BETWEEN TRUMP, BREXIT, AND PUTIN – WILL THE WEST MAINTAIN ITS UNITY AND SECURITY?

BETWEEN TRUMP, BREXIT, AND PUTIN –  WILL THE WEST MAINTAIN ITS UNITY AND SECURITY?

By
Harry C. Blaney III

In the last post I tried to empathize that our key focus now should be that “there is a lesson to all of us who worry about the direction that humanity is moving and not less what direction America will go in the future.”  Recent events have already reinforced this concern and need for all of us to recognize the challenges we will be facing in a likely Trump and Putin dominated world. The declarations in the inaugural address and other statements have not changed the judgement that we are in for a very risky era and especially dealing with Russia.

As we move into Trump’s presidency he has, even before being president, created more chaos and disunity and doubt among our dearest allies and friends and given joy to those that wish us ill. He has acted as if his main and only goal is to be a major disputer of our shared international democratic and security framework that has held our common values and security together. Already there is talk that his main strategy is to create chaos and thus increase his control as his management style.

The 2017 Martin Luther King Jr. day “massacre by tweets” from Donald Trump, and his interviews with European publications, has already severely damaged our relationship with our allies. His actions include the degrading of the key institutions upholding decades of peace, security and cooperation in Europe.

These institutions and our promises of collective security and maintaining peace for all are underpinning the essence of global stability and unity. The Atlantic community ties are key and even hinting that we could do away with them and indicating his disdain for the EU and NATO have set in motion confusion among our friends and empowered dark authoritarian forces in Europe.

I believe this was a deliberate act of sabotage of existing key institutions that have kept the peace in Europe and kept America as the respected and undisputed leader among free nations. That confidence no longer exists. In the Trump world of support for the racist and fascists factions in far right parties of Europe the result is we have deeply hurt the shared values on both sides of the Atlantic.

These parties that Trump has praised are themselves calling for disunity, hate for immigrants, adapted extremist views, denounce democracy, and advocate conflict and disunity within Europe and in society. In some nations they have already taken actions contrary to democratic norms, undermine media independence, and the rule of law. Not much difference than the tact Trump increasingly has taken here – witness his attack on the press and opposition leaders like Rep. John Lewis.

The one person who has gained the most from all this disunity is Putin. The gambit for as early summit portends possible decisions which might further undermined security in European and beyond. Europeans wonder if Trump would sell out their security for a “mess of porridge.” This with the background of the consequences of the disastrous Brexit which seems now to run on autopilot, thanks to UK Prime Minister Theresa May who now directs her nation off the cliff of influence in Europe and the world.

Frankly, Trump has done in just one or two days of tweets and interviews with European publications more damage to the security and unity of Europe and of the Atlantic community, than Putin, in decades with all his underhanded efforts to subvert European democracy and unity by promoting far right fascists groups and subverting European media. Either this is from madness, stupidity, or something even more dark and terrible?

Can the damage be undone? The prospects of Trump wanting to be a positive and stable voice in global affairs looks very dismal as it does here at home after the John Lewis debacle.  This is demonstrated in his continued desire to undermine our fundamental American values of justice, racial and social tolerance, our need for strong public education which is key to our democracy, the protection of our environment, and not least a strong social and health safety net. These actions at home and those we cited abroad divide rather than unite. They also diminish America’s image among our allies and decent people everywhere.

The only ray of hope was in President Barack Obama’s last press conference, where he indicated his faith in the good judgement and decency of a majority of the American people to persevere and in the end win out against our worst instincts.

We welcome your comments!  See the comment section below.

PERSPECTIVES ON EUROPE AND ITS DISCONTENTS

Photo: BBC
Photo: BBC

By
Harry C. Blaney III

LONDON DATELINE

On Sunday Britain marked the formal occasion of its “Remembrance Day” (which is really on the 11th), something much similar to our memorial day. It’s observance here in Britain is one of deep feeling, with ubiquitous wearing of the red poppy in support of its veterans and the price paid by war. It was also a time for reflection of both the sacrifices of this nation and of its role in the world at large. The latter is still a matter of major debate now.

In London and in the continent, these next weeks will reveal much that is at the heart of Europe’s ills and divisions. There is little doubt that Europe is not on a strong trajectory of upward prosperity for all its citizens, as it is bitterly divided on how to deal with its massive immigration crisis that looms larger and larger without resolution. And now in Europe, there is also a whole host of issues and threats that endanger the security, prosperity, and moral standing of Europe.

There are growing challenges on many issues and within key national countries that could undermine the unity of the EU and EURO ZONE and impact the wider Atlantic cooperation.

On the security front, there remains the future of the embattled Ukraine, the aggressiveness of Putin’s Russia and related applications of sanctions for its invasion of Eastern Ukraine and illegal annexation of the Crimea, along with it soon facing the responsibilities for the downing of a Malaysian civilian airliner.  There are also divisions within the EU and NATO on how to deal with Syria and Iraq and especially the threat of ISIS. Britain at the same time is debating the future of the Trident nuclear sub deterrent force with the Labour Party divided on this issue.

Not least is that this week the EU is facing formally unneeded and perilous demands by a right-wing Euro-skeptic Tory government asking for “reform” that wants special exemptions from Brussels regulations (to make its banks richer), and for more decision-making devolved towards nation states within the EU and more freedom for the UK from the common responsibilities built into the EU charters and regulations. The most unjust and least likely to be agreed demand is to limit social welfare payments of EU citizen immigrants, which under current rules must be treated equally with British citizens.  Cameron wants an EU agreement or threatens a referendum asking if Britain should remain in the EU. He has just added another threat saying that his position for staying in the EU would change and he would oppose continued membership if he did not get his way. (More on this in the coming two weeks on this blog.)

The current disruptive landscape in Europe includes anti-immigration views, rise of bigotry, fascists, and racist sentiments and parties that are rising up and include in their agendas the breakup of the EU. There are also polls showing increasing views of European citizens who are discontented with how the EU does not seem to care about them. The EU, and especially Germany, has exacerbated high level of discontent by their imperial and punishing austerity policies on Greece, Spain, Italy, and Portugal.

Another divisive issue is how to deal with climate change and how far to commit to specific and significant reductions in greenhouse gasses. Later this month in Paris the key UN meeting on this will start and is likely to be very difficult due to the division between the developed and developing world. Already the UK is suffering from too little installed electric power, still relies on some dirty coal plants, and in other EU countries a bulk of power comes from this dirty source. For the UK under Cameron, the Tories have delayed the investment in less polluting gas turbine and solar by simply not increase government spending in order to show less national deficit.

Major decisions on these issues will or could be made at meetings being held in Europe and elsewhere this and next week or beyond and in actions taken by individual governments. In the future there will always be largely unknown external forces or actions by the likes of ISIS, Russia, and global events which can influence the future of Europe.

For America, let us be clear, these trends matter as without an outward, engaged and strong EU, little can be accomplished on many levels in making our globe safer, more just, and prosperous.

More here on these issues in the coming days and weeks from London.

We welcome your comments below!

THE DEBATE ON “BRITAIN’S PLACE IN THE WORLD”

Britain's Place in the World

Pictured: Dr. Robin Niblett CMG, Director, Chatham House

Photo: Chatham House

by 

Harry C. Blaney III

Date Line London

Chatham House (Royal Institute of International Affairs) hosted a major meeting June 23rd, led by speaker Dr. Robin Niblett the Director of Chatham House, on the topic “Britain’s Place in the World.” The topic would normally be rather expected and unremarkable, but in the present circumstances it is critical and relevant.

Without a doubt Britain is at odds with itself about the proper place of Britain in world affairs. It is battling between those who want the UK to have a major or prominent place in global and European affairs and those who wish to withdraw from Europe and even the world.  

Some even wish to disassociate from America. There are also elements that care not a wit about the rest of the world.  They mainly express that view by a hate of immigrants and those that do not look like them. This view is also expressed through voting for mostly the right wing Tories or the far right and racist United Kingdom Independent party known as UKIP.  They tend to blame Britain’s problems on the immigrants, on the EU. They sense a decline in influence which this group attributes to anyone but themselves and their bad policies.

This trend was exacerbated by the impact of the recession, austerity policies, and the indifference of the last Tory coalition to the poor. This new Conservative and now even more ideological government is making war on the poor and unemployed in Britain. There is generally a sense of total loss of humanity or caring for those most in need.

Some of this was covered in earlier posts from this series from London. The key words remain: despair, resignation, and a bit of uncertainty in a world still dominated by much conflict and known and unknown risks. The view, backed by polls, is the British public wants Britain to still have a global reach but do not want to pay the price for such a role. This is not surprising in either Britain or in America.

In the presentation and Q&As at Chatham House with Robin Niblett, he made the argument for continued focus on an “inner circle of Europe”, then with a wider circle including the NATO/Atlantic orbit, and the one beyond which would encompass not just the Commonwealth but much of the rest of the world including China. If this sounds like the old British world view, it is.  But this is with a bit of a downgrade to connections with the United States which is a growing view here among the far right and the far left and some between.

Niblett’s main aim in this address seemed to be to focus on the need to keep Britain in the EU given the threat of an exit in late 2016. The other aim was to argue the case for Britain being at the center of European decision making, while making money with a priority on global financial and commercial strategy especially with China as the new economic powerhouse.

Part of this is a bow to the economic power of China, but it seems to include overlooking China’s military ambitions and attacks on democracy in Hong Kong. The British government seem to be their old pragmatic selves, capitalist and global financial driven, only even more so now. But it appears they are increasingly indifferent to the global spread of ugliness, cruelty, conflict and real humanitarian action — even as British tourists were being killed in Tunisia.

Niblett observed ironically that America seemed to be “ambivalent” about its role in the world. I am not sure if this was directed towards Obama or the Republican opposition. From my perspective, the right wing GOP is not just “ambivalent” but hostile to real responsible engagement in the world’s challenges and is a destructive force that Obama has to deal with. No mention in this meeting was made of the many points of deep and difficult engagement that America under President Obama and Secretary John Kerry have shown in dealing with Russia under Putin, global warming, trying to find peace in the Middle East, the pivot to Asia, and our effort to address Iran’s nuclear programs. I might sadly add with little real help from London except mostly in words and not resources.

Niblett did little to suggest how Britain could do much more with America to solve the world’s problems other than words. He did hope that these issues could be solved, and pushed for the government to make them the priorities with America or anyone for that matter. He said that America was just one of many bilateral balances and relations for the UK. But many voices here that I heard and talked to are uneasy with this new “small England” stance and I assume even Niblett himself senses a deep unease at the trajectory of Britain and the world.

Here the newspapers are talking about cuts in foreign aid that once was vouched safe from such cuts by the Tories.  Niblett and other voices in these meetings deplored the cuts, but few here offered the idea of added taxes on the rich as one solution.  The right wing newspapers, which means almost all in the UK, seems more  interested in the government’s plans to cut business taxes and those for the very rich, than protecting the nation’s infrastructure, education, or national security or helping in any real sense deal with the world’s ills.

The idea that global strength comes from domestic growth in productivity, R&D investment, and in better education of the citizens was touched on, but more in terms of how much the rich sector of the society contributes than in the cost of inequality and unemployment. Low productivity was mentioned but not in the context of the government putting the average worker of this nation back into good jobs, since they seem in their policies only to punish those that can’t find jobs that actually produce goods, rather help those that slosh money around without benefit to the nation as a whole and slice money just to the very rich in the City. 

The key decisions that Britain faces in this critical time is the future of the well being of its less affluent majority and for more engagement in building a safer world.  Effective decisions are threatened by the Tories and their allies, of antipathy by many English for integration with Europe, and for that matter, with the world. Except, it seems, by some of the rich who are making money though international financial deals and trade. So strange for the nation that built the greatest global Empire ever known, and lost it in a historical blink of the eye. It now suffers from particularism and fear of the outside which may be its undoing.  

God save the Queen, but also God save us from the British Tories, racists, and “Little Engenders.” In a time when more effort is needed from our “most close ally” we will likely be getting much less from looking at the debate here so far. 

We welcome your comments! 

THE UK DEFENSE DEBATE: A PLACE IN THE WORLD OR BY ITSELF?

Photo: http://www.independent.co.uk/

By
Harry C. Blaney III

London Dateline

I had the opportunity to attend an on-the-record “research” meeting at the Chatham House looking at UK defense policy and the presentations and discussions only reinforced the sense of a listlessness and disarray that characterizes much of Prime Minister David Cameron’s international policies and Britain’s role in the world. 

Two issues exemplify this. The first is Cameron’s foolish commitment to the right wing Tory MPs to a vote on UK membership in the EU, thus forever forfeiting Britain a role in European policy and decisions. The second, is on the UK defense budget and strategic stance which foresees cuts in funding which will weaken Britain’s ability to act as a major force on security issues in Europe and globally.  That means a diminished role in security matters with allies, and not least, to effectively defend British interests in conflicts abroad and in Europe.  It will further weaken NATO’s capability as the UK has been the second largest contributor to NATO overall defense resources. 

Over the decades I have been witness to many discussions and debates about NATO, UK and American defense issues both within and outside of government. This session was among my most disappointing, not because the speakers were bad, but because they were very frank on the implications and inevitability of long-term decline in UK “hard power” reach. 

Further, it was clear that despite many governmental and non-governmental studies some of their thinking was declared by participants to be somewhat limited and often too driven by bureaucratic and ideological and budget forces. They were not always driven by good strategic perspectives. Also one speaker reflected that the influence of the disastrous participation in the Iraq war had also installed among the public and politicians distaste for further military action abroad.

All of this retreat from defense engagement is worrying in the face of a series of uprisings, conflicts, the Arab Spring and its consequences, ISIS, Putin’s aggression, China’s military buildup and South China Sea adventures, and not least, the spread of terrorism and civil and ethnic war.

One commentator said that NATO was looking petty shaky after the UK budget cuts were fairly well known. Clearly Britain’s voice in the halls of EU and NATO defense decisions has been weakened and it was acknowledged that such decisions will diminish UK’s influence in America, noting that France seems now to have the ear of Washington. 

This is especially the case since Prime Minister Cameron at the earlier NATO summit in Scotland had criticized other NATO countries for not meeting their 2% NATO commitment to military budgets and is now in danger of missing this benchmark.

One commentator said basically that Britain had resigned as “a great power” while another phrase used was “giving up as a “world power” in foreign policy. Yet conversely the concept of being a world power had not yet been given up by Cameron. The other view was Britain is still playing a “supporting role.” The implication was that Britain could no longer act on its own. 

There was very little discussion of Britain’s nuclear force which is being questioned as being useless by some and as a “necessity” by others. Trident’s future still has not been finally decided but some feel this capability is losing its attractiveness. 

In my own intervention, I asked why the larger strategic geopolitical assessment had not played a bigger role in either the discussion or in the new government. Clearly it was a case of the “Emperor having no clothes.” Asking these key questions in drawing up the budget would undermine the decision to cut the UK defense budget willy-nilly. Clearly it was overall political budget cuts that ruled. All this was a result of a promised “forever” budget surplus by the Chancellor of the Exchequer Mr. George Osborne, a strident advocate of austerity and right wing causes and possible future Prime Minister, and not of honest strategic assessments. The political decisions were all that mattered.

The real need for a hard look at the strategy and then shape the budget was urged and priority should be the need for UK military’s to aim for “adaptability.”  This approach was argued due to the reality of still unknown risks and opportunities. The point was made to the hard fact of the actually realities at existing “mid-level” strategic situations, not just at uncertain long term theories and projections, which can never be fully known or accurate. In short, keep open your options and prepare for the unexpected.   

In the end, it was real flexible capability not just grand strategy that Britain needed to achieve. So the real question is what is Britain’s role in the world?  What are its fundamental interests and what are the risks it faces now and in the near future? 

A question that I also asked was if there was any thought of not just conflict responses, but looking at playing a larger role in conflict prevention and “soft diplomacy” and peacemaking/peacekeeping which requires an adaptable force, that would help make Britain be again a useful payer on the global stage. Some liked the idea, but there is not much defense industry interest in this more human level capability verses profits of large weapons systems. 

As one speaker said we need to ask “what are we?” The answer is sadly diminished, inward looking, greedy for the interests of the rich and damn the poor, and now equally damn national security or our alliances, if we can lower the taxes on the rich and create a surplus and stay in power.  The right wing is in the ascendency here for the moment and it is ironic that it is the Tories, that in the past and until now, have claimed the role of guardian of national security and global reach, that now have sold that honor down the river of expediency and concessions to misguided Euro-skepticism  and “Little England” isolationists.

We welcome your comments!

UKRAINE UP-DATE, WHAT NOW? RESPONDING AND KEEPING OUR HEAD AND LOOKING AHEAD

putinUkraine Up-Date, What Now? Responding and Keeping Our Head and Looking Ahead

by Harry C. Blaney III

 

The Ukrainian revolution has now turned into a global crisis of Cold War proportions. Now is the time for caution, steadiness and resolution. If taken off course, the outcome could be a disaster for all sides, not least for the Ukrainian people. Wrong moves by Putin, the new Ukrainian government, European leaders, and America could turn a serious confrontation into a catastrophe for all. There is also the danger of doing nothing. Recent events in the Crimea and Putin’s statements indicate a radical and dangerous series of actions including his precipitous military intervention and veiled, and not so veiled, threats against all of the Ukraine.  Continue reading

W(H)ITHER THE WEST?

     The aptly labeled “euro crisis” has led to a good deal of speculation about the future of the common currency, the European Union and, as if to put to rest any doubt that U.S. national security interests are also at play, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.  Debate on all of these issues is building on the back of great changes that have occurred all over the world since the end of the Cold War, most particularly the redistribution of economic, political and strategic might and influence.  The very meaning and identity of “the west” can no longer be clearly defined, as serious differences between its various components threaten to undermine the solidarity forged over the decades, particularly since the end of World War II.

     The euro crisis itself has clearly demonstrated  substantial differences between the economies of the northern tier, led by Germany, and those of their Mediterranean partners, i.e., Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Spain,  Portugal and, not far behind, France.  Those differences and the solutions proposed or, more accurately, imposed by the austerity-mad forces of the European Central Bank, the International Monetary Fund and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have led to loose talk not only about the future of the Euro Zone but, as stated above and in more hushed tones, of the European Union itself.  (The IMF’s Christine Lagarde is now reported as working to soften Merkel’s hard line.)  The consequences of dissolution may well force face-saving remedies, but the crisis has exposed not only wide gaps in monetary theory but obvious political and cultural prejudices that will survive whatever technical solutions are hammered out.

     A danger of quite a different kind exists in political developments in the British Isles, where Scots will decide next year whether to remain in the United Kingdom or go their own way, and where a new political party, the “Independents”, is gaining strength while pushing loudly for British departure from the EU.  The Tory government of David Cameron is feeling the pressure.  Add to that the recent ill-concealed animosity between the conservative Merkel forces and the French Government of socialist François Hollande, both wary of loss of support from their own domestic constituencies.  (Merkel is up for re-election this coming September, and Hollande predecessor Nicholas Sarkozy seems to be rethinking his retirement as criticism at home and abroad of Hollande’s performance emerges on a daily basis.)   If the UK goes its own way, the world will not end, but if France and Germany cannot work out their differences, the European experiment is dead.  The betting here, based as much on hope as anything else, is that common sense will rule.

     What does all this have to do with American national security?  Everything!  Whether or not there must occur some shift in focus, with the United States paying increasing attention to its interests in both the Near and Far East, the importance of Europe, Western Europe above all, will never diminish.  Washington surely understands this simple truth and, we must assume, is acting on that understanding.  This may well explain the recent announcement that President Obama will make an official visit to Berlin on June 18-19, which the German Deputy Spokesman has specified will take place at the invitation of  Chancellor Merkel and will cover “a broad range of bilateral and global issues including the further deepening of the transatlantic relationship”.  We can be sure that the dangers facing European and transatlantic unity will be high on the agenda.

     “Europe is enduring its deepest post-war economic crisis and the European Union’s very existence can no longer be taken as a given.” This quote from an incisive article by European Parliament President Martin Schulz in the British daily The Independent of  May 12

says it all, no matter what hopeful optimism has been expressed above.  Schulz’s views, under the headline “Europe needs to change, let the debate begin.  For some the idea of an ‘ever closer union’ is in freefall,”   must be repeated in full:

“For some, the idea is in freefall. Europe is living through rising eurosceptism, unacceptably high unemployment, especially among the young, and weak economic prospects.  This is worrying, for the moment people withdraw their support from an idea, the idea is finished. The more populist protest parties may see the European elections this time next year as an opportunity to score electoral successes. 

“As a convinced European I welcome the debate, but I recognise first that Europe needs to change course, something many in Brussels seem not to acknowledge. We are living beyond our means. Budgetary consolidation is essential, if only because we cannot bequeath a mountain of debt to our children. 

“Second, some structural reforms – to the labour market and on retirement ages – are essential. But the austerity policies currently being implemented in Europe are lopsided. It is taking too long for the structural measures and the necessary budgetary consolidation to take effect and, at long last, increase competitiveness. In the meantime, some EU Member States are sliding ever deeper into a recession. Austerity, supposedly the cure, is threatening to undermine the European project.

 “Third (and this is surely a cause to warm a British Eurosceptic’s heart), the EU must tackle the vexed question of tax. Every year in the EU, €1 trillion is lost through tax evasion and tax avoidance – an enormous loss to the Union. This sum could be used to pay off debt, to set up youth guarantee schemes and to invest further in growth initiatives. European heads of state and government have a duty to agree on effective counter-measures at the EU summit in ten days’ time.

 “And yet, and yet. Just six months ago, the European Union was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. It was one of my proudest moments. Indeed, many of Europe’s greatest successes are being taken for granted: Europe is the most prosperous continent on earth, Europeans can travel, work and live where they please. We enjoy a standard of living and a degree of protection of our fundamental rights which people in other parts of the world can only dream of.

“Perhaps paradoxically, a new European awareness is emerging from the crisis. Europeans are recognising how interdependent they are. One country’s failures can threaten the entire European economy, and can call into question the fruits of 60 years of integration. Peace, solidarity, and prosperity are not irreversible; only 27 countries, (28 when Croatia accedes to the EU on 1 July this year), working together can guarantee them. The peoples of Europe are taking a greater interest in what is happening on the other side of their countries’ borders. People want to know what the retirement age is in other countries, what the top tax rate is, why young people are demonstrating in the streets of European capitals. 

“However, some governments still refuse to accept that they are already working in a European context. They prefer to cling to national sovereignty, to the familiar trappings of carefully orchestrated Brussels Summits at which they mount a last-ditch defence of their national interests and then present the outcome at home as a victory. In so doing, they disregard the fact that it is in their countries’ very best interests that Europe should function properly. This, surely, is little more than posturing. 

“The European Parliament and the Council is currently discussing the EU’s long-term budget 2014-2020. It’s an important issue, but sadly it best illustrates the short-termist lack of commitment of some Member States to the wider European interest.  It is clearly misguided of EU governments, including the UK government, not to shift investment towards research and development, education, training, foreign relations and development aid, areas where European added value are at their greatest.

“The EU is about much more than its budget (capped at a meagre one percent of EU GDP since its inception).  The single market benefits the British economy hugely, and the EU remains by far the biggest destination for UK trade, accounting for almost 50 per cent of total exports The UK has played a leading role in forming many key EU policies (on the single market, overseas development, trade and climate change).  UK leadership in these areas has been highly appreciated and would be sorely missed should the British decide to exit.

“The UK has also played a major role in shaping policy on Justice and Home Affairs. In little over a year from now, these policies, including most importantly the European Arrest Warrant, cross-border criminal justice and policing become fully-fledged EU policies, meaning that any Member State failing to apply them properly can be brought to court. Yet the UK is moving ever closer to opting out of scores of those measures – in essence re-erecting national borders in the fight against cross-border crime. The UK’s own House of Lords EU Committee has concluded damningly that “…the Government have not made a convincing case for exercising the opt-out and that opting out would have significant adverse negative repercussions for the internal security of the UK and the administration of criminal justice in the UK, as well as reducing its influence over this area of EU policy.” Does the UK really want to puts its internal security at risk by exercising this opt-out?

“Next year’s European elections are of paramount of importance. For the first time there will be candidates from the European political parties for the post of European Commission President, this should engender a greater interest in Europe’s future. Those who say they want more democratic control can hardly complain at that. 

“Europe is enduring its deepest post-war economic crisis and the European Union’s very existence can no longer be taken as a given. A thorough, factually-based conversation on the virtues of deepening European integration needs to take place, starting in the UK. Britain would be sorely missed should it decide to leave. The stakes are high, so let the decision be taken with full access to the facts, rather than to narrow, outdated thinking. Let the debate begin!”

     W(h)ither the West?  However one wants to take that question, of this there can be no debate: the matter is of crucial importance to U.S. national security.

More Madness From London and the Tory Party

David Cameron on EU Membership:

“We have the character of an island nation – independent, forthright, passionate in defence of our sovereignty.

We can no more change this British sensibility than we can drain the English Channel.

And because of this sensibility, we come to the European Union with a frame of mind that is more practical than emotional.

For us, the European Union is a means to an end – prosperity, stability, the anchor of freedom and democracy both within Europe and beyond her shores – not an end in itself.

We insistently ask: How? Why? To what end?”

Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out of the European Union and risk disaster for their country!  Prime Minister David Cameron’s speech on January 23rd is another example of the foolishness that has overtaken the Tory Party in Britain as it has the Republican Party here in the U.S. They are both backward looking and narrow in their perspective. They also share a fear of change and aversion to global engagement and serious problem solving. Their myopic ideology trumps any sense of realty and analysis.

At its heart, Cameron’s call for an “in or out” vote on membership in the EU, which was already voted on in the 1970s and reaffirmed by Parliament vote several times, gives fuel to his most extreme euro-skeptics and places the UK in the worst position for real influence with its other EU partner leaders and nations.

Cameron’s key statement was:

Looking at essential renegotiations of the fundamental documents of the EU, Cameron said vis a vis a new Treaty, “so I add my voice to those who are already calling for this. My strong preference is to enact these changes for the entire EU, not just for Britain. But if there is no appetite for a new Treaty for us all then of course Britain should be ready to address the changes we need in a negotiation with our European partners.

The next Conservative Manifesto in 2015 will ask for a mandate from the British people for a Conservative Government to negotiate a new settlement with our European partners in the next Parliament. It will be a relationship with the Single Market at its heart.

And when we have negotiated that new settlement, we will give the British people a referendum with a very simple in or out choice. To stay in the EU on these new terms; or come out altogether. It will be an in-out referendum.

…And if a Conservative Government is elected we will introduce the enabling legislation immediately and pass it by the end of that year. And we will complete this negotiation and hold this referendum within the first half of the next parliament.

It is time for the British people to have their say. It is time to settle this European question in British politics. I say to the British people: this will be your decision.

And when that choice comes, you will have an important choice to make about our country’s destiny.

I understand the appeal of going it alone, of charting our own course. But it will be a decision we will have to take with cool heads. Proponents of both sides of the argument will need to avoid exaggerating their claims.

Of course Britain could make her own way in the world, outside the EU, if we chose to do so. So could any other Member State. But the question we will have to ask ourselves is this: is that the very best future for our country? We will have to weigh carefully where our true national interest lies.”

Indeed! As others have noted, there is no need for such a referendum, nor is there a need to change the basic elements of the UK-EU relationship. Furthermore, Cameron himself noted that there will be a cost of withdrawal from the EU, but he thinks such an act will not be a “withdrawal” from Europe. In that he is very wrong. In addition, he thinks there would be no damage to Britain’s “special” relations with the United States, a view that is not shared by the American government, as noted in the comments by Assistant Secretary of European and Eurasian Affairs Philip H. Gordon (cited in the Full Text Documents blog page). He ignores a key element that has been a lynch pin to British influence for decades; namely, the special relationship with the U.S. tested in two world wars, the building of NATO, the integration of Europe to ensure peace, and playing the key role in the EU of providing a global and outward looking perspective for continental Europeans.

Any careful look at the massive existing sinews of connection, trade, financial markets, cultural heritage, education, and employment would show that cutting those ties with the EU would be catastrophic in every sense for Britain and hurtful for the future prosperity and peace of Europe. With a possible Atlantic wide free trade area being developed it would make even less sense for Britain to cut its ties with that larger effort.

Let’s be frank. Looking beyond Cameron and the Tory “Tea Party” stupidities, Europe also needs Britain and its many virtues brought to the table when its governance, experience, and leaders are at their best.

Out of the EU, Britain would indeed be the “odd man out,” capitulating to its worst instincts and growing ever more backwards in modernity, growth, and influence.

Cameron and, more importantly, the British public, will have to decide whether they will be an integral part of Europe, whether they wish to abandon their decades long trade advantages within the EU and its promise of long-term prosperity and cooperation, or stand alone, isolated from that great European project, and also be less influential and involved in the great decisions that the U.S. and the European Union will be acting on to address the pressing issues of the age.

 

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