of “better together”‘s more plausible arguments do not apply as much to the UK relations with the EU as to Scotland’s relations with England? Europe accounts for 57% of our trade and over 80% of our foreign holidays. Exports to the newer members is growing at 10% and helping to address a scary £180 bn import level that overwhelms our £139 bn in exports to the EU—a balance of trade deficit of almost 30%. In other words, they’re our best trading partner but they’re much better at selling to us than we to them.
The Little-Englanders, much exercised about the dire state of the Euro and the ongoing saga of which of its weaker members might default, imply that this should not be our concern. Well, first of all, the fiscal emergency that created the saga was as much a product of Canary Wharf and the dubious banking practices like Libor manipulation there that only now are being dragged into the light of day. Secondly, the UK financial nomenklatura are still struggling to find some exit from this ongoing recession while, thirdly, the stronger Euro members have not only restored growth but are again showing the struggling Brits a clean pair of heels in business.
That Europe has its flaws, no-one disputes. Any organisation of 300m+ people crossing many languages and cultures is cumbersome in a way that the USA with its unifying language and federal organs is not. But to clamber onto a xenophobic bandwagon—as the Tabloids and Fox seem keen to do—smacks of a politics of fear, of blaming foreigners for our own troubles and of being seen as a weak partner, short-sighted and selfish.
Were Scotland to become a normal country, they should not assume that Europe will be generous and selfless in its negotiations with us for membership. But nor should we take the habitual English-dominated approach to date of reluctant participation, of hand-bagging ultimata, of habitual low-level discord.
Scotland offers Europe a robust trading partner and tourist destination. With our vast and varied energy resources, our strategic location on its northern wing and a positive, recognised international profile that comparably-sized countries can only envy, we could use such bargaining chips for a place at the top table among our neighbours that our Channel-invasion-fixated cousins will at last be able to understand that a great future for all can be had from a union that looks to the future and not to the past.