Under Boris Johnson, UK faces national humiliation like post-war France - Kenny MacAskill.
As Marx said "history repeats itself, first as tragedy then as farce". And so, it would seem that the Brexiteers are ironically destined to repeat the mistakes of France, their supposed arch foe. Earlier this week, I was once again watching Ken Burns' magnificent documentary on the Vietnam War, episode one setting the scene as the Americans enter and the French withdraw. That situation, in some ways, echoes what's being sought for Britain now.
Despite defeat and occupation in the Second World War, restoring the glories of the French Empire became the aim for France. They were sustained by American financial and military support during their own Vietnam War. But it still dragged France down and ended in humiliating defeat at Dien Bien Phu.
Withdraw they did and their humbling continued in Algeria, although that was viewed as part of metropolitan France, and was therefore slightly different. Political crises were endured before they came to terms with their new, post-colonial status. It took the prestige of General De Gaulle to finally deliver the unpalatable message to some.
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It came at a huge cost, not just politically but economically, the history of post-war France making it abundantly clear that had they not tried to maintain their empire they, not Germany, would have been the economic powerhouse of Europe. Instead, resources which should have gone into reindustrialisation went into preserving perceived status. A diminished economy and reduced political influence was the result, along with the national humiliation. Membership of the EEC and closer cooperation with European neighbours became the policy. That turned things around but at a price.
Today in the UK, the Brexiteers have their man and he's pledged to deliver. But bluff and bluster can't deliver the undeliverable. There's neither give by the EU nor offers from elsewhere. Even the supposed special relationship with the USA is a sham, as the price of a trade deal becomes clear and the absence of support over Iran exposes. Britain's economy is suffering, the inward investment from Asia that it was in prime position to benefit from is being lost and its political status sinking fast.
All the talk of restored prestige for Britain, if not the restoration of the Golden Days of the Empire, is sailing over the horizon. Instead the reality of a diminished power, diminishing further, is playing out by the day. As the pound heads towards parity with the dollar and with the demise of the UK car industry, the reality is brutal.
How humiliating for the new PM, that he has to rest on the support of the EU for protection of British vessels passing through the Strait of Hormuz. With the Royal Navy having just 19 ships, the days of multiple fleets for the seven seas are long gone. Just as Boris Johnson prepares to confront them over the withdrawal agreement, the UK's going cap in hand for their help.
Bullishness will be the faE*ade for a while to come, but HMS Brexit is heading for the rocks with us all aboard. Adjusting to the new world and steering a course for a country with an important, albeit reduced, status is what's required. Sadly, Brexiteers are still intent on steering a course for restoration of empire status at full throttle.
The Age of Empire is over, no matter how much Churchillian spirit you unleash. It might be hard for Brexiteers to comprehend as the empire wasn't lost in war or revolution, instead it simply faded away. But gone it has and restored it cannot be.
Strategic alliances are necessary, not just on defence but for the economy. Britain simply isn't big enough or powerful enough to operate alone. The competition from the Far East is every bit as threatening to our economy as Iran is to our shipping. There's no going back for Britain as there wasn't for France. Being alone and isolated is dangerous and damaging, the USA a fair-weather friend at best as shown with Iran and a threat to the NHS and welfare state in any economic relationship.
Now I rarely agree with Philip Hammond but his talk of a national humiliation may soon come to pass. If Boris Johnson drags us out with no deal, it'll be disastrous, even cataclysmic.
And even if that's avoided and some ruse to hide capitulation is managed, there's going to be a decline in the standards of living for citizens and a reduction in political influence for the country.
Ultimately, we'll end up back where we started but weakened, diminished and humiliated. That's what happened to France, how ironic that Brexiters seem intent on repeating it. What a waste - and all for delusions of empire.
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|Publication:||The Scotsman Online|
|Date:||Jul 25, 2019|
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