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European Union’s Imperial Overreach

By Jonathan Marshall | Consortium News | June 25, 2016

While few analysts are putting it this way, the European Union suffers from a self-inflicted crisis of overexpansion — a form of “imperial overstretch,” if you will. The Brexit vote was just the latest symptom of this policy disaster, which also includes escalating confrontations with Russia and the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

Public opinion polls in the United Kingdom established that widespread concern over immigration was the single most important factor driving voters to support an E.U. exit. Pro-Brexit campaigners made much of the statistics released just last month that net annual migration into the U.K. reached a third of a million people in 2015, double the rate just three years earlier.

Such numbers fed public concerns over the impact of immigrants on the country’s National Health System and other social services, as well as jobs. They also fed deep suspicions about government credibility.

As the Guardian reported after the stunning election victory for the Brexit camp, “David Cameron’s failure to give a convincing response to the publication of near-record net migration figures in the first week of the EU referendum campaign has proved to be its decisive moment.

“The figure of 333,000 not only underlined beyond any doubt that Britain had become a country of mass migration but also meant politicians who claimed they could make deep cuts in the numbers while Britain remained in the European Union were simply not believed.”

The influx of these newcomers had a deeper psychological effect on the public. “The British government’s inability to control (intra-European) migration is seen as emblematic of a wider loss of control,” wrote Oxford political theorist David Miller just before the election. “Many Britons feel that they are no longer in charge of their own destiny: ‘Take back our country’ is a slogan that resonates along the campaign trail.”

E.U. Expansion and Immigration

Roughly half of immigrants to the U.K. in recent years have come from other E.U. countries, taking advantage of the association’s fundamental commitment to the free movement of people. Their large numbers reflected the enormous expansion of the E.U. since 2004 — and the lure of Britain’s relatively affluent economy to poor workers from newer members like Poland and Romania.

The E.U. — which actually has a commissioner for “enlargement” — has expanded relentlessly without heeding concerns from grassroots constituents of its traditional core members. In 2004, the E.U. absorbed Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia — all low-wage countries with much lower standards of living than the likes of Germany, France or the U.K. In 2007, it also took in Romania and Bulgaria.

Official statistics show that citizens of these newer and poorer E.U. members account for nearly a third of net migration into the U.K. in recent years.

Although many economists defend free labor movement as good for the economy overall, the result — like that of free trade with low-wage countries — can harm less-skilled workers.

In 2011, two unpublished reports commissioned by the Department of Communities and Local Government made that point.

One warned senior government officials that sharply rising immigration could “increase tensions between migrant workers and other sections of the community” during the country’s recession. Another noted a huge rise in immigrants settling unexpectedly in rural areas, and concluded they were having “a negative impact on the wages of UK workers at the bottom of the occupational distribution.”

“We under-estimated significantly the number of people who were going to come in from Eastern Europe,” conceded Ed Milliband, leader of the Labour Party. “Economic migration and greater labour market flexibility have increased the pressure faced by those in lower skilled work.”

Ironically, many of the localities that voted most decisively for Brexit had relatively low migrant populations. But many of them are still suffering from economic austerity and sharp reductions in the social safety net imposed by the Conservative government since 2010.

“Switching the scapegoat from the government to the faceless migrant . . . is easier when people are scared for their livelihood, and more convenient for the politicians campaigning on both sides,” remarked the London-based writer Dawn Foster.

Voters were easily persuaded that “distant” and “faceless” E.U. bureaucrats just didn’t grasp their concerns. Indeed, the E.U. remains bent on continued expansion. It is currently in membership discussions with Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Turkey, and recognizes Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo as potential members.

Russia and Ukraine

The E.U.’s expansionist drive has had other costly repercussions for Britain and the rest of Europe. One notable disaster was its drive for an “association agreement” with Ukraine, a wide-ranging treaty that included not only provisions for tight economic integration, but also a commitment over time to abide by the E.U.’s Common Security and Defense Policy and European Defense Agency policies. On both fronts, the agreement was designed to pull Ukraine out of its traditional Russian orbit.

The E.U.’s expansion into Ukraine, like its expansion into the rest of Eastern Europe, was paralleled by the expansion of the NATO military alliance into the same countries, contrary to promises by Western leaders to their Russian counterparts in 1990. In 2008, NATO’s secretary general — backed by President George W. Bush and presidential candidate Barack Obama — pledged that Ukraine would be granted NATO membership.

Needless to say, Russia reacted badly, as it did to the E.U.’s later power play. It pressured the government of President Viktor Yanukovych to resist entreaties by NATO and the E.U. His refusal to break with Russia in turn triggered the so-called “Euromaidan” protests and the Western-backed putsch that ousted his government in February 2014.

Within a month, the new pro-European and pro-U.S. prime minister, Arseniy Yatseniuk, had signed the political provisions of the E.U. agreement. Just months later, he declared that he would seek NATO membership as well.

The result has been a bloody civil war in Eastern Ukraine; dangerous and costly military confrontations between Russia and NATO; and mutual economic sanctions that impoverish both Russia and the E.U.

Future historians will help us understand the underlying sources of the E.U.’s self-destructive expansion. No doubt they include some combination of ideological faith in the universality of European values, bureaucratic aggrandizement, and pandering to neo-liberal elites. Whatever the causes, the results now threaten the entire European project.

The E.U.’s future will require serious self-examination on many fronts, but especially about its grandiose ambitions for expansion.


Jonathan Marshall is author or co-author of five books on international affairs, including The Lebanese Connection: Corruption, Civil War and the International Drug Traffic (Stanford University Press, 2012).

June 25, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics, Ethnic Cleansing | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Podemos Threatens Spain’s Unity By Backing Catalan Independence Referendum

Sputnik — 25.06.2016

MADRID — Spain’s left-wing Podemos party threatens the country’s unity by supporting an independence referendum to be held in the Spanish autonomous region of Catalonia, Jose Ramon Garcia-Hernandez, the head of international relations of Spain’s ruling People’s Party (PP), told Sputnik on Saturday.

Unidos Podemos, an electoral alliance between Podemos and several other left-wing parties, has backed allowing Catalonia to hold a binding independence referendum, a move which has garnered significant support for the party in the region.

“The main opponent in these elections [Podemos] puts at risk the unity of Spain… Those who want to separate Catalonia from Spain should know that they are not going to achieve this because they are going against the majority of the Catalans and the Spanish,” Garcia-Hernandez said.

All public authorities, especially the government, have a duty to protect national unity, he added, stressing that the PP will uphold Spain’s laws and prevent secession.

Spain is due to hold a snap general election on Sunday, with the PP and Podemos running alongside the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party (PSOE) after failing to form a coalition government. In last year’s election, the PP won 123 seats in the lower house of parliament, 64 less than in the previous election. The PSOE won 90, and Podemos came third, securing 69 seats. At least 176 seats are required for a parliamentary majority, necessary to form a government.

Catalonia held a non-binding referendum on independence from Spain in 2014. Over 80 percent voted in favor of the autonomous community becoming an independent state.

June 25, 2016 Posted by | Aletho News | , | Leave a comment

The Heirs of Meyer Lansky Want Compensation from Cuba. They Shouldn’t Get a Dime.

By Jack Colhoun | History News Network | June 19, 2016

Meyer Lansky

The heirs of Meyer Lansky, the impresario of the North American Mafia gambling colony in Cuba (1933-1958) are betting on a big payback from the negotiations between the United States and Cuba to normalize relations between the two countries. Compensation claims by U.S. citizens or businesses for properties nationalized by the Cuban revolution are among the issues under discussion.

Lansky’s daughter Sandi, her son Gary Rapoport, and her brother Paul have filed a compensation claim against Cuba for the Riviera Hotel and Casino with the U.S. Foreign Claims Settlement Commission. The Cuban revolution confiscated the Riviera and other Mafia-owned properties after it toppled the gangster-linked regime of General Fulgencio Batista in 1959.

“It was through my grandfather’s hard work that the hotel was built,” Rapoport told the U. K. Daily Mail Online on December 23, 2015. “We are his natural relations . . . . By right, it should be our property.” He says the Riviera is valued at $70 million. The Tampa Bay Tribune, Reuters, and Haaretz have also covered the story.

The Riviera, which overlooks the Straits of Florida, was the crown jewel of Lansky’s casinos, hotels, and nightclubs in Havana. When the Riviera opened in December 1957, it was the largest Mafia-owned hotel-casino outside Las Vegas. The hotel’s 440 double rooms were booked solid for the winter season of 1957-1958.

However, the narrative that the success of the Riviera was the product of Meyer Lansky’s “hard work” is undercut by Lansky’s own assessment of his arrangement with Batista. Lansky talked candidly about his years in Cuba with Israeli national security writers Dennis Eisenberg, Uri Dan, and Eli Landau for their admiring biography Meyer Lansky: Mogul of the Mob (Paddington Press, 1979). (Lansky lived in Israel in 1970-1971 to avoid tax evasion charges in the United States.)

Lansky pitched his plan to Batista to open Mafia owned casinos and nightclubs in Cuba in 1933. Lansky promised to make Batista, who had just come to power in a coup d’etat, a partner. Batista and his inner circle would get regular payments from the Mafia gamblers. In return, the gangsters would be allowed to operate without interference from Cuban authorities. With a handshake and an abrazo, Lansky and Batista laid the foundations of the Cuban gangster state.

“Working on the well-known principle that it’s better to use other people’s money than your own, Lansky persuaded Batista to have the Cuban government help finance the venture,” Eisenberg, Dan, and Landau wrote. “The [Cuban] government agreed to back every dollar invested on the island by foreigners with a dollar of its own and to give every hotel that cost more than one million dollars the precious prize of a gambling license . . . and the casino hotels would not have to pay Cuban taxes.”

The Riviera was one of four new hotels with casinos, which opened in Havana between 1955 and 1958. Cuban development banks subsidized 50 percent of Lansky’s $14 million Riviera project; Lansky-linked investors provided the rest. Senator Eduardo Suarez Rivas, brother of Batista’s Minister of Labor Jose Suarez Rivas, was secretary of the Compania de Hotels La Riviera de Cuba, which operated the Riviera.

The Mafia gambling colony was the cornerstone of the Cuban gangster state. The gangsters’ graft bound Batista, his inner circle, senior security officers, and the Mafia together in the defense of one of the most repressive regimes in Latin America. As a CIA report put it, “In return for the loyalty they gave him, Batista always backed his security services. In times of crisis, he often suspended civil guarantees . . . and gave the services a free hand.”

The days of the North American gangsters in Cuba were numbered when Batista fled into exile on January 1, 1959. In 1958, Fidel Castro’s July 26th Movement had denounced the Mafia radio broadcasts from its guerrilla redoubt in the Sierra Maestra for turning Havana into a center of commercialized vice – gambling, prostitution, and drugs. When Castro arrived in Havana on January 8, he vowed to “clean out all the gamblers.” The Riviera and other gangster-owned properties were nationalized, and the Mafia gamblers returned to the United States.

To regain control of its casinos, hotels, and nightclubs in post-Castro Cuba, the Mafia waged a covert war on the Cuban revolution. The gangsters regrouped with their Cuban political allies, now in exile in the United States. The Mafia subsidized Cuban exile leaders and supplied arms to Cuban exile commando groups for attacks on Cuban targets from speedy boats and small aircraft. The gangsters also plotted with the CIA to assassinate Fidel Castro.

In 1959, Lansky volunteered to arrange the assassination of Castro in a meeting with the CIA, according to Doc Stacher, a life-long Lansky associate. “He [Lansky] indicated to the CIA that some of his people who were still on the island, or those who were just going back, might assassinate Castro,” Stacher told his Israeli biographers. “Meyer Lansky thought that if Castro would be eliminated there was a good chance for Batista to make a comeback . . . He told them [CIA officers] he was quite prepared to finance the operation himself.” From 1960 to 1963, the CIA and the Mafia plotted covertly to assassinate Castro.

To portray Lansky as an aggrieved victim of Cuba is to stand history on its head. There should be no compensation for the heirs of the former Mafia gamblers in Cuba.


Jack Colhoun is an historian of the Cold War (University of Wisconsin, Madison, BA, 1968; York University, Toronto, PhD, 1976), an investigative reporter, and professional archival researcher. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, Toronto Star, Salon, History News Network, The Nation, The Progressive, In These Times, the former (New York) Guardian newsweekly, and formerCovert Action Quarterly. He is the author of Gangsterismo: The United States, Cuba, and the Mafia, 1933-1966 (New York: OR Books, 2013).

June 25, 2016 Posted by | Book Review, Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , | 4 Comments

Israeli soldiers shot Palestinian boy ‘deliberately’, claims B’Tselem

MEMO | June 25, 2016

The Israeli human rights group B’Tselem has said that the shooting of a 15-year-old Palestinian boy on Tuesday night was “deliberate, entirely unjustified and a direct result of military policy.” The group’s report gave details of the incident during which Mahmoud Badran was shot and killed by Israeli soldiers. The boy from Beit Ur a-Tahta was with four of his friends at the time; they were wounded in the unprovoked attack.

“The shots were fired at a car with seven passengers inside, who were making their way back from a night out at a water park,” reported B’Tselem. “The military initially announced the soldiers had ‘targeted terrorists who were throwing stones and Molotov cocktails at Israeli cars on Road 443’, but later changed its version and stated the boy had been ‘mistakenly’ killed.” The organisation’s field-researcher indicated that “the soldiers used heavy fire against the moving car without any justification.”

According to B’Tselem, said: “At around 1:30am, seven residents… were making their way home after a night out at the Lin Land Waterpark in the village of Beit Sira. When the car approached a narrow underpass used by Palestinian vehicles to get across Road 443, [Israeli] soldiers standing on the road, on top of the underpass, opened massive fire at the car from a distance of 40 to 50 metres.”

Most of the passengers in the car were hit by the shots, including the driver, who lost control and crashed into a wall. “Five of the seven passengers were hit in the shooting: Mahmoud Badran was killed instantly, four passengers were injured.”

June 25, 2016 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Subjugation - Torture | , , , , | 3 Comments

Armenia is Swarmed by Western NGOs

By Vladimir Platov – New Eastern Outlook – 25.06.2016

The tactics of employing non-governmental organizations (NGOs) for the preparation of so-called “color revolutions” in North Africa, the Middle East and a number of former Soviet states has been the modus operandi of the US and its satellites, which have been thoroughly discussed in various NEO articles.

It’s curious that these NGOs who are heavily sponsored by Washington choose to act precisely in those moments when a specific state begins resisting pressure applied on it by the so-called Western World. This resistance often is manifested as a reluctance to support certain projects that were put forward by Washington.

If we are to talk about post-Soviet regions, all Western NGOs, and American ones in particular, have been particularly active in Central Asian and Caucasus states over recent years in a bid to launch “color revolutions” across the majority of them.

Western NGOs have been particularly active in Armenia recently, which remains Russia’s most faithful ally in the Caucasus region. In an effort to repeat a Ukrainian-style scenario in Armenia and to force this country away from Russia, these Western-backed organizations have been trying to use any minor concern among the civilian population to provoke demonstrations and unrest, taking advantage of the huge funds they have been receiving.

For example, over the past 5 years, a research center of the US-Armenian University has been carrying a wide variety of different programs. The absolute majority of its employees are foreigners (immigrants from the United States and Europe), or Armenian citizens who graduated from this very university or received part of their education in the United States. The better part of the above mentioned programs are aimed at reducing the usage of the Russian language in Armenia and the deconstruction of Soviet history and heritage. Washington is convinced that those measures that have already been tested in Ukraine could allow it to strike a note of discord between Russia and Armenia as well.

According to various reports, including a report prepared by the UN, the number of NGOs that are constantly operating in Armenia in such fields as “social equality,” “freedom of speech,” and “human rights protection” exceeds two hundred. At the same time, the US Embassy is actively supporting local media sources, including the well-known “Voice of Armenia.” It’s estimated that the US Embassy is providing financial support to over 60% of all media outlets in Armenia, in hopes that this would allow it to keep a firm grip on public perception within the country, and limiting Russia’s and Iran’s involvement in Transcaucasia.

But US think tanks seek to take all of this one step further by systematically undermining the traditional values of Armenians, such as morality and family traditions. This goal is being pursued through the creation of an unprecedented number of religious sects that are appearing in Armenia each week. For some “strange reason” the headquarters of those sects are always based in the United States, no matter whether the sect is following Baha’i, Hare Krishnas, Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Mormons, Scientologists, or other beliefs.

It’s curious that, conversely, in a truly democratic France, the Jehovah’s Witnesses sect is officially prohibited by law as a “cult.”

The Mormon sect which was the first to appear in Armenia in the early 90s was founded by the representatives of US secret services and military contractors. It’s hardly a secret that CIA creates such sects in states where the US is planning a coup d’etat to prepare a faithful proxy government beforehand.

The so-called “Church of Scientology” has also been pursuing similar goals, since it’s run by professional American agents. It is only logical that in most states the activities of Scientology sects are prohibited by law and regarded as a breach of national security. But in the US this sect enjoys complete freedom and even the tacit support of Washington. There’s a very good reason for this paradox, since back in 1959 the then CIA Director Allen Dulles struck a deal with the founder of the sect, Ron Hubbard, according to which the CIA would allow the “Church of Scientology” to operate freely in the US, it would get in return assistance in overseas operations and unconditional access to the the information this church accumulates in foreign states.

The above stated facts may explain why Armenia hosts one of the largest US embassies in the whole world, in spite of the fact that this country is relatively small in comparison to other nations. Nevertheless, the US still needs over five thousand NGOs under its control in Armenia, while spending up to 250 million dollars annually to keep them running.

June 25, 2016 Posted by | Deception | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Not the Chilcot Report

Review by Craig Murray | June 21, 2016

Peter Oborne is everything Chilcot will not be: concise, honed, forensic and devastatingly logical. Oborne’s Not the Chilcot Report is the most important book that will be published this year. I strongly urge you to read it. Anyone who doubts the continued relevance of what Tony Blair did then, to Britain today will be left in no doubt of the poison still pumping around not just the British political system but the entire Middle East.

Oborne’s book is a tremendous example of how much information can be made digestible in a short space by excellent writing. Oborne presents the clearest of accounts of the history of the Iraqi weapons programmes and the very clear knowledge that Britain and the international community had of them.

Where Oborne is at his best is skewering the guilty men by pinpointing the key lies and distortions. In so doing, he is able to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that the major figures acted dishonestly and with deliberation. Here for example is a phrase from a minute of 15 March 2002 by John Scarlett, then Head of the Joint Intelligence Committee and later Head of MI6, discussing what to release to the public:

“You will still wish to consider whether more impact could be achieved if the paper only covered Iraq. This would have the benefit of obscuring the fact that, in terms of WMD, Iraq is not exceptional.”

Oborne has seized on the phrase that proves that Scarlett was knowingly engaged in deliberately misleading the public, in order to promote an aggressive war. Do not expect anything so acute from Chilcot.

Oborne sets out the unanswerable case that UN Security Council Resolution 1441 could not “revive” the authorisation of military action against Iraq under UN Security Council Resolution 678, as it specifically stated that any further breach of Iraq’s disarmament obligations would “be reported to the Council for assessment”, not trigger military action. That assessment never happened. Oborne also points out the more overlooked argument that 678 itself only authorised military intervention for the purpose of securing Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait anyway, so it could not be “revived” unless Iraq again occupied Kuwait.

Oborne sets out in cogent and consecutive detail how Lord Goldsmith both held and set out this self evident fact, and that this was hidden from the Cabinet. Oborne highlights the evidence from Chilcot that every single one of the Foreign Office’s stellar department of Legal Advisers held this same view, that to invade Iraq would be illegal. And he skewers in every detail Goldsmith’s servile behaviour in flying to Washington to be given, and adopt, the Bush lawyers’ logically impossible position that it was open to any individual UN member to make the unilateral determination of whether Iraq was in material breach of the disarmament obligations.

Nothing here the cognoscenti did not know – but to read it set out so squarely still sends a chill down the spine.

Oborne is perhaps at his strongest on the disastrous consequences of the Iraq War. This is where neo-con revisionists in the mainstream media have worked hardest – the narrative window is that perhaps the war was based on an untruth, but the consequences were good.

Oborne shows that the security services predicted before the war that to invade Iraq would increase the terrorist threat in the UK. He shows conclusively from evidence to Chilcot including from former MI5 head Eliza Manningham Buller that the invasion of Iraq had indeed increased the terrorist threat to the UK and had directly caused the radicalisation of young British muslims with consequences including the 7/7 bombings.

Manningham Buller told Chilcot that it was beyond doubt, and measurable, that the Iraq invasion greatly increased the terrorist threat to the UK, and to counter the arguments of those who deny this – particularly Tony Blair – she pointed out that immediately following the invasion, Blair had agreed to an unprecedented doubling of the budget of MI5 – the domestic security agency.

The consequences of the invasion of Iraq in terms of Middle East instability and lives lost have been incalculable. In simple terms of deaths in Iraq alone, Oborne explains more clearly than I had ever seen that Iraq Body Count only includes fatalities confirmed in two separate English language sources, and therefore this is a major underestimate. 1 million dead is probably a more realistic estimate.

As battle rages around Fallujah for at least the fifth time since the invasion, as the population still starved of work, electricity, education, sanitation and health services rises up in Iraq and periodically attacks the luxury enclave of the Green zone, as the Daesh phenomenon looks to transmogrify into its latest manifestation, attempts to distance these consequences from Blair’s destruction of the Iraqi state are pathetic, yet widely disseminated in mainstream media. Oborne conclusively yet concisely explains why this propaganda is wrong.

The one area where I think he Oborne a little too kind is in his description of Chilcot and his team. Oborne rightly explains no great expectations of the Chilcot report should be held. He has told me privately that he expects that Chilcot will seek to “spread the blame widely and thinly”, rather than hone in on Blair and the really guilty parties. This is my information also; from the criticisms individuals have seen in the “Maxwellisation” process I learn a lot of the blame is to be shifted to the military.

But I don’t think Oborne really nails it on the extent to which Chilcot is a pre-arranged whitewash job. Chilcot was himself a member of the Butler Inquiry, an earlier whitewash covering much the same ground. Oborne points out the interesting fact that now Lord Butler is a free agent in the House of Lords, he has much more squarely accused Blair than anything he said in his report. But Oborne has only gently referred to the point that the Inquiry members were almost all very active cheerleaders for the Iraq War. Only one, Baroness Prashar, is arguably neutral. Not one of the numerous distinguished former Ambassadors, Generals or academics who opposed the war was selected.

The Chilcot Inquiry is a put-up whitewash with membership personally approved by Gordon Brown. It will not be worth reading. This short book by Oborne tells you everything you need to know. Read it instead.

Here is an excerpt from Oborne’s conclusion:

“In the decade after 9/11 the United States spent more than $3 trillion and squandered the lives of 7,000 American and allied soldiers. The consequence of these wars has been the destabilisation of Iraq, the emergence of Islamic States, and a failed state in Afghanistan. Meanwhile the reputation of America and its Western allies has been gravely damaged by the rendition, torture and detention without trial of terror suspects, and other cases of western brutality, such as Abu Ghraib.

…trust in the state was shattered by the Iraq War, and its gruesome aftermath. We have learnt that civil servants, spies, and politicians could not be trusted to act with integrity and decency and in the national interest. This discovery was shattering because it calls into question the moral basis on which Britain has been governed for the last hundred years or more.”

The truth is, these consequences were not unforeseeable. Indeed as Oborne notes on 14 February 2003 Dominique De Villepin, French Foreign Minister, had predicted to the Security Council exactly what the consequences would be:

“… the use of force is not justified at this time. There is an alternative to war; disarming Iraq through inspections.

Moreover, premature recourse to the military option would be fraught with risks… Such intervention could have incalculable consequences for a scarred and ravaged region. It would compound the sense of injustice, would aggravate tensions and would risk paving the way for other conflicts.”

It was an aggressive war on the basis of lies, for which people still die today, all over the world.

June 25, 2016 Posted by | Book Review, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | , | Leave a comment

Brexit could have destroyed UK…& it might be for the best

RT | June 24, 2016

It looks increasingly possible that Brexit will lead to the demise of the United Kingdom. That may be for the best, as it’s abundantly clear that the four members now have markedly different concerns.

Do you remember where you were on May 1, 2004? I do. I was in Dublin watching the Irish government – which held the rotating European Union presidency – welcome 10 new members to the bloc. It was the single biggest expansion, in terms of population, in the EU’s history. But tellingly, not in terms of wealth.

Make no mistake: that was also the day Britain’s membership of the EU became unsustainable. Because the main reason Brexit has been passed is English anger at the consequences of unfettered mass immigration. Despite a negative fertility rate (1.75 in 2004 vs. 2.41 in 1971), the population of the United Kingdom rose from 59.99 million in 2004 to 64.1 million in 2013. That surge of over 4 million in less than a decade is greater than the entire increase in the 33 years from 1971-2004.

Before the 2004 expansion, which admitted the likes of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and the Baltic States, internal EU migration was manageable. That was down to the fact that living standards weren’t vastly different across the union. For example, life in Portugal, the then-poorest member, wasn’t that much worse than in wealthier countries like Germany, France and Denmark. However, the gap between wages in Latvia, for instance, and London was astounding. Back in 2004, the average worker in Riga brought home €239 ($265) a month. That was less than 10 percent of London incomes which were £2,058 (around €2,900 at the time). Thus, it’s hard to blame east Europeans for seizing the opportunity to move west.

Ill fares the land

Britain’s post-war social democratic consensus has been under pressure since the Thatcher years, but EU expansion collapsed it. Rightly or wrongly, resentment has taken hold at the perception, fueled by the media, that foreigners are abusing the UK benefit’s system. Meanwhile, British workers have endured declines in real wages in the past decade. The reason is easy to understand. The wide availability of cheap labor, unrestricted by visa requirements, has enabled employers to conduct a race to the bottom, heightening inequality. And to make things worse, the population explosion has increased competition for housing, leading to enormous inflation in rent and property prices. Put simply, for common folk, life in England is getting worse.

I say England, rather than Britain, because this is all about England. Or more precisely, England and Wales, (except London of course, which is a different world entirely these days). Scotland and Northern Ireland have overwhelmingly voted to remain in the EU. Of course, for reasons of climate and economics, both are far less attractive to migrants than England or Wales and their status as net recipients from the UK budget means they have less at stake than other regions. Yet, things aren’t that simple.

Ulster says yes

Northern Ireland needs the EU because the peace settlement which ended its decades-long civil war, or ‘Troubles,’ was contingent on Dublin and London being legally joined via Brussels. Additionally, Ulster’s economy is heavily-dependent on trade with the vastly richer Irish state. In Scotland’s case, attitudes to ‘Britishness’ differ from those in England. In Scotland, to be British is to face inwards, but to be European is to face outwards. Down south, ‘Englishness’ and ‘Britishness’ are mostly synonymous.

Now, 62 percent of Scots have voted to remain in the EU, but because they are controlled by London, their democratic wishes matter not a jot. With that in mind, it’s hardly a surprise that Scottish Nationalists have already issued calls for a new referendum on independence.

One that even those who passionately supported the survival of the UK in 2014 might support.

In Northern Ireland things are less straightforward.

Pro-Irish republicans were far more likely to support the EU than pro-British loyalists, whose leaders campaigned for Brexit. The (historically mainly-Catholic) nationalists will now hope that moderate unionists (usually nominally-Protestant) can be persuaded to support a united Ireland, sacrificing ethnic tradition for economic reality. However, there is no guarantee that citizens of Ireland itself would agree to accept them at this time. The south has only just recovered from the greatest economic crisis in its history and may feel it cannot afford unity. Unless of course, Brussels is willing to underwrite the project. That is not as outlandish as it seems. Because Eurocrats are angry and may want to ‘punish’ England.

Eurocrat rage 

The European Parliament president, Germany’s Martin Schulz, announced Friday morning that there will be “consequences” for Britain so other EU countries are not “encouraged to follow that dangerous path.” Now Shulz’s comments might be mean and vindictive and show contempt for democracy, but they also reflect realpolitik in Brussels.

If the UK, or whatever is left of it, is successful outside the EU, it will be the biggest disaster imaginable for the EU establishment – an elite of unelected rootless cosmopolitans often contemptuous of public opinion. It will show that a brighter future is possible and expose ‘project fear’ as a load of baloney. Brussels has pushed a mantra for nearly 60 years now that European integration makes things better and that there is no alternative. If a country as important as England proves that theory wrong, all bets are off. Actually, maybe they already are.

Let’s be honest, nobody really expected this result. Even UKIP leader Nigel Farage practically conceded defeat for Brexit on Thursday night. When people realized, early Friday morning, that Leave was winning, it was as much of a shock as if England had beaten Germany in a penalty shoot-out. In ice hockey. Even Brexit’s best known exponent, Boris Johnson, looked stunned when he eventually emerged to face the cameras.

We are now in uncharted waters. A member state has decided to leave the EU. A major one at that. Furthermore, the vote has exposed deep divisions inside the UK itself. Discord perhaps profound enough to mean its demise. Nevertheless, in the long term, such an outcome may be better for all concerned.

June 25, 2016 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Economics | , , , | Leave a comment