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Brexit Bluster Has Stopped Us Defining a New Sense of Nationhood
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The closure of Gatwick, the second largest airport in Britain, just before Christmas after the sighting of a mysterious drone near the runway, received wall-to-wall coverage from the British media, dominating the news agenda for the best part of a week.

Contrast this with the limited interest shown when a majority stake in the airport was sold by its owners to a French company. A consortium led by the US investment fund Global Infrastructure Partners, which included the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority and Australia’s sovereign wealth fund, were paid £2.9bn by the French group, Vinci Airports.

The change in ownership of an important part of the British infrastructure from one foreign corporation to another came at an interesting moment. It was only a couple of weeks after the Whitehall spending watchdog, the National Audit Office, had issued a report explaining one reason why the British army is short of new recruits.

It says that back in 2012 the army had agreed a £495m contract with the outsourcing group Capita Business Services to be its partner in the recruitment of soldiers. But problems with the recruiting systems put in place by the company have made it increasingly complicated for even the most enthusiastic recruit to join up.

This is at a time when there is a shortfall of 5,500 in the number of fully trained British soldiers with 77,000 in the ranks compared to a target of 82,500.

The auditor’s report says that it took 321 days for an aspirant soldier to move forward from his or her initial online application to starting basic training. Unsurprisingly, many became discouraged over this long period so no less than 47 per cent dropped out in 2017/18.

More traditional methods such as local army recruitment centres had been run down as out of tune with modern times. The number of such centres was cut from 131 to 68 in an abortive attempt to reduce costs, according to the report.

What makes these two episodes significant is that they took place at the very moment when British politics is in greater turmoil than it has been for decades, if not for centuries, over the question of who runs the country. Yet this argument is focusing almost exclusively on the decision to leave the European Union on 29 March.

Proponents of Brexit argue that this is the best way to restore British national sovereignty and British control over their own country’s future. Yet, as we stagger towards Brexit in less than a dozen weeks’ time, it is extraordinary that decision-making on so many issues directly affecting the daily lives of people living in Britain should be in the hands of corporations at home and abroad.

The ability of national politicians to regulate and, above all, tax these international entities is already low and will get considerably lower if Britain leaves the EU and is scrabbling for new investment post Brexit. Vinci is reported to have got a bargain basement price for Gatwick because of Brexit fears.

Opinion polls have long shown popular opposition to the privatisation of providers of essential services and utilities, but people seem resigned to the idea that everything from airports and pharmacies, to their electricity and water supply will end up in the hands of corporations and foreign investors over which the British government has only diluted authority.

The great failing in the whole divisive debate over Brexit is that it has never really addressed the means by which – to adapt the words of the famous eurosceptic slogan – control could be regained.

The argument has focused instead on Brussels and on a narrow range of economic pluses and minuses, while it should have been over who runs Britain in an era of globalisation when the power of the nation state is everywhere being eroded.

No wonder this is provoking a nationalist and populist reaction across the world, stirring discontent from Wisconsin to Yorkshire and Paris to Damascus. Mention of the Syrian capital is not accidental; globalisation was one unrecognised ingredient in the eruption of the Arab Spring in 2011.

The anti-Brexit forces made a disastrous mistake in treating the issue of the relations with the EU as if it was all about economics and immigration. Instead of treating the nation state and its history as slightly absurd and certainly outdated, they should have promoted the EU as a way of enhancing the power of the nation state by pooling sovereignty in order to re-empower individual EU members.

The baffled anger of the pro-Brexit politicians over why they are being pushed around by Ireland during the Brexit negotiations shows that they do not understand why EU solidarity ensures that the balance of power is against Britain every step of the way – and there is no reason why this this should change for the better.

None of the British political parties have ever faced up to the question of how they would maintain Britain’s position as a nation state as it is hit by the all-embracing impact of globalisation.

Instead, Brussels and the EU became the symbols of these frustrations and discontents, but neither Labour nor Conservative parties ever plotted an alternative course other than promising to maintain a status quo that was increasingly burdensome to a growing number of people.

Labour has always supported national self-determination as the right vehicle for nations escaping colonialism or otherwise seeking to gain independence. But when it comes to Britain – and above all England – Labour has always had an uncomfortable relationship with nationalism, suspecting it of being disguised racism or, at the very best, a diversion from essential social and economic reforms.

The Conservative stance is more frightening because so much of it is rooted in wishful thinking and selling a fantasy about Britain’s place in the world.

ORDER IT NOW

Gavin Williamson, the defence secretary, claimed in an interview in the last few days that “this is our biggest moment as a nation since the end of the Second World War, when we can recast ourselves in a different way, we can actually play the role on the world stage that the world expects us to play.” Once free of Brussels, we are to shift our focus to global horizons, opening new bases in the Caribbean and Southeast Asia.

Williamson is not alone in pumping out such deceptive dreams. Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary, told audiences during a visit to Southeast Asia – as if he were Captain Cook landing in Polynesia – what good things we are going to bring to our old colonial stamping grounds between Malaysia and New Zealand where: “Britain’s post-Brexit role should be to act as an invisible chain linking together the democracies of the world.”

It is possible that bombast like this is designed to soften the blow for Brexiteers if Britain’s departure from the EU is largely nominal. Inevitably, the country will be weaker and poorer. Less obviously, the obsessive Brexit venture has prevented Britain taking those long-term measures necessary to secure its future as an independent nation state.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Brexit, Britain, Neoliberalism 
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  1. The ability of national politicians to regulate and, above all, tax these international entities is already low and will get considerably lower if Britain leaves the EU

    I think you couldn’t be more wrong. The EU is a Neoliberal construct. Outside of the EU, the British people could vote to nationalise everything if they wanted to. Couldn’t happen inside the EU. But we would get to choose as a nation if we wanted that.

    http://lexit-network.org/

    • Agree: YetAnotherAnon
  2. plantman says:

    another pro-global, anti-nation-state tirade from Brussels sock puppet, Cockburn.

    Cockburn shows where his loyalties lie with this statement:

    “The anti-Brexit forces made a disastrous mistake in treating the issue of the relations with the EU as if it was all about economics and immigration. Instead of treating the nation state and its history as slightly absurd and certainly outdated, they should have promoted the EU as a way of enhancing the power of the nation state by pooling sovereignty in order to re-empower individual EU members.”

    How is the power of the nation state “enhanced” by authorizing unelected bureaucrats to decide every matter of public interest from fishing grounds to border security?? Explain that to me?

    The people who are rising up across the world to defend their sovereignty are not delusional fanatics. They are opposing the steady slide in living standards that has greatly accelerated by offshoring, outsourcing and the relentless effort to erase national borders to increase the free movement of capital and transform the planet into one giant corporate-owned free trade zone.

    I’m not surprised that the elitist Cockburn fails to mention that sad fact.

    • Replies: @peterAUS
  3. anon[124] • Disclaimer says:

    …defining a new sense of nationhood

    fake nation you POS shabbos goy

  4. peterAUS says:
    @plantman

    …another pro-global, anti-nation-state tirade from Brussels sock puppet, Cockburn.

    Cockburn shows where his loyalties lie …..

    Pretty much.

    Good thing is, he appears downbeat here. Nice.

  5. Sean says:

    The Conservative stance is more frightening because so much of it is rooted in wishful thinking and selling a fantasy about Britain’s place in the world.

    BBC EU reform deal: What Cameron wanted and what he got

    David Cameron campaigned against Brexit and so did Theresa May. In 2016 Cameron tried to negotiate a settlement that fulfilled the key promises he was elected on including several concerning EU immigration

    Mr Cameron had to compromise on this aspect of the deal in the face of strong opposition from Poland and three other central European countries. He got the four-year “emergency brake” on in-work benefits he had set such store by – but new arrivals will have their tax credits phased in over four years. The brake will be in place for a maximum of seven years, rather than the 13 years Mr Cameron is thought to have wanted – but the EU has agreed it would be “justified” to trigger it without delay after the referendum if the UK votes to stay in the EU.

    Mr Cameron failed in his original demand to ban migrant workers from sending child benefit money back home. Payments will instead be linked to the cost of living in the countries where the children live. The new rules will apply immediately for new arrivals, and for existing claimants from 2020.

    The UK government has already reached an agreement on out-of-work benefits. Newly arrived EU migrants are banned from claiming jobseeker’s allowance for three months. If they have not found a job within six months they will be required to leave. EU migrant workers in the UK who lose their job, through no fault of their own, are entitled to the same benefits as UK citizens, including jobseekers allowance and housing benefit, for six months. Neither the draft deal nor the final agreement mention changes to social housing entitlement

    The EU were not prepared to gave Cameron what he asked for, although he is said to have told them his intention was to “dock” Britain in the EU. Failing to give Cameron those things was a major mistake on the part of the EU, but he tried.

    Less obviously, the obsessive Brexit venture has prevented Britain taking those long-term measures necessary to secure its future as an independent nation state.

    A secure future as an independent nation state is not achievable, challenges of an unforeseen nature will certainly arise and what will be needed is flexibility.

    The anti-Brexit forces made a disastrous mistake in treating the issue of the relations with the EU as if it was all about economics and immigration. Instead of treating the nation state and its history as slightly absurd and certainly outdated, they should have promoted the EU as a way of enhancing the power of the nation state by pooling sovereignty in order to re-empower individual EU members.

    That argument of pooling sovereignty has long been successful and I think the establishment tried to argue something like that. The problem was that they could never explain how there could be control of EU immigration by Britain if it stayed in the EU. The future Polish and other EU immigrants to Britain were not a pool. We were trying to bail out the ocean.

    The majority of people who voted Brexit wanted us to simply leave the EU. If the immigration continues at the levels the EU are trying to keep it at post Brexit, then they will be in for another nasty surprise.

  6. A narrative pushing article full of bs. the writer tries to hide his eliteism and rotten propaganda but fails big time imho.

  7. Sean says:

    The baffled anger of the pro-Brexit politicians over why they are being pushed around by Ireland during the Brexit negotiations shows that they do not understand why EU solidarity ensures that the balance of power is against Britain every step of the way – and there is no reason why this this should change for the better.

    Irish people have always been able to walk into Britain any time they feel like it and claim full benefits, social housing and even vote. Ireland’s position in the EU was once an enviable one, but now the funds are going to Romania and the proud Poles.

    https://www.irishtimes.com/business/economy/ireland-s-eu-budget-contribution-may-rise-to-over-3bn-1.3486204

    In 2014, Ireland became a net contributor to the EU budget for the first time since it joined the bloc in 1973, with the State paying in more than it received in grants and payments. The majority of Irish receipts, approximately two-thirds, come in the form of direct payments to farmers.

    A little firm called Google also benefited from Ireland– a country where a few years ago PM Bertie Ahern did not have a bank account.

    https://www.irishtimes.com/business/economy/ireland-s-eu-budget-contribution-may-rise-to-over-3bn-1.3486204

    Ireland forced to collect €13bn in tax from Apple that it doesn’t want
    Announcement comes after the European Commission in 2016 ruled that tax benefits received by the tech company were illegal under EU rules

    Free ride is over for Ireland, unlike Britain the EU cannot be messed about.

    • Replies: @Podgemex
  8. “The closure of Gatwick, the second largest airport in Britain, just before Christmas after the sighting of a mysterious drone near the runway ….”

    You actually should have had written, “The mysterious sighting of a drone” or “The apocryphal sighting of a drone….” No firm evidence that there was an actual drone in that case was presented, aside from a “found” crashed drone that could not authoritatively be linked to the reported sighting.

    “… they should have promoted the EU as a way of enhancing the power of the nation state by pooling sovereignty in order to re-empower individual EU members.”

    That logic has a sort of “We had to destroy the village to save the village” ring to it. Step away from the Kool-Aid® bowl.

    “It says that back in 2012 the army had agreed a £495m contract with the outsourcing group Capita Business Services to be its partner in the recruitment of soldiers. But problems with the recruiting systems put in place by the company have made it increasingly complicated for even the most enthusiastic recruit to join up.”

    The problems of Capita go well beyond its government services division. The only correct answer for private as well as government clients is to sack Capita and either rebuild their own capacity or outsource to a more reliable partner (good luck with either).

    It’s time for Libby to put on the Crown, sack the Government, and lead the UK properly out of the EU. This 500 year experiment with Parliamentary government has clearly been a failure.

  9. Anonymous[297] • Disclaimer says:

    The anti-Brexit forces made a disastrous mistake in treating the issue of the relations with the EU as if it was all about economics and immigration. Instead of treating the nation state and its history as slightly absurd and certainly outdated, they should have promoted the EU as a way of enhancing the power of the nation state by pooling sovereignty in order to re-empower individual EU members.

    But that’s an obvious lie.

    the obsessive Brexit venture has prevented Britain taking those long-term measures necessary to secure its future as an independent nation state.

    Another ridiculous lie. Please stop.

  10. Podgemex says:
    @Sean

    You forgot that Bertie went around a car park in Manchester with a plastic bag while certain people threw in wads of cash.

  11. “This is at a time when there is a shortfall of 5,500 in the number of fully trained British soldiers with 77,000 in the ranks compared to a target of 82,500.”

    What exactly is the current Army for? It certainly isn’t for defending our borders. Why should a young Brit sign up to fight in Afghanistan or Syria? And if the answer is “excitement and comradeship” that certainly isn’t suggested by an ad campaign more suited to potential social workers or social justice activists.

    I note btw that the major trouble in France today isn’t covered at all on the BBC government website, and the Guardian report lies about the numbers involved, while ignoring what’s happening in Rouen and Caen.

    • Replies: @anon
    , @anon
  12. DFH says:

    A new sense of nationhood

    One based around the actual, British nation whose ancestors have lived here for thousands of years, instead of blacks and Pakistanis, which is what the establishment currently promotes

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  13. Anonymous[297] • Disclaimer says:
    @DFH

    Unfortunately-named Cockburn is really laying it on thick. Even the EU bigwigs are openly stating that individual nations, their people, and their sovereignty are on the chopping block.

    Maybe he didn’t get the memo – but whatever the reason may be, this article is insulting everyone’s intelligence. People who’d buy these transparent lies don’t use the Internet to read.

  14. anon[374] • Disclaimer says:
    @YetAnotherAnon

    What exactly is the current Army for? It certainly isn’t for defending our borders.

    it’ll be used against the native (white) Brits once enough of the military is composed of black and brown

    • Replies: @Anonymous
  15. Anonymous[171] • Disclaimer says:
    @anon

    Britain Opens Army To Foreign Nationals As Youth Increasingly Refuse To Sign Up

    Amidst the British Army’s worst troop shortage since 2010, foreign nationals will now be allowed to enter military ranks according to a policy change by the Ministry of Defence announced Monday. What essentially amounts to a mercenary recruitment drive is meant to stem the tide of a worsening recruitment crisis in the armed forces as local youths increasingly refuse to sign up.

  16. Labour has always supported national self-determination as the right vehicle for nations escaping colonialism or otherwise seeking to gain independence. But when it comes to Britain – and above all England – Labour has always had an uncomfortable relationship with nationalism, suspecting it of being disguised racism or, at the very best, a diversion from essential social and economic reforms.
    So very untrue. Jeremy Corbyn and his party are being accused of being anti-semitic. Patric Cockburn is upper class and has always been a hidden blade to stab the working class.
    I’m happy Counter Punch is going down the sewer.

  17. 22pp22 says:

    The British nation breathed its last under Blair. Now it’s Third World over-spill. The last time I went back there, stuck to small towns and villages and was struck by how pleasant it was. The we had to drive through an urban area. Nuff said.

    If there were more Salvinis and Orbans and fewer Macrons and Merkels, I would have voted to stay in.

  18. anon[355] • Disclaimer says:
    @YetAnotherAnon

    What exactly is the current army for?

    Great question. It is certainly not defending Britain from attack.

  19. “Instead of treating the nation state and its history as slightly absurd and certainly outdated, they should have promoted the EU…”

    LOL. Yeah, that would have worked great.

    Or maybe they knew the British electorate would never buy that in a million years.

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