Saturday, 1 February 2020

Rejoin is the last, best hope of unionism

The man who brought us Brexit, and is now the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, keeps on telling us he plans to keep the country together.

It is somewhat of a reach to suggest the rather hard (let's call it "medium rare") Brexit he is going for now is compatible with the continuation of our Union.

In 2014 Better Together ran a campaign to keep Scotland in the Union which featured continued EU membership as one of the benefits of voting "No" in that year's independence referendum.

Not only does that make it rather awkward to suggest Scotland shouldn't now re-run that referendum (the entire constitutional basis has, after all, changed) it also seems likely that the Better Together campaign considered this a useful policy in winning over the wavering undecided voters to their side.

Scotland and Northern Ireland both voted to remain in the EU. Northern Ireland will be in a different customs area to Great Britain come Brexit. Scotland's latest polling suggests support of independence outweighs support for the Union and the nationalists are making EU membership a massive issue around which to build momentum for their referendum.

So it really does seem quite outrageous to think you can swivel from Brexiting to keeping the Union together.

Meanwhile a number of English Brexiteers (polling is... lacking) would rather happily see the back of Scotland (leave it a few days for the EU/Scotland love-in to abate then search "bye Scotland" on Twitter for example).

And so it seems clear that unionists, those who value the United Kingdom and who consider themselves British, need to try to find a way to keep our country together. Rejoining the EU is that way.

There's a caveat here: I don't think we will rejoin the EU anytime soon. The point is though that, as a unionist, I see that as the only plan that works. If done quickly enough it will take the wing out of the growing nationalist movements in Scotland and Northern Ireland and possibly swing some voters back to supporting the Union.

This is so unlikely as to be delusional. I'm not here to try to suggest the impossible is possible even though I think the impossible is the only solution.
However rejoin, as a long term goal, is the unionist "insurance plan". If Scotland and Northern Ireland leave the Union it seems almost certain both will end up, relatively quickly, in the EU in some way. If we are to keep our "family of nations" close together we can't do that unless we too are in the EU. We wouldn't be one sovereign nation any more. Yet we'd still be "Better Together" with the structure of the wider European Union. So this unionist, credentials available throughout the many posts on this blog, won't give up on rejoin. No matter how unlikely a goal it is. No matter how distant a goal it is. It'll be worth the fight.

Friday, 31 January 2020

A Sense Of Loss

We lost, that goes without saying (though the victors will keep on saying it of course), so it is reasonable today to have a sense of loss. 

However, it goes much deeper for some of us. Those of us who embraced the EU as part of our identity really do lose something tonight. And it is okay to feel sad about it. Everyone wants those of us feeling a sense of loss to feel better. The Brexiteers tell us that nothing changes (well that's right, not until next year) and EU citizenship wasn't a real thing anyway so can't conceive of why we're sad. Those who aren't all that bothered don't get why we're all that bothered. Meh, they say, it is but a nothing. 

For those of us for whom an ever closer Union was the goal, for whom a shared future within the EU was the plan, this is the end of the dream. Life, politics and culture will move on. Maybe one day we might end up in the EU again. However many of us will be too old to enjoy it. 

So you know what... it is fine to feel sad, fine to feel a loss. Even if the coming brave new future sees an agreement with the EU that gives us all the same rights we have today... it still won't mean that the future some of us wanted is gone. 

I tried to explain it someone confused as to why I felt this sense of loss and I said, "If the United Kingdom split tomorrow and you found yourself no longer officially British living in whatever the new country would be, how would you feel?". 

The lights will still turn on. People will still go to work. The trains will still run. That doesn't mean, emotionally, things haven't changed. 

East Germany. Yugoslavia. It isn't unusual for people to loss the citizenship they valued and have to come to terms with that. 

Tomorrow is another day. There's always a new horror to take our minds off the last. Today, though, today you feel however you like.