The Unz Review - Mobile
A Collection of Interesting, Important, and Controversial Perspectives Largely Excluded from the American Mainstream Media
 BlogviewPatrick Cockburn Archive
Trump Knows That He Can Exercise More Power in a UK Weakened by Brexit
🔊 Listen RSS
Email This Page to Someone

 Remember My Information



=>

Bookmark Toggle AllToCAdd to LibraryRemove from Library • BShow CommentNext New CommentNext New Reply
Search Text Case Sensitive  Exact Words  Include Comments
List of Bookmarks

English nationalism as expressed by Brexiteers is a strange beast. Donald Trump gives an interview in which he assumes the right to intervene in the conflict between Theresa May and Boris Johnson over Brexit. He speaks with the same confident authority as he would in his own country, sorting out differences in the Republican Party over who should be the next senator for Alabama or South Carolina. His attempted roll-back later does not alter the tone or substance of what he said.

The aim of Trump’s intervention in the short term is, as always, to top the news agenda and to show up everybody, be they allies or enemies, as weaker and more vulnerable than himself. More dangerously for Britain, in the long term, his domineering words set down a marker for the future relationship between the UK and the US outside the EU which could be close to that between the colony or the vassal of an imperial state.

The terminology is the Brexiteers’ own: Johnson claimed in his resignation letter that the Chequers version of Brexit a few days earlier was so watered down that it meant that “we are truly headed for the status of a colony”. He cited, as concrete evidence of this servitude, the anger he felt towards the EU for frustrating his efforts to protect cyclists from juggernauts, though media investigation revealed that it was the British government that blocked the life-saving measure.

Jacob Rees-Mogg, the fundamentalist Brexit leader, reached back far into the Middle Ages for a bizarre analogy to illustrate his point that Britain would entirely fail to escape the EU yoke under the terms envisaged in the White Paper on Britain’s future relationship with the EU. He described the intention to keep Britain within the EU rule book for goods and agriculture as “the greatest vassalage since King John paid homage to Phillip II at Le Goulet in 1200”.

The use of such an arcane example is presumably intended to show that Rees-Mogg has deeply pondered the great triumphs and betrayals of English history. In doing so he unintentionally reveals one of his many blind spots by choosing an event long preceding the creation of a British nation state incorporating Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

A problem about the whole Brexit debate, which has confused the issue since long before the referendum in 2016, is that discussion is focused on the economic connection between Britain and the EU when it should really be about the political relationship.

Trump says that the present Brexit plan rules out a US-UK free trade agreement, but even if it did not, there is a strong element of fantasy and wishful thinking in the Brexiteers’ vision of Britain’s economic future. Again it is worth looking at Johnson’s letter because it is almost touching in its naivety and wishful thinking about Britain’s future place in the world economy. We are to stifle “self-doubt”, and instead be more “nimble and dynamic and maximise the particular advantages of the UK, as an open outward looking economy”.

Apparently, the world is full of hermit kingdoms that have long been short of such vibrant economies and, once freed from the shackles of the EU, we will be able to meet their long unsatisfied needs.

It is easy to mock and the mockery is well-deserved, but it should be balanced with a much stronger part of the pro-Brexit case which is simply the pursuit of national self-determination regardless of the economic consequences. This demand for independence has usually preceded the formation of nation states, once imperial possessions, the world over. Most nationalist movements have claimed with varying degrees of truth or exaggeration that their economic, social and sectarian troubles stemmed from imperial misrule and independence would cure all. When this fails to happen few nationalist movements have had a realistic alternative plan.

Brexiteers similarly buttress their perfectly legitimate demand for self-determination with dubious assumptions about the degree to which EU regulations hobble the British economy. Most Brexiteers are on the right so they are neither familiar nor comfortable with anti-imperial arguments traditionally advanced by the left. They would not be happy to be reminded that much of what they say is the same as Sinn Fein – “Ourselves Alone” – says today in Ireland or Indian and Kenyan nationalists said before independence. A further cause of reticence is that focus on the economic benefits of Brexit masks the extent to which the result of the referendum – and the rise of populist nationalists in the US and much of Europe – are fuelled by opposition to immigration and racism.

But there is a price to pay for the Brexiteers’ skewed picture of Britain and its place in the world. If it leaves the EU, as seems inevitable, it will become a lesser power and no longer able to balance between America and Europe as, to a degree, it has hitherto been able to do. Dependence on the US will inevitably increase and we have just had a rude foretaste of what this means for Britain’s future in the Trump interview in The Sun. He knows that Britain has nowhere else to go and must bend the knee, something swiftly confirmed by the evasive British government response to his unprecedented intervention in the UK’s internal affairs.

The British government would clearly like the old post-Second World War order and Britain’s place in it to continue forever. The Cold War is being revived to serve as glue to hold Nato together and Russia is being boosted as an external threat as potent as the Soviet Union. Trump’s meeting with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki is portrayed as an ill-considered maverick action. Journalists, think tank “experts”, and retired diplomats vie with each other on CNN and the BBC in explaining how Trump is selling the pass to Putin and Kim Jong-un.

ORDER IT NOW

But it is not Trump, but the establishment on both sides of the Atlantic which are out of date. There was a twenty-year period between 1991 and 2011 when Russia could be ignored, though this was never wise because it always remained a nuclear super-power capable of blowing up the world. This changed in 2011 when Nato had the exceptionally bad idea of intervening militarily in Libya to overthrow Gaddafi with disastrous consequences for everybody. Russia restored its status as a great power through successful intervention in Syria in support of Bashar al-Assad.

During this period Britain sought to reinforce its status as the leading ally of the US in Iraq and Afghanistan, but failed politically and militarily in both wars. The extent and consequences of this failure have always been underestimated in UK where everything that went wrong could be conveniently blamed on Tony Blair.

What we are really seeing under the rubric of “Making America Great Again” is an American retreat from empire. Monstrous though Trump is in almost every way, he often shows a greater grip on the crude realities of power than his critics give him credit for. British politicians and civil servants are hoping that the Trump visit is a temporary bad dream but is in fact it an early sign of a post-Brexit reality in which Britain will play a lesser role in the world.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Brexit, Donald Trump, EU 
Hide 26 CommentsLeave a Comment
Commenters to Ignore...to FollowEndorsed Only
Trim Comments?
    []
  1. Sean says:

    Apparently, the world is full of hermit kingdoms that have long been short of such vibrant economies and, once freed from the shackles of the EU, we will be able to meet their long unsatisfied needs.

    British industry was successful right into the 70′s. According to Edgerton, he decline and fall started when Britain entered the European Economic Community and the trade barriers that had protected British industry came down. Under Thatcher lack of exports did not matter because Britain had the oil, and had become self sufficient in food for the first time.

    https://www.newstatesman.com/2018/07/Rise-Fall-British-Nation-David-Edgerton-Review

    .In the third quarter of the 20th century Britain became more like a normal European nation which, conscious of its wartime vulnerabilities, organised its economy on explicitly national lines. There were now concerted efforts to make the nation self-sufficient in foodstuffs, and oil was increasingly refined at home rather than in British-owned overseas refineries. Hence the “rise of the nation” alluded to in Edgerton’s enigmatic title. In 1945 Britain became a nation in the sense that there was now a distinctive economic unit within the borders of the UK. [...] The book makes uncomfortable reading for all groupings at Westminster. Edgerton denounces the “folly” of assuming the historic and continuous distinctiveness of UK plc. There are no deep-seated continuities for Brexiteers to preserve. On the other hand, Remainers will see that the British economy has changed direction drastically more than once in the course of the last century.

    The government were trying to square the circle the benefits of being in the EU went with freedom of movement conditions that made the situation of the people in the Britain worse , or at least that is what most of them thought judging by the way they voted. Fewer people will be coming to Britain for economic reasons than before Brexit when we could not stop them due to EC freedom of movement. Brexit was due to immigration just as Trump said the other day. May and the Tories are accepting the will of the people and the primacy of the people who actually live in Britain, who decline to be subject to unending massive immigration so a few diplomats can get important sounding international jobs giving the illusion that Britain matters more. The EU is punishing the government of Britain for hot getting the correct result in the referendum and trying to stop anyone else getting the same idea. They may have ambitions to destroy the conservative government with a impossible negotiation, and see what Corbyn might do as PM.
    As usual, Britain has been defeated when it fights on the continent. Of course this is a defeat, it is a withdrawal.

    We have – under force of circumstances – reinvented ourselves, not once but twice.

    Can we do it again? I take the gist of Edgerton’s downbeat final chapters, on Britain’s recent post-Thatcherite demotion to offshore casino, to be a darkly sardonic suggestion that if we are to change course utterly yet again, then he wouldn’t start from here. But, at least, thanks to this rich and compelling book, we do now have a proper map and compass.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Verymuchalive

    British industry was successful right into the 70′s. According to Edgerton, he decline and fall started when Britain entered the European Economic Community and the trade barriers that had protected British industry came down.
     
    Actually, the decline and fall started when Britain signed up to the Kennedy Round (1968-72) of GATT, which abolished quotas and reduced duties to 11%. Import penetration of the UK car market, for example, went from 10% (1969) to 26.4% (1972) to 49.3% (1978 ). Other industries suffered accordingly. Source: P S Johnson (Ed) The Structure of British Industry p186
    Joining the EEC was irrelevant, since the relations were governed by the GATT treaties, now the WTO.

    It always amused me when Tony Benn used to say that Margaret Thatcher was essentially an Edwardian Liberal. Benn had been part of that Labour Cabinet that had removed trade barriers that protected British Industry and brought in as near to Free Trade as possible. The effect on British Industry was as detrimental as it was predictable. In later life, no interviewer ever brought up his involvement in this. I suppose that nearly all hacks, if they think about these matters at all, are reflexively pro Free Trade.

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc.
    AgreeDisagreeLOLTroll
    These buttons register your public Agreement, Disagreement, Troll, or LOL with the selected comment. They are ONLY available to recent, frequent commenters who have saved their Name+Email using the 'Remember My Information' checkbox, and may also ONLY be used once per hour.
    Ignore Commenter Follow Commenter
    More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  2. Rational says:

    THE EUROPEAN UNION MUST BE DISSOLVED—ALL COUNTRIES MUST EUXIT.

    The European Union is a bogus racket that attacks the sovereignty of sovereign nations. It president openly bragged that the purpose of the EU was to turn the whole of Europe into Israel’s puppet. As per an interview in Haaretz:

    European Union established ‘on the lessons of Auschwitz’ as a framework for ‘mutual control to avoid one member passing uncontrollably in a dangerous direction’, Martin Schultz says.

    http://www.haaretz.com/jewish-world/jewish-world-news/jews-live-in-fear-in-europe-european-parliament-president-says-1.495831

    That “dangerous direction” means being sovereign and patriotic and not accepting alien invaders.

    EU even has bogus courts that order sovereign nations to allow aliens to invade. What a joke! Only sovereign nations can have courts, not private corporations, like the EU.

    UK will be stronger after Brexit.

    Trump has no ulterior motives. All countries must leave the EU.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  3. Monstrous though Trump is in almost every way, he often shows a greater grip on the crude realities of power than his critics give him credit for

    .

    His recent, widely ignored comment shows his grip on crude realities: ““People say you don’t like China. No, I love them. But their leaders are much smarter than our leaders. And we can’t sustain ourselves with that. It’s like, take the New England Patriots and Tom Brady and have them play your high school football team”.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  4. I suspect their are two angles on “brexit”. There is a corporatist brexit; to enable the British elite to further curtail traditional, (pre-EU), liberties and customs and create an offshore haven for capital, money laundering and all the shebang, (bollox to that idea); The brexit I personally favour; abolition of corporations, re-institutionn of grand juries, adherence to constitutional and common law, re-apropiation of all properties stolen under the guise of EU ‘law’, a Constitutional Assembly would handle all the relevant details of such matters; after all we have had revolutions before. If it so wished by the populace they,(the populace) could elect a new Sovereign. (That has been done before as well). WE stay in?, we get out?, either way it’s going to be a depression like we never seen ever, ever. Check out Article 61 0f the Magna Carta 1215; I don’t think any other nation on earth has anything like that one anywhere in the whole world, let alone Europe. This Law has been invoked and is up and running in the UK since 2001. It is a command of the Crown to resist unlawful decisions of the said Crown until redress of tort is achieved. Surrender of Sovereignty to a foreign potentate, (EU), was the wrong done by the PTB. Art.61 is the remedy. I kid you not; the EU is a corporate con game designed to enslave you and steal your land and wealth.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  5. Gleimhart says:

    The author is a liar. Trump did not “assume the authority” to intervene in the issue. He was asked a question and he answered it. The English never miss an opportunity to list all the ways that Americans are “wrong”, so now we’re simply returning the favor. Actions have consequences.

    And believe me, if he HAD “assumed the authority to intervene”, it’d be a helluva lot more than a mere answer to a question. If the British government can’t get its shit together, we’ll be glad to help them out.

    Read More
    • Replies: @forgottenpseudonym
    The author is a shitlib, incapable of acknowledging Obama's multiple egregious interventions in favour of the Remainers in the run up to the referendum.
    , @Bill jones
    Isn't Cockburn some sort of Mick?
    , @Wally
    Well said.

    I agree Trump simply responded with replies that the increasingly unhinged UK left didn't like.

    But hey, given what the largely freeloading UK gets free of charge from US taxpayers, Trump would have every right to barge in any time he wishes.

    I say cut em loose and witness a change of tune.

    As for Cockburn, he never saw a big government he didn't like.

    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  6. Gleimhart says:

    Trump is “monstrous”?

    Oh please, no virtue-signaling among men. You ARE a man, aren’t you?

    Trump merely has a personality you don’t like. That hardly makes him “monstrous” by any stretch of the word. That is, unless you’re actually the center of the universe.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Wally
    It's call the 'Trump Derangement Syndrome' for good reason.

    Reactions to Trump victory, hilarious !!

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TZ-FUptkUNY
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  7. David JW says:

    “In doing so he unintentionally reveals one of his many blind spots by choosing an event long preceding the creation of a British nation state incorporating Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.” Er… no…. Cockburn reveals his own blind spot here.

    Brexit has always been an English nationalist cause (check the referendum results). And the UK when it functioned well was always an English-controlled thing. The Celtic fringe were bandwaggoning with us.

    Rees-Mogg could also have brought up King John’s acceptance of spiritual AND temporal overlordship of England by Pope Innocent III in 1213, whereby King John was appointed by the pope king in a vassalage relationship to the pope. Just like the EU.

    Read More
    • Replies: @36 ulster
    ...and to some extent, a WELSH nationalist cause. Our Cymric allies,unlike the Catalonians and the Irish, seem to have foreseen the repercussions of a limpet-like agglomeration with the Bureaucrateriat in Brussels.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  8. El Dato says:

    He knows that Britain has nowhere else to go and must bend the knee, something swiftly confirmed by the evasive British government response to his unprecedented intervention in the UK’s internal affairs.

    #KaepernUK

    What we are really seeing under the rubric of “Making America Great Again” is an American retreat from empire. Monstrous though Trump is in almost every way, he often shows a greater grip on the crude realities of power than his critics give him credit for. British politicians and civil servants are hoping that the Trump visit is a temporary bad dream but is in fact it an early sign of a post-Brexit reality in which Britain will play a lesser role in the world.

    About time, too.

    Of course, Britain was just about fucked after 1918, exactly 100 years ago. Playing on the continent to keep the balance of power in a machine-gun war has consequences.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Byrresheim
    HdEkK, as our late Majesty, the Kaiser, used to sign his letters for the rest of his life.

    And his wish was granted, first by St. Winston, then by the equally saintly Maggie.

    Admittedly, the cost for Germany was high …
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  9. @Gleimhart
    The author is a liar. Trump did not "assume the authority" to intervene in the issue. He was asked a question and he answered it. The English never miss an opportunity to list all the ways that Americans are "wrong", so now we're simply returning the favor. Actions have consequences.

    And believe me, if he HAD "assumed the authority to intervene", it'd be a helluva lot more than a mere answer to a question. If the British government can't get its shit together, we'll be glad to help them out.

    The author is a shitlib, incapable of acknowledging Obama’s multiple egregious interventions in favour of the Remainers in the run up to the referendum.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  10. David JW says:

    It is only easy to mock Brexit if you do it, as Patrick Cockburn does, in an ignorant fashion. There is no reason why a sovereign Britain is an unrealistic fantasy. We could do without the £9bn a year net contribution to the EU, do away with most of the £27bn a year ongoing cost of the 100 most destructive EU regulations (including the climate change package, which doubles energy costs and costs £5.4bn a year to implement). Even if trade with the EU took a hit, the £36bn in savings could be used to fire up the majority of businesses that don’t engage in trade and still have to deal with invasive EU legislation at present.

    Cockburn is trying to say “it is unrealistic to trade with neighbouring economies on any other basis than acceding to their request to impose vehicle insurance on toddlers riding tricycles” (a real proposal, hardly required for crossborder trading). He might be right if he said the French and Germans are incredibly spiteful and vindictive, and would seek to punish Britain. Suggestions are that English lorries would not be allowed into the EU, forcing all trade onto ships; English aeroplanes would not be allowed to fly over the EU; and Southern Irish power supply to Northern Ireland could be cut off.

    This would cause major disruption, but could be dealt with by a government determined to do so. But think about it this way: we are not so spiteful and petty. If Scotland becomes independent from the UK, no-one in England would draw up plans to ban Scottish lorries, ground Scottish planes and cut off Scottish power. These types of things are not necessary corollaries of Scottish independence, and are not necessary in the case of Brexit either. If the EU really do get as petty as possible, it is best to leave and not be subject to such people anyway.

    We shouldn’t chain ourselves to the EU economy which will be just 5% of the global economy by the end of the century. Neither should we agree to rules banning state aid (preventing us from promoting an AI and big data industry), or enforcing EU rules on environmental policy or social policy. In the end, all Patrick can raise is the possibility of deliberately created disruption by the EU, while ignoring the fact that a long-term approach requires the sort of leadership that would get out from under the malevolent EU bureaucracy.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  11. Lelle says:

    All and all a balanced article.

    “The British government would clearly like the old post-Second World War order and Britain’s place in it to continue forever. The Cold War is being revived to serve as glue to hold Nato together and Russia is being boosted as an external threat as potent as the Soviet Union. Trump’s meeting with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki is portrayed as an ill-considered maverick action. Journalists, think tank “experts”, and retired diplomats vie with each other on CNN and the BBC in explaining how Trump is selling the pass to Putin and Kim Jong-un.”

    A paragraph like that one would never be published in The Guardian or the BBC or other main stream media in Europe.

    The four last paragraphs in the article are just great, here we have an example of the need for the Unz Review.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  12. Svigor says:

    English nationalism as expressed by Brexiteers is a strange beast.

    So, which kind of English nationalism makes sense to you? I’m guessing it involves open borders and lots of “diversity.”

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  13. @El Dato

    He knows that Britain has nowhere else to go and must bend the knee, something swiftly confirmed by the evasive British government response to his unprecedented intervention in the UK’s internal affairs.
     
    #KaepernUK

    What we are really seeing under the rubric of “Making America Great Again” is an American retreat from empire. Monstrous though Trump is in almost every way, he often shows a greater grip on the crude realities of power than his critics give him credit for. British politicians and civil servants are hoping that the Trump visit is a temporary bad dream but is in fact it an early sign of a post-Brexit reality in which Britain will play a lesser role in the world.
     
    About time, too.

    Of course, Britain was just about fucked after 1918, exactly 100 years ago. Playing on the continent to keep the balance of power in a machine-gun war has consequences.

    HdEkK, as our late Majesty, the Kaiser, used to sign his letters for the rest of his life.

    And his wish was granted, first by St. Winston, then by the equally saintly Maggie.

    Admittedly, the cost for Germany was high …

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  14. Gordo says:

    Trump plays the long game, like the leaders of other clever ethnic groups, hence a lot of the opposition to him from sell-outs.

    Imagine for a second England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales asking for statehood, followed by the provinces of Canada and Australia, then NZ?

    Get ready to chisel that man’s face into the mountain, and rename NYC Trump City, your new capital.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  15. pyrrhus says:

    No…England can’t survive without Brexit, as it is being sucked dry by EU bureaucrats, who hate the English people, and want to tax the London financial markets to death….Fixed it for you, Cockburn!

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  16. @Gleimhart
    The author is a liar. Trump did not "assume the authority" to intervene in the issue. He was asked a question and he answered it. The English never miss an opportunity to list all the ways that Americans are "wrong", so now we're simply returning the favor. Actions have consequences.

    And believe me, if he HAD "assumed the authority to intervene", it'd be a helluva lot more than a mere answer to a question. If the British government can't get its shit together, we'll be glad to help them out.

    Isn’t Cockburn some sort of Mick?

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anon
    The Cockburns were part of the English Protestant aristocracy that ruled Ireland until 1922.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  17. Wally says:
    @Gleimhart
    The author is a liar. Trump did not "assume the authority" to intervene in the issue. He was asked a question and he answered it. The English never miss an opportunity to list all the ways that Americans are "wrong", so now we're simply returning the favor. Actions have consequences.

    And believe me, if he HAD "assumed the authority to intervene", it'd be a helluva lot more than a mere answer to a question. If the British government can't get its shit together, we'll be glad to help them out.

    Well said.

    I agree Trump simply responded with replies that the increasingly unhinged UK left didn’t like.

    But hey, given what the largely freeloading UK gets free of charge from US taxpayers, Trump would have every right to barge in any time he wishes.

    I say cut em loose and witness a change of tune.

    As for Cockburn, he never saw a big government he didn’t like.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  18. Wally says:
    @Gleimhart
    Trump is "monstrous"?

    Oh please, no virtue-signaling among men. You ARE a man, aren't you?

    Trump merely has a personality you don't like. That hardly makes him "monstrous" by any stretch of the word. That is, unless you're actually the center of the universe.

    It’s call the ‘Trump Derangement Syndrome’ for good reason.

    Reactions to Trump victory, hilarious !!

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  19. @Sean

    Apparently, the world is full of hermit kingdoms that have long been short of such vibrant economies and, once freed from the shackles of the EU, we will be able to meet their long unsatisfied needs.
     
    British industry was successful right into the 70's. According to Edgerton, he decline and fall started when Britain entered the European Economic Community and the trade barriers that had protected British industry came down. Under Thatcher lack of exports did not matter because Britain had the oil, and had become self sufficient in food for the first time.

    https://www.newstatesman.com/2018/07/Rise-Fall-British-Nation-David-Edgerton-Review

    .In the third quarter of the 20th century Britain became more like a normal European nation which, conscious of its wartime vulnerabilities, organised its economy on explicitly national lines. There were now concerted efforts to make the nation self-sufficient in foodstuffs, and oil was increasingly refined at home rather than in British-owned overseas refineries. Hence the “rise of the nation” alluded to in Edgerton’s enigmatic title. In 1945 Britain became a nation in the sense that there was now a distinctive economic unit within the borders of the UK. [...] The book makes uncomfortable reading for all groupings at Westminster. Edgerton denounces the “folly” of assuming the historic and continuous distinctiveness of UK plc. There are no deep-seated continuities for Brexiteers to preserve. On the other hand, Remainers will see that the British economy has changed direction drastically more than once in the course of the last century.
     
    The government were trying to square the circle the benefits of being in the EU went with freedom of movement conditions that made the situation of the people in the Britain worse , or at least that is what most of them thought judging by the way they voted. Fewer people will be coming to Britain for economic reasons than before Brexit when we could not stop them due to EC freedom of movement. Brexit was due to immigration just as Trump said the other day. May and the Tories are accepting the will of the people and the primacy of the people who actually live in Britain, who decline to be subject to unending massive immigration so a few diplomats can get important sounding international jobs giving the illusion that Britain matters more. The EU is punishing the government of Britain for hot getting the correct result in the referendum and trying to stop anyone else getting the same idea. They may have ambitions to destroy the conservative government with a impossible negotiation, and see what Corbyn might do as PM.
    As usual, Britain has been defeated when it fights on the continent. Of course this is a defeat, it is a withdrawal.

    We have – under force of circumstances – reinvented ourselves, not once but twice.

    Can we do it again? I take the gist of Edgerton’s downbeat final chapters, on Britain’s recent post-Thatcherite demotion to offshore casino, to be a darkly sardonic suggestion that if we are to change course utterly yet again, then he wouldn’t start from here. But, at least, thanks to this rich and compelling book, we do now have a proper map and compass.
     

    British industry was successful right into the 70′s. According to Edgerton, he decline and fall started when Britain entered the European Economic Community and the trade barriers that had protected British industry came down.

    Actually, the decline and fall started when Britain signed up to the Kennedy Round (1968-72) of GATT, which abolished quotas and reduced duties to 11%. Import penetration of the UK car market, for example, went from 10% (1969) to 26.4% (1972) to 49.3% (1978 ). Other industries suffered accordingly. Source: P S Johnson (Ed) The Structure of British Industry p186
    Joining the EEC was irrelevant, since the relations were governed by the GATT treaties, now the WTO.

    It always amused me when Tony Benn used to say that Margaret Thatcher was essentially an Edwardian Liberal. Benn had been part of that Labour Cabinet that had removed trade barriers that protected British Industry and brought in as near to Free Trade as possible. The effect on British Industry was as detrimental as it was predictable. In later life, no interviewer ever brought up his involvement in this. I suppose that nearly all hacks, if they think about these matters at all, are reflexively pro Free Trade.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  20. Sean says:

    The UK was the largest exporter of car and commercial vehicles in the world by the 60′s and many luxury makes depended on exports. Countries started to bring in serious trade barriers and exchange controls to restrict imports. The GATT talks were an agreement to reduce tariffs in principle but in practice they came down very slowly. Aready very high British exports benefited. Imports to Britain rose, yes. But from a very low level. Britain was in a real free trade area (EFTA) from 1959 but in that only Sweden was in the car and commercial business so the effect was limited.

    The watershed came with the entry into the EU, because then trade barriers in manufacturing (not services) came down against German and French heavyweight manufacturers with the attendant economies of scale. The EU has always been about creating a couple of giant firms with economies of scale in for products (cars washing machines or anything) , and as intra EEC trade increased faster than production. and costs of production became relatively higher in Britain it was at a disadvantage. Britain lost one third of the domestic market and gained little in imports.

    It is the same in everything you care to look at, Britain has a trade surplus with the rest of the world but a massive deficit with the EU and it was still slipping from 2008 to 2015, when British exports grew at 5% with the rest of the world, yet fell with the EU.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Verymuchalive
    You miss my point. The EEC was subject to the rules of GATT, just as now the EU is subject to the rules of the WTO. Even if the UK had never joined the EEC, it had signed up to GATT and the effect on British Industry would have been similar to what actually happened
    Also, your clip of Benn has no mention of his involvement in signing up to the Kennedy Round or GATT, so is irrelevant.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  21. @Sean
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrzfgUv3ZKk

    The UK was the largest exporter of car and commercial vehicles in the world by the 60's and many luxury makes depended on exports. Countries started to bring in serious trade barriers and exchange controls to restrict imports. The GATT talks were an agreement to reduce tariffs in principle but in practice they came down very slowly. Aready very high British exports benefited. Imports to Britain rose, yes. But from a very low level. Britain was in a real free trade area (EFTA) from 1959 but in that only Sweden was in the car and commercial business so the effect was limited.

    The watershed came with the entry into the EU, because then trade barriers in manufacturing (not services) came down against German and French heavyweight manufacturers with the attendant economies of scale. The EU has always been about creating a couple of giant firms with economies of scale in for products (cars washing machines or anything) , and as intra EEC trade increased faster than production. and costs of production became relatively higher in Britain it was at a disadvantage. Britain lost one third of the domestic market and gained little in imports.

    It is the same in everything you care to look at, Britain has a trade surplus with the rest of the world but a massive deficit with the EU and it was still slipping from 2008 to 2015, when British exports grew at 5% with the rest of the world, yet fell with the EU.

    You miss my point. The EEC was subject to the rules of GATT, just as now the EU is subject to the rules of the WTO. Even if the UK had never joined the EEC, it had signed up to GATT and the effect on British Industry would have been similar to what actually happened
    Also, your clip of Benn has no mention of his involvement in signing up to the Kennedy Round or GATT, so is irrelevant.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Sean
    I think your meaning did not escape me, however Britain had very low imports of cars and very high exports before the EEC rules lowered barriers to Europe. The intra EEC trade increased faster than production, and costs of production became relatively low in France ect. Germany had economies of scale, so Britain as at a disadvantage. Britain lost one third of its domestic market to other EEC countries and gained little in exports to the EEC as a direct result of joining the EEC. It is the same in everything you care to look at, Britain has a trade surplus with the rest of the world but a massive deficit with the EU, and if it was world wide GATT deregulation, why is it that between 2008 and 2015, British exports grew at 5% with the rest of the world, yet fell to countries within the EU?
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  22. Sean says:
    @Verymuchalive
    You miss my point. The EEC was subject to the rules of GATT, just as now the EU is subject to the rules of the WTO. Even if the UK had never joined the EEC, it had signed up to GATT and the effect on British Industry would have been similar to what actually happened
    Also, your clip of Benn has no mention of his involvement in signing up to the Kennedy Round or GATT, so is irrelevant.

    I think your meaning did not escape me, however Britain had very low imports of cars and very high exports before the EEC rules lowered barriers to Europe. The intra EEC trade increased faster than production, and costs of production became relatively low in France ect. Germany had economies of scale, so Britain as at a disadvantage. Britain lost one third of its domestic market to other EEC countries and gained little in exports to the EEC as a direct result of joining the EEC. It is the same in everything you care to look at, Britain has a trade surplus with the rest of the world but a massive deficit with the EU, and if it was world wide GATT deregulation, why is it that between 2008 and 2015, British exports grew at 5% with the rest of the world, yet fell to countries within the EU?

    Read More
    • Replies: @Verymuchalive
    I'm not going to convince you, so I must agree to disagree. All I would say is that Johnson and other experienced economists nearer the time (1980) were convinced the primary effect came from singing up to the Kennedy Round, not the EEC. If you can find a copy of the book, please get it as it is an excellent summation of British Industrial History 1945-79 and dispels many later myths.
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  23. Sowhat says:

    The big picture, of course, poses the question, “Does signing onto an agreement of “Nation-unions” strengthen or weaken individual Nations and could there be an ulterior design in so doing? The New World Order is no longer a Conspiracy Theory. It’s very real, very powerful, and has decades of advanced movement. It is not about the general welfare of the people of the world but, about Money and The Power to Rule that it wields. It only appears that it cannot be stopped. People, as a Whole, simply need resist in mass.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter Display All Comments
  24. @Sean
    I think your meaning did not escape me, however Britain had very low imports of cars and very high exports before the EEC rules lowered barriers to Europe. The intra EEC trade increased faster than production, and costs of production became relatively low in France ect. Germany had economies of scale, so Britain as at a disadvantage. Britain lost one third of its domestic market to other EEC countries and gained little in exports to the EEC as a direct result of joining the EEC. It is the same in everything you care to look at, Britain has a trade surplus with the rest of the world but a massive deficit with the EU, and if it was world wide GATT deregulation, why is it that between 2008 and 2015, British exports grew at 5% with the rest of the world, yet fell to countries within the EU?

    I’m not going to convince you, so I must agree to disagree. All I would say is that Johnson and other experienced economists nearer the time (1980) were convinced the primary effect came from singing up to the Kennedy Round, not the EEC. If you can find a copy of the book, please get it as it is an excellent summation of British Industrial History 1945-79 and dispels many later myths.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  25. 36 ulster says:
    @David JW
    "In doing so he unintentionally reveals one of his many blind spots by choosing an event long preceding the creation of a British nation state incorporating Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland." Er... no.... Cockburn reveals his own blind spot here.

    Brexit has always been an English nationalist cause (check the referendum results). And the UK when it functioned well was always an English-controlled thing. The Celtic fringe were bandwaggoning with us.

    Rees-Mogg could also have brought up King John's acceptance of spiritual AND temporal overlordship of England by Pope Innocent III in 1213, whereby King John was appointed by the pope king in a vassalage relationship to the pope. Just like the EU.

    …and to some extent, a WELSH nationalist cause. Our Cymric allies,unlike the Catalonians and the Irish, seem to have foreseen the repercussions of a limpet-like agglomeration with the Bureaucrateriat in Brussels.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
  26. Anon[257] • Disclaimer says:
    @Bill jones
    Isn't Cockburn some sort of Mick?

    The Cockburns were part of the English Protestant aristocracy that ruled Ireland until 1922.

    Read More
    ReplyAgree/Disagree/Etc. More... This Commenter This Thread Hide Thread Display All Comments
Current Commenter says:

Leave a Reply - Comments on articles more than two weeks old will be judged much more strictly on quality and tone


 Remember My InformationWhy?
 Email Replies to my Comment
Submitted comments become the property of The Unz Review and may be republished elsewhere at the sole discretion of the latter
Subscribe to This Comment Thread via RSS Subscribe to All Patrick Cockburn Comments via RSS
Personal Classics
Full Story of the Taliban's Amazing Jailbreak
"They Can't Even Protect Themselves, So What Can They Do For Me?"
"All Hell is Breaking Loose with Muqtada" Warlord: the Rise of Muqtada al-Sadr