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Blogs Coffee House

The argument about Britain in Europe is just the same as the argument about Scotland in Britain

5 August 2014

10:28 AM

5 August 2014

10:28 AM

I know some readers have tired of Scotland’s independence debate. That is understandable, even forgivable. It has, after all, been rumbling along for 40 years. There may only be six weeks of campaigning left but these arguments won’t go away. You’ll be hearing them again and again for the next few years at least. This is true even if Scotland does vote Yes next month.

Because the argument about Scotland’s place within the Union is really not very different from the argument about Britain’s place within the European Union. Of course the similarities are not absolute but they are significant enough to be striking. And just as Scottish nationalists have no intention of folding their tents until they prevail, so the Better Off Out brigade will never rest until they heave Britain out of the EU.

Yes voters in Scotland dislike being compared to eurosceptics, chiefly because most supporters of Scottish independence favour remaining within the EU (though a third or more of Scottish voters do not). Nevertheless, the similarities between the SNP and Eurosceptic arguments remain striking.

So, in one sense and south of the Tweed, the Scottish argument is a warm-up for the arguments to be made about an EU referendum. There is no need to take my word for it. Look at what prominent EU sceptics say themselves.

Take Dan Hannan, for instance. Plausibly Britain’s best-known MEP (non-Farage division)  and a man of, I think, unimpeachable integrity. Here are some of his recent tweets. I have annotated them to clarify the relationship between the EU argument and the Scotland debate.

I do wish EU-backers would stop repeating their specious, deceitful claims about companies pulling out of Britain [in the event of a Brexit]. Cf: companies fleeing Scotland after independence.

Serious question to all the ‘I’d like a reformed EU’ people. What needs to happen to persuade you that it’s not on the agenda? Cf: You really think Unionist parties will deliver more powers after a No vote? Really?

[Alt-Text]


Time for an amicable divorce from the EU. My column in today’s Mail on Sunday… Cf: Time for an amicable divorce from Westminster. Good neighbours not surly lodgers!

Germany’s Christian Democrats declare that it would be ‘unacceptable’ for Britain to leave the EU. We’ll decide that for ourselves, thanks. Cf: We’ll no be lectured by any English Tory, thank you very much.

Memo to commentators: most Eurosceptics don’t ‘hate the EU’. We’ve simply understood that Britain will be wealthier and freer outside it. Cf: It’s not about hating Britain; it’s about forging a better, fairer, freer future after Britain.

The only time we were net recipients [in EU budgetary terms] was in the referendum year, 1975. Reckon they’ll try the same trick again? Cf: We always put in more than we get out. Which is no fair. Also: don’t forget London’s fondness for bribery.

Iceland to grow 3.1% this year, 3.4% in 2015. Eurozone 1.2% and 1.7%. Still crowing, Eurocrats? Cf: Arc of Prosperity, motherfuckers.

The [European] parliamentary session begins with a beautiful live rendition of Beethoven’s 9th. As Alex says, ‘It’s a crime using Ludwig Van that way’. And When the UK leaves the EU, I’ll happily stand for Ode to Joy as a mark of respect to the anthem of a friendly neighbouring state. Cf: One day I will love the Butchers’ Apron.

And finally:

I’m worried that UKIP’ cyber-nats, like their SNP equivalents, are alienating moderate voters in advance of the referendum. Cf: Well, duh.

Let me stress that I’ve nothing against Dan Hannan (he is always interesting) and I offer no judgement on the validity or persuasiveness of the arguments he makes. Indeed I have some sympathy with many of them just as I can appreciate some of the arguments made by Scottish nationalists.

The point is simply that in terms of rhetoric, tone and positioning the arguments made about the EU are really very similar to many of the arguments made about Scotland and the UK.

Of course the nature of the EU project is rather different from the argument about Great Britain but, even so, the ‘read across’ is worth noting. It also helps explain why English eurosceptics are, many of them, sympathetic to Scottish independence. (Douglas Carswell is a leading example here.) Their instincts and worldview and the things they consider most important are comparable to some of the instincts, worldview and preferences of Scottish nationalists.

Which, again, is fine. I neither praise nor condemn these notions; I merely note them. But if you have tired of the Scottish debate then you are most definitely all out of luck because when (if!) it recedes from prominence it will be replaced (even if Labour win the next election) by an argument about Britain and Europe that is, in many respects, just the same as the argument it replaces. Different, sure, but also very similar. So there’s at least another two years of this.

 

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