Thursday, 17 September 2009

Independence Day For England

What does “Independence” mean for the United Kingdom? One theory is that in 1941-1942 when we ran out of money was the date it was lost. Also we had been brought to the brink of being unable to feed our population by war. This was the consequence of population increase, Imperial policies, and Free Trade for industry and The City allowing our own agricultural industry to endure a depression that began in the 1870’s. That period is an academic option for when independence began to be compromised. The process was a long and tortuous one, too long for a simple blog. It involves India, Egypt, Africa, the Far East, the Middle East and much else. It involves Europe and the entanglements that led us into two World Wars.

It meant that as the City of London arrogated itself to be the financial ruler of the world, when it began to falter and weaken, it then became its prisoner. When Westminster ruled a fifth of the surface area of the world and claimed to rule the seas, the impossible task of maintaining firstly the fact, and then after 1918, the fiction, led the political elite into a series of submissions and obligations, culminating in the accession to the European Community and Brussels in 1973. The rest is not quite history. Westminster now has less control over many of the affairs of the UK than did the former County and County Borough Councils of long ago.

How much real choice will the ordinary English people of today, who are not the same as those of the 18th Century, or even the early 20th Century, have in the matter? Will we soon have an English Parliament or a Parliament in which the procedures allow a specifically English sphere of influence and decision? If the UK ends and it is free of Scotland, something I suspect desired by the great majority of ordinary English people, then the Six Counties of Ulster may well attach itself to its Scottish homeland. In England we forget that Antrim can be seen from Scotland. Wales may want to go its own way as well. What does the idea of “independence” entail across the key sectors of the economy and the polity of England?

Firstly, will England retain the pound sterling and manage its own monetary system according to its defined needs? If it adopts the Euro then it is not independent, nor is it if it takes on another currency. Also, it is not if the pound shadows or is obliged to be a dependent variable of another currency.

By definition, if it remains within the European Union, then whatever it might call itself, it is not “independent”, especially under the terms of the Lisbon Treaty. It might be said to have a system of modified independence, but this depends on the volume and nature of the legislation and regulation emanating from Brussels. If there is a lot, and its impact is substantial, then England is only a province. Forget any claptrap about being at the heart of Europe, shorthand for claiming we would call the shots. We will not and cannot.

Would England be able to provide for the bulk of the food needed by its population, and indeed to survive any world wide food crisis? The more dependent it is on food imports, the more limited its effective independence is likely to be and reliant on those territories from where the food is supplied. What about fuel and power? Same again, these are basic utilities, the more under foreign supply or ownership the less any independence can be. Might we all be saying “Tovarich” as we beg for warmth?

Could England revive and reinstate its own consumer goods industries, or will it be reliant on certain limited sources, e.g. China? Then there are all those international agencies and obligations that the modern world has created. The more we take on, the less room for manoeuvre we have. Clearly the greater the complexities, the more any government of England will be shackled.

In turn, this leads to how an English government can deal with the global mega-corporations that control so many markets in every sort of product or service. We have seen the UK government bow the knee to almost any and every mega-corporation that comes it way, promising jobs and investment, that is so long as this favour or subsidy or given, or that. They take the money, and run when they like.

The great problem for England will be what to do about London. There is the City of London, so long as its activities are of central importance and so long as it remains a largely unregulated participator in the global monetary arena, the less England can do to stay away from the problems. Not least is how far other parts of the Atlantic Isles, including the ancient counties of England, can shake off the grasping hand of The City. London itself is becoming a foreign city as many incomers become the majority of its population. These are not a single body, but are disparate. There are a lot of difficult questions to address. Perhaps England might be able to abandon the notion of “The Commonwealth”, that empty vessel of decayed and deranged ambition to play The Great Power.

There are the questions of lines of communication. Just how far can England exert any control over the air and sea around it, or on the global communications systems now in place? I seriously doubt that our navy at present can protect our shores from any determined enemy, criminal gangs, or slavemasters. The gangs are here already, active and politically influential arising from their easy access to UK operated tax havens. In a world where communications are all, if you cannot control your own, you cannot control much else.

There is much detritus of the past, internal and external. The Crown dependencies of one kind and another scattered across the globe, many being tax havens, may not be wanted by an independent England wishing to be free of its past obligations, nor might they want to remain attached to it. If we are being democratic, then they should be able to opt for either full independence or for which part of the former UK they regard as appropriate to their vision of their future. Given that one of the main planks of the recent movement for Scottish independence is Edinburgh as a major financial secrecy jurisdiction, with all that is entailed, it would be logical for the Scots to take them over.

One example of the internal rearrangements is those of surface links. At present the rail links to Wales are largely carried on costs that fall on England. Apart from the line to Cardiff and Swansea, the others could close. Also, inasmuch as the ferry links to Ireland largely benefit the Irish, any English subsidy could cease. As for Scotland, the projected £34 billion high speed line, in English terms is a complete nonsense. Moreover, it is questionable whether England should continue subsidies for more than one passenger line across the Border, given that most of the traffic is Scots based, and much of it for governmental purposes that will no longer apply. The West Coast line might remain, but the East Coast could end at Newcastle, with the line north to Morpeth and Alnmouth degraded to suburban commuter services, and if retained beyond be essentially for any residual freight requirements if they covered the costs. Otherwise closure could occur. The predominance of these lines in the strategy of rail provision over the 20th Century has been a major cause of the lack of attention given to internal English requirements, and monies released would be of benefit to improvements to links across England. As for the roads, toll facilities will be needed for all the crossings of the Border, which may entail tolls on the major English roads north of say York and Lancaster.

In defence policy, if England were to look to its own interests alone, then a great deal could go. There would certainly be a need for a navy, groupings of small, fast, vessels, located from Whitehaven and The Tyne to The Channel and the Western Approaches, packing a punch, and of a very different character, and the same applies to the air force. The Army would lose some men, who would need replacing and would need to be reconfigured. If the past is any guide, if there are major differences in law, notably on drugs and alcohol, there would need to be effective military policing of the Border with high standards of control given the levels and nature of criminal activity already present in Scotland.

The Atlantic Isles once had a henge culture several thousand years ago. This was tribal in political organisation, but since became the playground of warring incomers and occasional invaders. Too many of these were violent exploitative slave societies, notably the Celts who supplied the Romans, and later others. Such parts might go their own ways according to the relatively recent boundary divisions. The same considerations, inevitably, apply to them as well as to England. Here the so-called “independence” amounts to unshackling themselves from the remaining and residual corrupt and incompetent London power centre that is failing to deliver government or unity to anywhere in the Atlantic Isles. If members of the EU they will be no more “independent” than the Duchy of Luxembourg, and a lot less than Vermont.

What images will England take on? It will have to chose either between more ancient symbols of Englishness from a deeper past before 1015 or try for something modern. The trouble with “modern” is that is could be something imposed by the alien crackpots of the London advertising and arts establishment. Can we hope it escapes the tiresome and destructive bigotry, macho violent imagery, idiocies, lies, posturing and propaganda of other nationalisms? This is a sensitive question, and one for another blog. I am not the best person to ask, by blood mostly Scots with elements of Irish and Welsh mingling uncertainly with the various strains of English and those from other shores. Like others, many finished up here because they ran out of the money or the will to go further. But we would all have to get on with it.

What would it be like, an England defined in its own terms for the first time since the year 1015?

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