When separatism and border concepts go wrong, life turns ugly

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Commentary by Derek Bateman

Damn the separatists. They’re trying to destroy the country I love. They want to put up borders and divide us from our friends and neighbours. Isolationism is a backward step when the world is globalised. We’re too small to go it alone and we need the strength of being bound to our partners. I want to stay part of the civilised world, not shut myself off because of some parochial knee-jerk reaction and rejection of different people.

Derek Bateman
Derek Bateman

Yes. I want to stay in the EU.

Interesting, isn’t it, how the arguments against national independence for Scotland echo in the debate over Brexit. I’m begining to understand how the Unionists feel.

My sense is that I’m losing my country, that in some ways it’s already gone because I never believed that the British way was to turn on foreigners. I saw the signs from the State and the pandering to hate by government, but it’s always sensible to uncouple that from the instincts of Mr and Mrs John Smith. In the 60’s for instance it was the Tories who limited Commonwealth immigration, an act described by Gaitskell as ‘cruel and brutal anti-colour legislation’. But I am wrong. England now has lost its marbles. And it’s dignity.

Where are the radicals? When Scotland was claiming its right to self-government, David Aaronovitch in the Times rubbished our references to the Declaration of Arbroath as one of the earliest expressions of people’s sovereignty. In reply he offered Magna Carta, the Levellers and probably the Tolpuddle Martyrs. In response I accepted that fine English tradition but asked: Where are those radicals today? Answer came there none.

IGNORANCE

The same point stands now. All English progressives cower in awe of a flawed referendum fought on bogus terms with a result based on ignorance of the workings and advantages of EU membership. The vote was staged as a way of cauterising a wound in the Tory Party whose extremists were simultaneously terrified of, and attracted to, UKIP.

Whatever criticism you can make of Scotland’s campaign, you can’t say it wasn’t prolonged, exhaustive, engaging and informed. As I wrote at the time, if you hadn’t computed the basic information by voting day, you didn’t deserve the right to vote.

The basis of the quick and brutal EU referendum on the other hand was racism, plain and simple, minus the compensatory evidence of migration’s economic contribution (let alone the – to me – equally important element of cultural diversity). People may well have felt shut out of decision-making and marginalised in the economy but the root message of the Leavers was it could all be solved by getting rid of foreigners. And the public bought it.

Theresa May
Theresa May

May’s speech yesterday makes it clear. The priority isn’t re-calibrating the economic order to deliver more to Solihull and Sunderland. It isn’t to make us more prosperous. It is to get rid of people who aren’t British. Let’s refine that. It isn’t just to stop people coming in. As it stands, it is to eject those already here. (They’re already receiving letters advising them of their precarious status). It will of course, mean we can’t go abroad to live and work either with the same ease we can today. This issue may be resolved in negotiations in time but that’s where we stand – with hundreds of thousands of worried people, our international reputation damaged and the clear message going out that you’re not wanted here.

IMMIGRANTS

It’s worth remembering that just over half of immigrants are from the EU – in other words countries whose citizens have automatic rights to come. Forty-four per cent come from the rest of the world, countries whose citizens Britain has a legal right to limit or prevent if it chooses depending on the agreements it has. The point here is that the UK Parliament can enact laws to restrict their access in a way it can’t with EU citizens. So Britain does have border control over roughly half of all those coming in. It chooses not to use it.

One of the biggest groups coming to the UK for more than a year are students who bring in over £4 billion a year to the economy. When looked at as an export industry, education and training brings in a staggering £14 billion. Why would a government jeopardise that kind of revenue stream?

Another of the large groups is of those who have a job lined up. They haven’t come to speculate or live on welfare, but specifically to earn and pay tax having been recruited by a British employer.

Those who arrive to join a family member has halved from the nineties to 12 per cent now. And, to cap it all, 45 per cent of all incomers plan to stay only for up to two years.

The racist UKIP and the white supremacists of the National Front before them have turned a benefit to the country into a deficit and successfully blamed other human beings for it. A net contribution to the economy has been ignored in favour of a xenophobia which beings shame on working people, never mind the national broadcaster’s obsession with the overwhelmingly unelected UKIP and its fetish with Farage.

PAROCHIALISM

Even those who voted out of some principle against the EU can only look on and weep at how their vote has been twisted by the Brexiteers into a justification for Little Englander parochialism.

I’d like to think that Theresa May would consult Alex Salmond before she crawls on her knees before the madman Donald Trump. The lesson surely from the relationship between the two men is instructive about Trump’s house of cards mentality. One minute Salmond was a great Scot and a hero – as he appeared to be helping his business plans. The next, he was a crazy man destroying his own country – when he appeared to be defying him. The friendship collapsed overnight when Trump didn’t get his way. He is more volatile than the oil price.

Can a deal be done with the USA? You bet it can.

You take our narcotic beef, our expensive drugs, you follow our quality standards instead of Europe’s, and let our corporations buy up the NHS. We take some of your strawberry jam.

America will own Britain and Britain will do as it’s told, just as we do on defence by keeping thousands of Americans in jobs while bleeding the accounts dry with Trident and just as we do by letting British citizens be hauled before American courts on doubtful evidence without any reciprocity. How do you imagine you negotiate with Trump? Does he strike you as a generous opponent, overwhelmed by goodwill, ready to surrender meekly? He wrote a book about it and chapters called Use Your Leverage and Fight Back don’t give that impression.

Britain isn’t taking back control. Britain is on its knees. And like Dolores Ibarruri, La Pasionaria, I say it’s better to die on your feet than live forever on your knees. The EU and the Single Market may not be exactly classic material for a socialist cause but then, these day, what is? We have to mobilise around something as the wreckers light their torches. Detaching ourselves from the madness down south before it’s too late and reaching out to the people of Europe sounds as good a start as any. Who are the separatists now?