Monday, 1 May 2017

The Failure of New Third Ways over Brexit.

The reappearance of a New Labour grandee such as Gordon Brown, not quite as discredited as Blair, but nevertheless tainted by the damage the regime he helped lead and which caused Brexit, is going to be treated with contempt. This latest 'third way' vision he is peddling is so much tired 'framing' rhetoric.

It was better in the past. People entered politics or achieved high office later in life. It meant that after quitting or being removed from front line politics, they either retired to country cottages out of public view, wrote their memoirs or died. But Brown really still does believe he is a 'cutting edge' contributor to politics.

The irony is that voices from the past in the past usually had something relatively wise to counsel. Those like Blair and Brown have shown show an embarrassing rapid obsolescence in the age of consumerism and sound bite politics that they were the hideous embodiment of being, though Brown was always far less slick.

Brown's new 'third way', a compromise between Britain and the EU involving Scotland and repatriation of powers to Edinburgh from Brussels obviously makes the cause for sovereignty and decentralisation of decision making back without explaining why it was ever a good reason to give them away in the first place.

The idea that the EU having more powers than Britain because of being centralised in London rather gives the game away :  that handing powers over to Brussels in the name of 'pooled sovereignty' or 'subsidiarity' was at least partly about 'defeating Tory extremism' from the 1980s right through to the present 'Hard Brexit'.

This reflects the fact the Labour Party was so useless in challenging the Conservatives until it repackaged itself as New Labour. It designed devolution and its overtly pro-EU stance as much for reasons of a rapid power grab than due to any genuine idealism and centralised much authoritarian power.

Brown spins his plan as 'patriotic' as opposed to an 'extreme' of 'nationalism'. The fact is though that Brexit is symptomatic of a continent wide rejection of EU federalism and no 'third way' is going to effectively keep Britain in the EU, as it is currently set up, when in any case its destiny is now clearly fragmentation.

Brexit is an irreversible process as part of the sea change in politics across Europe that progressives are at a loss to comprehend as their world collapses around them. There are no 'third ways' of the sort Brown is peddling as abstract and makeshift panaceas to help, as much as anything, safeguard his wretched 'legacy' in politics.

This means that Brexit is certain and Scotland could indeed vote for independence once Britain leaves the EU. Anatol Lieven has written,
'Charting a British national identity and role will be of paramount importance to this country but also to Europe—of which we were part before we joined the EU and of which we will remain part. It is in many ways tragic that the idea of a European federal state has failed; but failed it has.
We appear to be heading for something closer to Charles de Gaulle’s vision of a L’Europe des patries, co-operative and at peace, but made up of independent states. In such a Europe Britain will still play a vital part, and we need to think how to make it a positive one—especially if the American role in the continent is going to decline steeply.
One of the reasons why it is so important to think of Britain’s (or England’s, if the Scots leave the union) identity as a nation is that in Europe and throughout the world, the future clearly belongs to nations and their supporting nationalisms.
It is now obvious that while the threat of war between countries has thankfully been banished in Western Europe at least, and close links have grown up between nations there, the vast majority of Europeans remain loyal to their own nation state.
Britain is not a nation-state and never has been. It is a dynastic union of states. The Scottish people had their referendum in 2014 and voted to remain in the UK. The UK referendum on remaining in the EU in 2016 saw Scottish voters voting as British citizens because a majority had voted to stay within the UK.

With US influence declining and the return of independent nation states, it is likely that Scots would decide to retain their position as part of the UK. But the EU that Sturgeon wants to become more deeply a part of, simply as a means to reject the UK in general, England in particular and to grab complete power, is disappearing.

As the EU fragments, Great Power politics returns. With uncertainty and danger returning to global power politics, most Scots are more likely to want to stay within a union far older than the one that grew up for a short historical period after the Second World War and one that historically was a success.

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