After Brexit: Toward a Multipolar United Kingdom

This article was published in Nation.Cymru on 18 June 2017 as “We should aim for Home Rule, not independence.”

The Crisis is upon us

No one can argue in good faith that Brexit will be good for Wales.

The fact, moreover, that this historical catastrophe will be orchestrated by a deluded Tory-DUP regressive alliance only adds insult to injury. The breathing room won by Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales in the EU will be no more.

Indeed, Wales will be one of the biggest losers in the implementation of the “will of the people” – hundreds of millions in EU funding and a withdrawal from the single market which constitutes 67% of our exports.

wales freedom

 

Let me be clear: we are being locked in the cage of the British single market, one dominated by London, during a period moreover in which there will be disruption of international trade.  Over the next decade, over 750 trade agreements will have to be negotiated by the Westminster establishment through the World Trade Organisation (WTO).

In this extreme terrain, the Welsh economy is clearly under tangible threat.

Agriculture may undergo massive dislocation due to increased international competition and the removal of EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) subsidies. These pressures – in the absence of any UK commitment to support agriculture beyond 2020 – would lead to mass foreclosures of farming properties and disruption of local communities. Wales will become a vassal of the impersonal power of the WTO.

Indeed, the WTO frowns upon agricultural subsidies as undermining competition – and, like the failed TTIP treaty, will penalise and allow law suits by multi-national corporations against countries which violate competition rules. The EU CAP subsidies remain only due the fact that it is the world’s largest market and therefore has quite considerable clout in international trade negotiations. Without the protection of the EU, Wales truly faces an existential crisis.

What is to be done?

In that the crisis is upon us, we can ask, with Dr Huw Williams, “What is to be done?” (27 March 2017, Nation) Since the general election, many have offered their thoughts on the situation for Wales and what our response as a nation should be to the threat.  Williams, for his part, remarks on a recent poll which indicated a rise in support for independence among Welsh voters, his focus being upon Labour Party members.  Nevertheless, his real intention, while celebrating open debate in our nascent public sphere, is to position Labour at the “centre” of the debate on the future of Welsh democracy.  Williams defines the centre through his reference to FM Carwyn Jones’ alleged “radical vision for devolution.”

Iwan Morgan and Jason Morgan, on the contrary, are among those in recent Nation articles calling for an intensification of focus upon Welsh independence – and specifically by Plaid Cyrmu – the Party of Wales. While the former outlines the positive case for independence in regards to enhanced powers of self-government, the latter has called for Leanne Wood to resign for failing to achieve an electoral breakthrough and not adequately promoting the cause of independence.

I would like to argue that Williams and the two Morgan’s represent two sides of the same coin, neither willing to confront a simple fact: Welsh devolution is incomplete, it is a construction site in which we are building Welsh democracy. For his part, Williams is hardly forthright when he speaks of Carwyn Jones’ (or the Labour Party’s) commitment to a “radical vision of devolution” for Wales.  Indeed, Jones and his Westminster Welsh Labour MPs have utterly failed to enact a robust devolutionary settlement either by blocking Plaid Cymru initiatives or simply abstaining on key legislation which would have given additional powers to Wales. Indeed, it can be argued that every advance of Welsh democracy – including devolution itself – has been pushed primarily by Plaid Cymru. The One Wales coalition, for instance, gave us the 2011 referendum, and the competency to enact primary legislation. The first piece of legislation was the Welsh Language Act.

Neither have the advocates of instant independence confronted the fact that devolution is the process by which we are literally building the Welsh state. Iwan Morgan speaks of all the positive aspects of independence – but all the powers he mentions would already be possible through an expansion of powers and competencies of the National Assembly.  The idea of independence (one with which does not sit well with most Welsh people) is no substitute for the hard work of building Welsh democracy in the form of Home Rule.

In the wake of the recent election results, I would like to play the role of devil’s advocate.

First of all, no one was expecting a big surge for Plaid Cymru in the general election.  Most people were hoping for one or two seats. Indeed, Jason Morgan demanded in “The bottom line: Plaid Cymru must make gains” (1 June 2017, Nation) that one additional seat was necessary. It is strange therefore that he would call for Leanne Wood’s resignation when she fulfilled his basic requirement.  He also complains in “It is time for Leanne to go” (15 June 2017, Nation) about the progressive politics of Plaid Cymru, feminism and the lack of focus on independence.  He seems not to grasp where he is and who the voters are: Wales is a progressive country – otherwise Labour would not gain 75% of the parliamentary seats. Jeremy Corbyn, moreover, would not even have been possible without the anti-austerity alliance of Leanne Wood, Nicola Sturgeon and Caroline Lucas in the 2015 general election.

While it is interesting moreover that Labour would be ready (if necessary) to colonise the independence movement, it is clear that they will not go that route any time soon.  In this light, would a party which does emphasise independence do any better, as Iwan Morgan suggests in “It’s time for Plaid to make the case for independence?” (16 June 2017, Nation)  I would argue, against both Morgan’s, that independence clearly harms Plaid Cymru’s voting share at the polls. Indeed, while a solid case can be made for independence in abstracto, the pathway to independence is rarely discussed in detail.  That is because it relies upon the hard work of building Welsh democracy in the form of Home Rule.

Home rule has long been the goal of Plaid Cymru – although its precise meaning has not been clearly and consistently conveyed to the voters.  What is important here is that Home Rule or Devo-max seeks to build Welsh democracy initially within the context of the United Kingdom, our beloved “Family of Nations.” This has yet to be fully attempted. Moreover, building Home Rule creates the conditions of possibility for independence through a process of political, economic, social and cultural development.

My argument surrounding independence is based upon the simple principle:

If the constitutional design and political economy of the United Kingdom cannot accommodate our aspirations for a robust Welsh democracy, then the question of independence becomes inescapable.

At this point in a long history, there is much reason to doubt that the British state would ever allow Welsh democracy to come to fruition.  Yet, what is the British state – or better, who is the British state?  Much is possible in the context of Parliamentary sovereignty and Labour did in fact deliver devolution in 1999.  Yet, since this time, it has only been Plaid Cymru which has pushed the process further: and this has been Plaid Cymru’s longstanding policy.

The Tories and Labour have maintained Wales in a state of arrested development.  Only a Plaid Cymru government in the National Assembly can begin to liberate Welsh democracy.

After Brexit, in order to avoid the homogeneity of a London-dominated unipolar UK, it will be necessary to create a multipolar UK. Home rule in Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales will allow the emergence of countervailing poles to re-balance the UK political economy.  This is possible in the context of current devolutionary tendencies: much has been achieved by Scotland, for instance.  It is important to remember that devolution is a constitutional project to ameliorate democratic deficiencies with regards to minority nations.  The same project can be harnessed to transform the political economic structure of the UK after Brexit.

This is why, for the next elections to what will then be called the Welsh Parliament, Plaid Cymru must emphasise a renewed and consistent focus on building Home Rule. In this context, independence would be the stick to the carrot of authentic devolution. Plaid Cymru, over the next few years, must educate the Welsh populace on how devolution can allow us to “take back control.”  Indeed, home rule is a much more tangible offering for a population where the vast majority are still wary of the spectre of independence.

I feel that proponents of independence, in their enthusiasm, often forget that we still need to build the Welsh state – and that much of this work can be done prior to independence.  This work is done by building home rule and the establishment of a true Welsh social democracy.  Home rule is something people can grasp and understand, and thankfully, it is 90% of the way to independence (if that is the path Welsh citizens decide to travel.)

 

After Brexit: The Corporate Countryside

It is emblematic that on the day after the EU referendum, Donald Trump (perhaps the next president of the United States) was in Scotland, inaugurating his controversial new golf resort.  Oblivious to the country around him which had just voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, Trump congratulated his audience on their new independence.

britain-trump_horo-635x357

Yet, he was not speaking to the common people of Britain (much less to Scotland, trapped, along with Wales, in the Brexit scenario), but those in his audience, the new placeholders of aristocracy – wealthy investors, media moguls, business leaders and others set free from EU barriers to land ownership, property development, tourism and speculation.

The EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) has been the greatest barrier to a collapse in the UK property market.  The CAP is concerned with market stability, tariff-free trade in the EU and farmer livelihoods.  It consists primarily in a subsidisation of farmer incomes through direct payments.  It is well-known that most farmers make a loss on their operations and would not otherwise be able to continue without the subsidy.  As the tendency toward losses is primarily due to the downward pressure on prices from supermarket competition and its monopoly on distribution, the farmer’s subsidy is in many ways a backdoor subsidy for the retail and food processing industries.

With the elimination of the CAP, these subsidies will disappear and it is possible that they will either not be replaced or will be phased out in the near term.  The CAP has tended to maintain the status quo, not only protecting member states within the single market and in international trade deals, but also preserving the operations of loss-making farms.  The IMF, which Angela Merkel brought in to manage the Eurozone, has been pushing its 188 international members to quickly reduce or eliminate farming subsidies, a policy shift at odds with the pace of EU policy. The UK could decide to weather the storm of a radical re-adjustment in the structure of land ownership, especially in agriculture where it would become a corporate affair.

To read the rest of the essay, please visit The Corporate Countryside.

Divided We Fall – Plaid Cymru and the Green Agenda

Divided We Fall

Plaid Cymru and the Green Agenda

Why Greens should Vote for Plaid Cymru in the General Elections of 2015

Green Dragon - Plaid Cymru

Divided We Fall – Plaid Cymru and the Green Agenda

From ‘Agoriad’ (‘Opening’)

Mewn glesni, tesni’n lasgu,
cwmysg â’r glas sy’n llathru,
Croeso rhwng dwy ynys- hen gynghanedd
ger y moroedd garw- llaw tangnefedd.

In the blue calm, sunburst of radiance
– the green light that shines with charity
the welcome of two isles – old harmony
by the rough seas – a hand of tranquility.

Menna Elfyn – Professor of Poetry, UWTSD

Opening

There is a considerable array of serious decisions that will have to be made by the people in the upcoming UK General Elections of 2015.

By people, I mean the vast multitude of individual working citizens for whose interests and representation the Parliament in Westminster was originally established.

By decision, I do not mean some arbitrary choice, or some choosing of a product in a shop, but one that involves thought and deliberation – and only then a choice.

In the context of decision-making, it is never sufficient to simply remain within a boxed mentality or echo chamber, captivated by the habit of custom which merely accepts the status quo and its erratic, though familiar, surface narrative.

One must look beyond the surface of the headlines and investigate the root causes and truths which stand behind the powers that be. It is toward the facilitation of such an investigation that the following essay is written.

To read the rest of the essay, please visit Divided We Fall – Plaid Cymru and the Green Agenda

Discovering Plaid Cymru, the Party of Wales

Plaid Cymru, the Party of Wales

Plaid Cymru, the Party of Wales

The following essay, the fourth in a series of pieces engaged in Welsh and British politics, takes the position that the manifold deficits upon the Welsh political and economic landscape cannot be resolved by the current constitutional arrangement of the United Kingdom.  Moreover, against the background of the obsolescence of the constitutional order, Plaid Cymru, the Party of Wales will be introduced as an experienced and progressive voice in the Welsh experience, and as an option for an increasingly broad array of citizens in the General Elections of 2015.  Despite the fact that it has been around since 1925, still  too few in Wales itself know about a political party which is New Left, Green, Socially Liberal, Internationalist and Pro-Europe.  What makes Plaid Cymru different from the Westminster parties, including the Greens, is that the Party of Wales no longer believes that Westminster will or can fulfill the aspirations of the people of Wales for a better life.   Wales, in this light, needs a voice and direction of its own.

To read the essay, please visit Discovering Plaid Cymru, the Party of Wales

The British Wasteland: A History of the Present

Chapter 1: The British Wasteland: The Toxic Coalition and the Vultures of the Right

Cameron

Prime Minister David Cameron

 

On the Toxicity of the Coalition Government and the Cynicism of UKIP and the Tory Right

 

The British Wasteland: The Meaning of Cameron

As we can barely remember the debates between Nigel Farage and Nick Clegg, it appears that the odd man out has now obtained legitimacy, stature, plausibility. With our senses still awash with the anti-climactic failure of the Scots to take a bloodless independence that was so nicely gift-wrapped for them, all we can now remember is that Nick Clegg was dreadful and failed to convey the very absurdity of UKIP policy on obvious grounds. The very fact that Nick Clegg stood on the same stage as Nigel Farage was a mistake and revealed his lack of political judgment.  Why were not the other two parties represented, as an all UK debate?  Or, was it, perhaps, merely a job interview for the junior partner of the next Coalition?

Clegg’s follow up criticism of Farage over Ukraine was a pathetic sideshow to the illegal Western involvement in a coup d’etat, in which fascists have now formally entered into the cabinet of a soon-to-be European government for the first time since WWII.  But, we all pretend that that did not happen and condemn Russia instead.  Farage was ironically correct on this issue that the Coalition government has ‘blood on its hands’ over Ukraine, and UKIP has never been as strong as it is today. It is now conceivable to imagine a Coalition Government in which they would be a part, such as a Conservative-UKIP alliance.

 

To read the rest of the article, please visit The British Wasteland

 

Fish in Shanghai

Fish in Garden Unit, Shanghai

Dylan Thomas in Exile

dylanthomasDylan,

the second wave

The wave floods

The flood recedes

The tide returns

seethe in anger
darkest season
the poet is silenced

they will run him from his home

they will silence his intimate words,
his earthly voice & breath

they will no longer hear
his ‘foreign’ words

the others will press to listen

To read the rest of the poem, please visit Dylan Thomas in Exile