Britain’s divergence from Europe does not necessarily benefit traditional unionists

Ed Curran’s column comparing the Ulster Covenant era with today’s is full of good sense. His message is that no State, least of all the Republic, is fully independent in the era of globalisation and bailout. But the state of flux in Europe is beginning slowly to form into a new political landscape.  Budgetary and fiscal union combined with closer political relationships seems inevitable for the Eurozone. Britain, historically on the edge of Europe, is sworn never (“never, never, never?”) to join.

You only have to read the Dublin newspapers with a smidgeon of attention to realise that  what goes on politically in Berlin, Frankfurt and Paris is at least as relevant if not more so, than what goes on in London – and just as strikingly- in Belfast.

The trend clearly sets the Republic and the UK on divergent paths. How divergent over time remains to be seen. Today it’s the UK which is infected with the spirit of Sinn Fein, Ourselves Alone, at least with regard to Europe. Irish affection for the EU may have diminished since the bailout but there no sign of them leaving the euro and working to peg a new punt to sterling. That for many of them would be a far worse surrender of independence than anything required by the institutions of the EU.

For now the direction of supranational political travel is too uncertain to  supplant the traditional national loyalties. John Hume’s dream of burying our communal differences in a dynamic and reconciled Europe today seems just that, a dream.  In our little universe, social and economic forces will diminish them but perhaps at a pace as grindingly slow as any in Europe today. Or perhaps suddenly, like the Europe of the fall of the wall twenty odd years ago?

What does this uncertainty mean for the established nationalisms in Northern Ireland? On this island in the short term at least, the trend is bound to favour the sort of Union with Britain that was created in 1998. But before the  conservative minded unionists begin to gloat, they should remember that the union of the GFA is institutionally far more flexible  than the Union of 1922. Militant nationalism on both sides is retreating onto narrower and narrower ground surrounded by an amorphous mass of  “not sure,  don’t know”  opinion which is hard to analyse – by me anyway .  A two speed Europe is unlikely to be their game changer in the old zero sum contest.  Digitisation can help overcome some of the distortions to trade and cross border shopping fever.  While differences are now more complex with growing economic divergence, the border itself is barely a line in the road. Ironically it is the single market, a British initiative, which has helped produce that benign result. Cross border trade and the growth of relationships it brings, can probably counteract the structural differences when the economies pick up. This is no longer a view that divides the political groupings.

Not all the old fears of 1912 have disappeared. The stubborn institutional conservatism of the Catholic Church today as it faces – or still refuses fully to face – the paedophile scandals provides a plausible echo of the old Rome Rule fears which many Catholics indeed would share. But apart from that, most of the old tigers are slain. Only diehards refuse to  look forward to the new one waking up.

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  • Mc Slaggart

    “The trend clearly sets the Republic and the UK on divergent paths.”

    I would not agree if the UK has any government worth the name. The UK is fully in and doing a “Norway” is not a good position to be in: Click on the link below to find out more.

    “Eurosceptics be warned – the ‘half in, half out’ EU integration model option is best left to Norway.”
    http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/eurosceptics-be-warned–the-half-in-half-out-eu-integration-model-option-is-best-left-to-norway-8199849.html

  • Barnshee

    “Cross border trade and the growth of relationships it brings,”

    “Cross border trade ” has barely changed in 50 years mostly alcohol related products from ROI to north with occasional bursts of cross border domestic shopping when distortions in indirect taxes or currency rates produce the demand. I struggle to identify any material transfers from north to south

  • BarneyT

    Perhaps not all of the 1912 fears are lost…I agree….but I feel that partitition allowed the freestate to turn into the religious and abusive monster it became and potential checks and balances were lost (irrespective the the church influencing the north is it did).

    Nationalism of the Irish variety is compromised and surely disheartened by developments in the “free state”. Its a case of leaving one historical agressor and abuser to be faced with another who has and will continue to have Ireland by the short and curlys.

    There is little prospect of Ireland being anything other than a Christian Democrat right leaning state blinded by market forces and individual preservation…particularly since the Tiger roared. Why that is not an attractive option for NI Unionists (and a large swade of conservative nationalists) I do not know. In a united ireland within Europe, SF would be irrecoverably marginalised and again, that is surely an unionist enticement towards reunification and wider integration with a new European master?

  • Brian Walker

    barneyT
    Perhaps. But might not the chance of not integrating with “a new European master” appeal not only to unionists but to others ,nationalists or otherwise, for whom the European bureaucratic style of politics holds little attraction?

  • The Republic’s difficulty is that in Europe it is peripheral, while its economy is remains very much integrated into the UK, and looks West to USA. It has made a virtue of being a stop-off point for entry into the European market while it was small and competitive, but the example of Dell which shifted to the (non-Euro) market of Poland shows that this strategy has its limits. Not sure how it straddles the two contradictary economic demands. As the Euro is very much a political strategy, rather than an economic one, it will be interesting to see where the Republic ultimately decides its interest lie should ‘divergence’ above become real. Think that is a long way off.

  • terence patrick hewett

    Fiscal union means political union; it can’t be fudged. Condaleeza Rice observed correctly that a nation that loses control of its finances, loses control of its destiny; when money drains, power drains and other people make decisions for you.

  • carl marks

    terence patrick hewett
    you are of course correct, the question is ‘ is full political union with the EU a good or bad thing’ Im not sure as to the answer perhaps the better informed among you all could enlighten me.

  • terence patrick hewett

    Carl Marks: Exactly Carl

    Sequens hiems saluberrimis consiliis absumpta. Namque ut homines dispersi ac rudes eoque in bella faciles quieti et otio per voluptates adsuescerent, hortari privatim, adiuvare publice, ut templa fora domos extruerent, laudando promptos, castigando segnis: ita honoris aemulatio pro necessitate erat. Iam vero principum filios liberalibus artibus erudire, et ingenia Britannorum studiis Gallorum anteferre, ut qui modo linguam Romanam abnuebant, eloquentiam concupiscerent. Inde etiam habitus nostri honor et frequens toga; paulatimque discessum ad delenimenta vitiorum, porticus et balinea et conviviorum elegantiam. Idque apud imperitos humanitas vocabatur, cum pars servitutis esset.

    The following winter passed without disturbance, and was employed in salutary measures. For, to accustom to rest and repose through the charms of luxury a population scattered and barbarous and therefore inclined to war, Agricola gave private encouragement and public aid to the building of temples, courts of justice and dwelling-houses, praising the energetic, and reproving the indolent. Thus an honourable rivalry took the place of compulsion. He likewise provided a liberal education for the sons of the chiefs, and showed such a preference for the natural powers of the Britons over the industry of the Gauls that they who lately disdained the tongue of Rome now coveted its eloquence. Hence, too, a liking sprang up for our style of dress, and the “toga” became fashionable. Step by step they were led to things which dispose to vice, the lounge, the bath, the elegant banquet. All this in their ignorance, they called civilization, when it was but a part of their servitude.

  • Blissett

    Sinn Féin no more translates as ‘ourselves alone’ than it does as ‘hungry rhino.’

  • Greenflag

    ‘Condaleeza Rice observed correctly that a nation that loses control of its finances, loses control of its destiny; when money drains, power drains and other people make decisions for you.’

    Dublin had that experience in 1800 when the Act of Union was bribed into existence by a corrupt minority seduced by a combination of promises of free trade and religious freedom . The ‘religious freedom’ took 30 years to be delivered and the ‘free trade ‘ at the time benefitted only those industries in the north east which had some competitive advantage -the linen industry as one example -.
    Most of Ireland quickly ended up being ‘ponzi schemed’ into an ‘agriculture’ dependant backwater and supplier of cheap food and soldiery for the expanding then British Empire .

    That said apart from the bad timing of the introduction of the cheap interest euro at a time when the Irish economy was overheating with a growth rate of 8% plus in the late 1990’s and the subsequent world financial crisis which has affected everybody – the EU has been of far greater benefit to the Irish economy than the Act of Union ever was.

    Just contrast the demographic experience of Ireland 1830 to 1922 with that of 1922 to 2012 and the living standards of the average Irish person during the same periods ?

    As for Condoleeza’s ‘correct ‘observation ? She might have mentioned that the USA’s control of it’s finances is hanging by a thread and that the destiny of the dollar is dependant on continued ‘good behaviour’ by the USA Treasury and the willingness of large overseas holders of USA dollars to continue maintaining their Treasury Bills .

    In today’s global currency war the position of the US dollar as the world’s reserve currency is under increasing threat and the reluctance of emerging economies to hold ‘dollars ‘ has become more prevalent over the past decade .

    The current USA ‘printing of even more dollars QE 3 and according to some QE 4 will lead to further effective devaluation of dollar held assets by those countries holding surplus dollars .

    The loss of it’s world reserve currency status would leave the dollar and the USA in much the same position as the UK 1918- to the end of Empire (1960 ?)

  • Greenflag

    ‘Step by step they were led to things which dispose to vice, the lounge, the bath, the elegant banquet. All this in their ignorance, they called civilization, when it was but a part of their servitude.’

    So was it the vice or servitude or the lack of washing facilities and a decent shower that led to the demise of the Roman Empire ? From what I read and experience German plumbing is of a higher standard than the equivalent British and they’re not as dependant on Polish plumbers as the British are .

  • terence patrick hewett

    Greenflag

    You are misinterpreting Tacitus: he was observing the way Rome corrupted their client states in order to control them. A lesson not lost on the Brits who used it with devastating effectiveness the world over; not the least in Ireland.

  • Greenflag

    Britain’s attitude to the EU is just like it’s attitude to it’s former colonies . The colonies have moved on and pursue their own economic interests as they see fit and the UK no longer controls the political strings .

    Britain has always opposed European ‘unification ‘ – it has always opposed any power on the European mainland which looked like it could achieve political and/or economic hegemony – be it Spain or France or Germany or Russia ..

    Today it’s the EU. However unlike earlier centuries the UK is now dependant on EU countries for 80% of it’s exports .

    The lesson of Norway as posted above is worth a read for those who still believe that Britannia can waive the rules and still come up trumps , Norway has been fortunate in that it has oil reserves and has used them to benefit the country and it’s people , The UK on the other hand ?

    Those who favour separation from the EU economy or it’s political direction need to have an alternative . Is there one ?

  • Greenflag

    @ TP Hewett ,

    Not misinterpreting Tacitus -my above @ 11.11 am was tongue in cheek . Divide et Impera was a Roman maxim put to great effect and improved on by the British and other Empires . This we know .
    We also know the Roman Empire collapsed and the British Empire is no more and the Spanish ,French, German ,Russian Japanese ,Portuguese , and Dutch empires are no more .

    Sic transit gloria mundi etc .

    The USSR has passed and the American Starbucks empire is in retreat having overreached . Meanwhile the emerging Chinese ‘authoritarian ‘capitalist Empire is showing signs of stirring and becoming a more sustainable model for ‘copying’ than it’s American equivalent .

    Creditor nations as Condeleeza Rice might also say tend to have more credibility than debtor nations as any old Imperial gung ho jingoist would be eager to point out . Or as George Orwell’s dad might have pleaded in his day ‘Please Empress of China grant us British traders exclusive rights to peddle opium among your subjects as it’s the only way we can balance our trade deficit with China .”

    Plus ca change etc .

  • terence patrick hewett

    Greenflag

    I personally do not have a partizan position; I am merely making observations and asking questions. Like the corresponent Carl Marks I do not know whether Fiscal Union would be a good thing or a bad thing, I am merely attempting however inexpertly to clarify what is at stake. Have you watched Sluggers very amusing video “Have you ever been to Longford?”

    http://sluggerotoole.com/2012/05/30/have-you-ever-been-to-longford/

  • Greenflag

    I’ve been to Longford and even Leitrim but only twice and I never saw people drinking ‘coddle ‘ out of potholes . There are two reasons for this .One people don’t drink ‘coddle’ they eat it and two coddle is Dublin ‘cuisine ‘ not Longford – and a particular favourite of mine I might add 😉

    As to whether Fiscal Union would be a good or bad thing well that depends on a a multiplicity of other factors does it not -chief among them being what Dissenter alluded to above in his comment re Ireland’s and indeed most of the UK’s ( outside the South East ) peripheral status in the EU .

    If the ‘centre of the EU ‘ hogs the EU Fiscal Union -much as the UK South East hogged it for the British union (1700 – the present ) then countries or regions like Ireland , Scotland , Wales, the English north country and west Midlands will become ‘alienated ‘ from the French /German /Polish ?Netherlands /Belgium . I include Poland which although not yet within the Eurozone is nevertheless very much a subset of the wider German economy . The number of German companies in Poland exceeds by far the number of American companies in Ireland or the UK.

    What is at stake is suggestive of Ireland or indeed the UK having a real choice ? I can’t see any given both island’s utter dependence on the EU for trade and as mentioned above most of the economic policy regulation enacted over the past 40 years .

    Neither Ireland nor Britain are Norways or Icelands .While I can understand and even sympathise with opposition to Eurocracy in many cases nevertheless an EU warts and all is a better bet for a peaceful European future for all 27 and later no doubt even more members than a return to a 1914 Europe which could not resolve the economic and political tensions caused by it’s over zealous imperial powers and ultra nationalists peacefully and instead of moving towards greater european and global integration took a path backwards to an insane war and even set up the conditions for an even more insane war in 1939.

    Given Europe’s fractious history and many different political cultures and languages , traditions etc such a ‘Union ‘ can only succeed if the ‘member ‘ nations believe they are part of the construct and not mere afterthoughts left hoovering on the Atlantic/Meditteranean fringes .

    The current financial crisis and the European approach to resolving it is not a confidence booster I’ll admit but then neither are the American , British , or Chinese efforts to date .

  • Mc Slaggart

    Brian Walker

    “a new European master”

    I dont care if the UK pulles out of the “EU ” it will still be its “master”. Swiss legislation in many fields, including trade, has to stay in line with the EU. The UK currency is as much a shadow Euro currency as the swiss one.

  • terence patrick hewett

    Greenflag

    As Devils advocate I rather think that Sein Fein or the Unionists would beg to disagree. Following is another solution culled from the pages of the Irish Times a few days ago:

    “I hope that the referendum brings up some facts about the causes of the financial crisis rather than just letting politicians define the problem according to the solution that they want to apply to the situation.

    Take these facts:

    – Ireland had faster growth than Germany pre-crash. They actually had even faster growth before the Euro, so the Euro was not responsible for it.

    – Ireland had a budget surplus – it was Germany who was borrowing too much and who broke the Eurozone rules (along with France).

    – Ireland had less debt than Germany (as a % of GDP). Ireland’s debt was below 60% before the Euro was introduced and because of the budget surplus it was falling.

    – Ireland had lower taxes than Germany
    – Ireland had better savings rate than Germany
    – Ireland did more trade than Germany (as a % of GDP) so earned its living from exports not domestic consumption.

    The fact is that Ireland had a better economic record than Germany before the crash.

    Clearly the fiscal compact of limiting borrowing and debt would not have stopped the Irish financial crisis. It is the solution to the Greek problem, not the Irish problem.

    The problem with Ireland was the private sector borrowed too much to buy houses because of a house price boom. When that boom ended the banks collapsed, taking the economy with it.

    The reason for that were interest rates being too low. They were too low because they were set by the ECB according to the needs of Germany, not Ireland.

    The Irish problem was monetary, not fiscal. The solution is to leave the single currency, not to enter a fiscal union with Germany.

    Don’t let Germany re-write history in exchange for bailouts. Don’t let Germany turn a tiger economy like Ireland into Greece.”

  • Greenflag

    @ tp Hewett,

    ‘The fact is that Ireland had a better economic record than Germany before the crash.’

    In the decade or so before the crash I agree . Longer term average 1945 to 2012 I’d say the Germans average is probably higher and in the period 1990-to 2005 the Germany economy was weighed down by the poorer East .

    ‘The problem with Ireland was the private sector borrowed too much to buy houses because of a house price boom. When that boom ended the banks collapsed, taking the economy with it.’

    Ditto for Spain and the USA and Iceland and other economies to a certain extent .It did’nt happen in Germany because the German ‘dream ‘ unlike the American and Irish nightmares/dreams does not include owning one’s own home . Home ownership rates in Germany are less than 50% of the population .However their housing standards for ‘renters ‘ are much higher than in the UK or Ireland .

    Your point about interest rates being too low for the then Irish economy is correct but our then Government could have dampened down the property bubble and restricted the flow of investment and borrowed funds into the building sector but it chose not to . Reason being a lot of the then Government and indeed opposition were benefitting personally from the boom . I recall Bertie Ahern even suggesting that those who were warning against the ‘irrational exuberance ‘ of the property market should commit suicide . You can find a link on youtube to Bertie’s gaffe .

    Greece should never have been allowed entry into the Eurozone as they were nowhere near the budget deficit target of 3% at the time . Goldman Sachs and the Wall Street ‘masters of disaster ‘ and a quick billion or two dollars in profit reshaped the Greek Eurozone application so that it showed the ‘right ‘ figures which would be acceptable for Greek entry . I suspect the Germans must have known that the figures were ‘fudged ‘ but decided to turn a blind eye -ditto for the French and others .

    We had it within our local power to minimise the worst of the property bubble . We/our government chose not to . That was’nt the German’s fault . The fact that the Germans permitted very high leveraging by their banks which then lent out cheap money to Irish and other investors throughout Europe and the USA is something which the Germans don’t like to talk about .It doesn’t as you might put it fit the narrative and the same goes for the French and Dutch to a lesser extent.

    Greece never had an economy or to be precise it’s economy remained moribund during the 1980’s /90’s . Which is why today it cannot pay back it’s debt . I’ve no idea what merkel will be saying to the Greeks today but it probably won;t amount to any major change in their tight jacketing . Merkel’s prioroty will be to keep the Greeks /Spanish/Portuguese /Irish corralled until she wins re-election next year as Germany/Europe’s Kanzlerin .

    Of course the markets may upset that applecart -on the other quite a number of ‘speculators ‘ have had their fingers more than burnt by speculating against the Euro and Grexit in the interim .

    At this stage leaving the single currency is a non starter and would cause more trouble than it could be worth . We would be unable to have a stand alone currency and a a link with the British pound would now be seen as a retrogade step . A few years down the road -three or four perhaps it may be a different story -If by then the Euro monetary fiasco has’nt been finally sorted or there has been no major reform of world monetary/currency issues between the major economies then under those conditions the Irish Government will have to consider those options which may still be available at the time .

    Ireland isn’t Greece -California is – but then the Californians are protected by the Federal Reserve and the Fed Government 😉

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    I remember Hume’s line in the 80s about the breaking down of borders in Europe being some kind of long term solution for us in NI. What he missed then became clearer when the Berlin Wall came down and is doubly clear now with tensions between EU countries over budgets and deficit reduction. That is, the nation state is still by far the dominant unit within which politics is carried out and which is dominant focus for most people’s sense of belonging and identity.

    That has a massive impact on people’s sense of who they want to make decisions concerning their future. It surprised people like Hume that people in the newly liberated states of eastern Europe in the early 90s wanted to regain control of their politics through the nation state primarily. And we saw the resurfacing of emotional nationalism for good and bad in that era.

    And now the EU crisis shows how people across Europe really feel about pooled decision-making – OK for slow or minor adjustments, but for crunch decisions that have a big effect on people’s lives, people still expect those to be made by elected politicians at a country level.I’m not saying it’s a good or a bad thing, just the way it is.

    Hume and others missed this in thinking we could easily dismiss the nation state layer as irrelevant in the N Ireland context. Crucially, Hume himself gave the lie to his own idea by continuing to be an Irish nationalist. If countries really don’t matter, then why was he proposing it would benefit N Ireland to belong to one country rather than another?

    Nation states do still matter because buying into the idea of pooling our decision-making all the way at the European level depends on us truly regarding the welfare of German or Italian people as being as important to us here as the welfare of a Briton or an Irish person. It should be, but most people don’t think like that and are unlikely to do so in the foreseeable future. The only thing that can really change it is much more widespread and large scale population movements between European states, so that we build family and social connections across borders much more than we currently have. And even then, people may still think at a local ‘country’ level for practical reasons of needing to break Europe down into governable units. If there weren’t countries already, we would have to create something like them.

    Making the EU move to the next level of integration is a big democratic problem really. I’m not seeing anyone getting anywhere near suggesting answers that will enable us to move away from ‘nation state thinking’. And I write as an enthusiastic pro-European here.

  • Greenflag

    @ MU,

    ‘I’m not seeing anyone getting anywhere near suggesting answers that will enable us to move away from ‘nation state thinking’.’

    The link below suggests that one answer may be that ‘nation state thinking’ in the traditional western sense may become history as a result of ‘civilisation state ‘ thinking from the far east .

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-19929620

    Excellent post MU btw and I can’t find much to disagree with in your overall comment . I would add however that going alongside your above mainly political /institutional viewpoint there is the entire global economy and financial services turn around since the 1980’s and later which Hume and others could not have seen back in the 1970’s.

    The break up of the Soviet union, German Reunification, the creation of the Euro currency, the emergence of the BRIC economies , and the worldwide financial collapse and recession since 2007/2008 have been the main ‘events ‘ over the past couple of decades with some of the above still having major repercussions on the ‘behaviour ‘ of some nation states -e.g the current China/Japan and USA/Russia ‘divergences ‘.

    ‘Making the EU move to the next level of integration is a big democratic problem really.’

    An understatement I’d suggest in present circumstances and not until the EU is past it’s current financial crisis impasse -will there be much progress in the democratic ‘deficit ‘. Its as if ‘nation state’ politicians are still trying to have it both ways i.e full sovereignty and financial control of their ‘economies’ in a globalised economy and investment environment . This is not just an EU problem -its also one which occurs in the USA where States compete with other States to attract inward investment on the basis of lower taxes/wages/costs lack of regulation etc etc .

    Heres an 11 minute analysis of the crises of capitalism
    worldwide which has’nt gone away .

  • Mainland Ulsterman

    Greenflag,
    Sorry for the late follow-up – thanks for those links. I agree there are longer term global trends that favour the pooling of areas of sovereignty, as we recognise the borderless nature of many of the big problems countries have to solve – environmental, population growth and hunger, energy, finance and trade etc.

    The idea of the sovereign nation state free to act in any way it wants has always been a bit of a myth: all countries operate under the system of customary practice and formal obligations that is public international law. But I think the confluence of long-term global financial crisis and the global warming crisis brings a real long-term political focus on big problems that can only be solved at an international level now. But our political structures are not there just for tackling problems, they are also there to reflect the needs of democracy – or people’s right to a say in their own government, to be even simpler. It’s democracy that requires the solutions to these issues to also check-out at a national level. No country’s leader is really willing to take a big hit domestically to help the populations of other countries.

    As such, it’s the demand side of democracy, the feelings of people on the ground (used to existing nation state structures), that are a block to effective international action every bit as much as the short-sightedness of the elites in government we all like to bash.

    Where I do blame politicians in this country, in particular in the Conservative Party, is in failing to be straight with the electorate about the fact it is in our best interests to act internationally in many areas, most important within the EU. The Tories see their Euroscepticism as a vote-winner and as such play up to attitudes that the vast majority of seasoned politicians (even on the right) will concede privately are delusional, based on a lack of understanding of the realities of international affairs and if ever acted upon, disastrous for Britain in the long term.

    Cameron does ultimately support Britain being active in the EU but you would barely know it (despite his speech yesterday). He chooses to try and have his domestic euro-sceptic cake by sounding grudging about the EU, while eating it by thinking he can still have clout in EU meetings. Our partners, understandably, don’t smile on this flip-floppery and we’re losing influence in the EU as a result. How that is in Britain’s national interest I don’t know.

    We’re not going to influence how the big global issues get tackled by crying foul and sulking in the corner. In fact at a global level, our only chance at any clout at all in the coming era of big clunking power blocks in China, the US and I hope Europe, is as part of the EU block.

  • IrelandNorth

    The Europe of the early 21st century is a horse of a different colour than that of the early 20th. The Nobellised peace prize European colonial powers are no longer at each others throats, and descending their respective working classes into unimaginable barbarism over global real estate. And the founding father of Sínn Féin who was against the 1916 Rising and for a dual monarchy, Arthur Griffith, was equally macroeconomically pragmatic when he strongly intuited that political independence without its economic concommitant was a contradiction in terms. But the flaw in the logic of imperialist Ulster unionism is that it denies the reality that geography predicates politics. Almost as much as Irish nationalists and republicans do its macroeconomic equivalent.

  • Greenflag

    @ mainland ulsterman ,24 October 2012 at 11:15 am

    Thanks to irelandNorth above for reviving this thread and thanks for the reply MU . I read it a few days back and was going to reply but when I had the time to reply the thread had mysteriously disappeared ?

    Have to agree mostly with your comment above and I think you highlight the ‘contradiction ‘ at the heart of much of globalisation when you made the point

    ‘it’s the demand side of democracy, the feelings of people on the ground (used to existing nation state structures), that are a block to effective international action every bit as much as the short-sightedness of the elites in government we all like to bash.’

    I agree but there’s also a short sightedness to much of what is emanating from the elite global financial sector which is answerable to no democratic mandate other than that of the ‘market’ which they of course have been seen to manipulate e.g the Libor scandal etc for their private selfish personal /shareholder ends . The people don’t get to vote on Wall St or the City of London’s corporate financial policies . The growing links between the political powers and the financial moguls has been a trend for the past decade or more which has effectively ‘neutered ‘ the democratic representatives of the people .

    While Britons may ‘crow ‘ shorterm as to their great good luck in not being part of the Eurozone I believe longer term it’s in Britains and Irelands interest that there is a solid zone of currency stability in the wider European area and this is best served by the Euro . It may or may not be necessary for some countries to opt out temporarily etc but even Iceland , Croatia and others are planning for eventual membership .

    I agree with your comments re the Conservatives and their ‘newspeak ‘ janus faced attitudes towards the EU generally and not just to the Eurozone . Britain needs to be fully engaged in the EU and as most of the UK (Scotland , Northern England , Wales , Northern ireland ) could be viewed as ‘peripheral ‘ the UK should be the natural ‘leader’ within the EU for the peripheral nations like Portugal , Poland , Slovakia , Ireland etc ,

    The main reason why the Conservatives continue to maintain their sterling uber alles policy is because of the role of the City of London Financial sector in the British economy -representing as it does 10% of the economy and probably a good deal more of the total corporate ‘profit ‘ generated by the overall economy .

    But surely and despite it’s centuries old traditions the City of London will be just one other locus for the mega moguls of international finance as the new financial capitals of Shanghai , Mumbai , Sao Paulo etc develop at breakneck speed all across the developing world -thanks to new info technologies etc .

    ‘In fact at a global level, our only chance at any clout at all in the coming era of big clunking power blocks in China, the US and I hope Europe, is as part of the EU block.,

    Indeed . I sometimes think that MacMillan’s ‘Winds of Change ‘ speech back in the early 1960’s was never really fully comprehended by much of the Tory party and for many little Englanders the continent is still cut off if not by fog then by an unfortunate and ultimately self defeating jingoistic element amongst the neo cons and far right elements in the UK :(?

  • Greenflag

    The City’s future outside a European Banking Union problematical

    http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-11-01/london-frets-future-as-financial-hub-outside-bank-union.html

    The Tories ‘flagship’ of the British economy i.e the financial sector hoisted by it’s own petard and now under the Cameroonians cutting itself off from the tree on which it’s prosperity is perched ?

  • Greenflag

    @ IrelandNorth,

    But the flaw in the logic of imperialist Ulster unionism is that it denies the reality that geography predicates politics.

    True but i’d omit the ‘imperialist’ .The Empire has been gone a half century .

    ‘ Almost as much as Irish nationalists and republicans do its macroeconomic equivalent.’

    As long as the Republic /Ireland was dependent on the UK for 80% plus of it’s exports actually 90 % as late as the early 1970’s and part of the sterling area then our political independence was for all practical purposes more like a small state within the USA union than say Denmark or Belgium or the Netherlands .

    Its only since the Irish economy has become much less depedent on that of the UK for exports and imports that our ‘political ‘ options have increased . At the same time given the global economic changes over the past decade or more those options have broadened much more than they would have -had we remained part of the UK ‘union ‘ . But despite all of that the UK still remains a very important market both for exports and imports for ireland and Ireland remains either the third or fourth biggest export market for the UK .

    I’d conclude from the above that on balance Ireland’s nationalists and republicans (across the entire island ) are much less deniers of the reality that geography predicates politics than NI unionists . Political ‘unionism ‘ has only ever had to look as far as London – Political nationalism/republicanism at least in recent decades has been forced to look much further than London to achieve it’s economic and political objectives .