UK -Europe
2018-01-06 / By Dr Cyriac Maprayil

The Agony of Brexit – Relevance of the Labour Party

Imperial Britain had colonies to plunder. When colonies evolved into Sovereign Republics, the 'collar of Commonwealth' helped to safeguard Britain's economic interests.

When the nations of the Commonwealth diversified their trade relations, Britain half-heartedly turned towards the Common Market, although its key members did not think that Britain - with one foot in the US and another in the Commonwealth - had the right mind-set to join a Europe-based economic union.

Since Germany felt inhibited from speaking its mind on the issue, France's De Gaulle voiced common concerns that Britain was not yet ready to be part of an economic union based exclusively in Europe and vetoed British membership.

At that time the founding members like France, Germany, Italy etc expected the association which was still at its early stages to develop into a political union – but only within the geographic confines of Western Europe.

After repeated attempts by Britain to become a member of the common market it eventually succeeded in 1973 after three applications. But before long, Britain started supporting the core members to expand membership to include other nations of Eastern Europe. It was widely speculated that this was partly to undermine Moscow's continued influence over the countries which once made up the Warsaw Pact group. It is worth recalling that untill recently Britain took a special interest in taking in even Turkey as a member of the European Union, perhaps without full consideration of the wishes of other key members, especially Germany, who wanted to keep it as a union of nations covering those countries which make up, so to say, the cradle of European civilisation'.

In other words, from the very beginning of Britain joining the European Common Market it appeared to take it for granted that the rules of the common market could be modified and that Europe could be persuaded to play a bigger military role within the NATO with Britain playing the role of middle-man between the US and Europe.

It did not take long for Britain, especially under the Conservative leaders such as Mrs Thatcher, to realise that Europe was far from being like a collection of newly-independent third-world countries and that it was not waiting to be advised or led by Britain on foreign and defence matters .

Although Britain stood for Eastern Europe's membership when the newly joined East Europeans started arriving, and the local authorities struggled to cope with new arrivals, disenchantment with Europe as a whole started to gather momentum.

When refugees started to flow into Britain as a result of West's bombing of Iraq, Libya and Syria, Britain was reluctant to show adequate understanding and refused to be part of a united stand on the matter.

David Cameron introduced a referendum to ascertain the opinion of the British public on the refugee and the migration issue. The public was unaware that the referendum was in fact an ill thought-out PR exercise vis-à-vis the European Union for negotiating purposes. David Cameron resigned from his premiership and washed his hands off handling the result of the referendum. Theresa May assumed the mantle but appears ill-equipped to deal with Brexit. Leading members of the Conservative party at some point appeared to be of the opinion that the hard-working Chinese will be able to save our country if they move in with their investment. There are others who think that revitalising the Common Wealth connections and trade links could partly offset the impact of Brexit on our economy. Besides, there is a general perception that Uncle Sam across the Atlantic can be approached in times of adversity.

The British public has been and still is being badly traumatised by the Brexit negotiations and all the negative publicity associated with it including the ill thought-out challenging statements from our side and often equally unrefined counter statements thrown back at us from the rest of Europe by their spokespersons. Some of our Ministers look as if they have run out of ideas and posturing options vis-à-vis the rest of Europe. The fact of the matter is that our government, however well-meaning, is being perceived abroad as desperate and increasingly unreliable.

Once the key stages of Brexit negotiations are over, Britain will definitely benefit if we have a government that is in a position to warmly engage with the rest of Europe, its leaders and its people.

Labour Party should fit very well into that scheme of things since, not being in power. It naturally has been kept out of the slanging match that has been going on for the last 12 months or more. In or out of the European Union, Britain is in Europe and we will have to work with the nations of Europe . Regardless of our perception of how future economic and trade relations should evolve, the people to people approach will eventually define our future relations with other nations especially our European neighbours.

Trump's America or mainland China, or the Commonwealth connections will not be a solution and the future generations will not take much notice of what has transpired between Juncker and May or UKIP and Trump.

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