The very concept of a uk is being torn aside by poisonous nationalism | Gordon Brown | Opinion


The first step to fixing an issue is to see it clearly. And if we’re to grasp why we face not solely our most critical constitutional disaster for the reason that 17th century however an unprecedented financial calamity precipitated by a no-deal exit from the EU, we should recognise that nationalism is now driving British politics.

Having set virtually inconceivable phrases for any negotiation with Europe and making ready to renege on authorized obligations to pay our money owed to the EU – the financial equal of a declaration of warfare – Boris Johnson’s authorities is hell-bent on conjuring up the absurd and mendacious picture of the patriotic British valiantly defying an intransigent Europe decided to show us right into a vassal state.

His soundbites, pledging token sums for the NHS and 20,000 extra police on the road at some future date, can not disguise a authorities pushed not by the nationwide curiosity however by a harmful, populist, nationalist ideology. And with Scottish nationalists pushing a extra excessive type of separation and Northern Eire’s unionists changing into, paradoxically, Northern Irish nationalists – digging in, even when it means, in opposition to all financial logic, a tough border with the Irish Republic – we’re, at greatest, solely a precariously uk.

Johnson’s flying visits to all corners of the UK have executed nothing to dispel the impression that below him the world’s most profitable multinational state is devoid of a unifying objective highly effective sufficient to carry it collectively and to maintain 4 nationalisms – Scottish, Irish, English and likewise a rising Welsh nationalism – at bay.

Current polling exhibits a majority of Scots assist Scottish independence. In a brand new Hope Not Hate ballot, many extra – 60% – agree a no-deal Brexit will speed up the demand for independence. Solely 15% disagree.

What’s most worrying is not only that so many assume the union will finish however how no less than for now so few seem to care. Solely 30% of British Conservatives (and solely 14% of Brexit get together voters) would oppose Brexit if it meant the break-up of the union: 56% of Tories (and 78% of Brexit get together voters) – in complete 70% of Leavers – would go forward regardless, even when the union collapsed.

Three weeks into the Johnson premiership, English nationalism is on the rise, the Conservative and Unionist get together has been reincarnated because the Conservative and Brexit get together, unionism seems to be sleepwalking into oblivion and the UK, as soon as admired world wide for an understated however comfortably unifying Britishness that was inclusive, outward-looking, tolerant and in the end pragmatic, now presents an unpleasant image: of bitter division, intolerance and introversion so excessive that it has sacrificed frequent sense in favour of a dogmatic abandonment of its personal greatest pursuits.

Incoming governments usually announce that they’ll search to serve the entire voters. Now, enjoying out in triplicate throughout the UK is a “divide and rule” strategy to management, straight from Donald Trump’s playbook: every faction consolidating its base, selecting an enemy and accusing opponents of treason within the hope that in a multiparty system they’ll win with a minority of votes.

Dominic Cummings, special adviser to Boris Johnson

Dominic Cummings, particular adviser to Boris Johnson, depicts the Home of Commons because the enemy. {Photograph}: Rex/Shutterstock

True to type, Johnson adviser Dominic Cummings depicts the Home of Commons because the enemy in a “individuals v parliament” election, with the individuals led to imagine – by a expensive public info marketing campaign that’s nothing greater than Brexit propaganda – that their parliament is ready to betray democracy and abandon conventional nationwide values. Subsequent, the Tories will seemingly embrace Lynton Crosby’s well-honed election technique: to whip up English nationalism by demonising immigrants in addition to perfidious Europeans and enjoying the Scottish card he so efficiently deployed in 2015, with the spectre of a minority Labour authorities managed by a fair smaller minority of Scots.

As this hardline nationalism tightens its grip, there’s a lot worse to come back: Johnson becoming a member of Nigel Farage in insisting {that a} no-deal Brexit on 31 October is the one true expression of patriotism; commerce wars placing English and Scottish companies and jobs in jeopardy; Scottish separatists not simply threatening to depart each establishment of the UK however planning for a no-deal exit too; a rerun of the previous pressures for an Irish unification ballot; and England being pushed in direction of a self-regarding xenophobia.

The SNP is already peddling what it claims is a progressive, pro-European Scottish nationalism that should break away from Johnson’s reactionary, anti-European and anti-Scottish English nationalism – and the inescapable conclusion that solely thus can Scotland regain its dignity. But when the UK pound, the UK customs union and the UK single market all go, this want for laborious – not gentle – separatism ignores the lots of of 1000’s of jobs vulnerable to going too.

Labour’s position ought to be to face up for Britain’s true financial pursuits however just a few days in the past its shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, additionally fell straight into the nationalist lure, suggesting a Scottish parliament shouldn’t be pissed off by what he known as the “English parliament”.

Unionist events in Northern Eire ought to have been persuaded that their said targets – the integrity of the UK and an open border with the Irish Republic – might be greatest secured by continued membership of the customs union and single market.

DUP leader Arlene Foster, right, pictured with the party’s deputy leader Nigel Dodds

DUP chief Arlene Foster, proper, pictured with the get together’s deputy chief Nigel Dodds following a gathering with Boris Johnson in Belfast on 31 July 2019. {Photograph}: Liam McBurney/PA

Such an final result would have higher mirrored the dominant pro-European vote of Northern Eire’s electors. However the DUP has satisfied itself that its stance on Europe needs to be couched in purely nationalist phrases – as a check not of what’s greatest economically for Northern Eire however of whether or not a diehard model of nationalism will prevail.

Because the Second World Conflict ended, George Orwell made a distinction between patriots who instinctively love their nation and the other, a political nationalism that he outlined as “energy starvation tempered by self-deception”. He famous its defining options: unreality in regards to the nation’s prospects; introversion bordering on the xenophobic; and hate-filled obsessiveness that treats individuals solely by way of their loyalty and utility. Orwell argued passionately that the descent right into a slender, chauvinistic nationalism might be halted solely by what he known as “ethical effort”.

In our occasions, this implies we should rediscover the age-old virtues of empathy, solidarity throughout borders, reciprocity between nations and co-operation somewhat than battle. These treasured beliefs – and a tolerant, inclusive and outward-looking Britishness – couldn’t survive the divisiveness and chaos of a no-deal Brexit. To stop the rise of dysfunctional nationalism, step one is to cease no deal in its tracks.


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