Desperate Flag Waving is a sign of a Union in Crisis
MANY moons ago I was invited by the Westminster Foundation for Democracy (WFD) to visit the newly independent state of Montenegro to meet with the Socialist People’s Party of Montenegro (SNP) at the town of Budva on the beautiful Adriatic Coast, writes Jonathan Edwards MP.
My job was to run political training for the party.
They had gone from being the main opposition party in the country under the short-lived Serbia and Montenegro state, to being decimated in the first election following Serbian independence in 2006, with the coalition it led losing two-thirds of its members.
The reason for their downfall was that the SNP was a pro-unionist party that supported the maintenance of the Serbian Montenegro State.
After narrowly losing the referendum, they found themselves on the wrong side of history.
Leaving aside the irony of a nationalist like myself training a unionist party named the SNP (I don’t think the WFD got the memo or somebody had a strange sense of humour), the political history of Montenegro offers an insight into the potential pitfalls awaiting unionist parties in Wales, especially as it appears that the Tories and Labour are both implementing the same playbook.
The truth is that the Union is in a crisis.
The Brexit deal signed by the British Government fatally undermines the unionist position in Northern Ireland.
By leaving the Six Counties for all intent and purposes within the EU economic orbit, Belfast will increasingly look towards Dublin and Brussels. Ignore Boris Johnson’s bluff and bluster,
Scotland is on the verge of a second independence referendum and the Yes campaign is in a far stronger strategic position than in 2014.
In Wales, support for independence is growing rapidly. It’s an awakening even the most ardent of Yes Cymru supporters thought fanciful a few years ago.
When the First Minister warns his London bosses that Wales is sleepwalking to independence, he’s completely understating the reality that we are running towards our future, open-eyed and open-armed.
Perhaps equally as important, England is awakening.
The default position of all the unionist parties to these developments has been to aggressively promote Britishness as a form of supercharged Englishness.
Hence this week’s developments; dictating the use of the Union Jack on all government buildings within the State, the attacks on the State Broadcaster for not having enough Union Jacks in its content, and the State Broadcaster banning its most famous news broadcaster from showcasing the Welsh national flag.
If the best the unionists can come up with is flag-waving, then the union is truly dead.
In its desperation to prove the worth of the union, the British Government have taken direct control of all economic capital funds post Brexit – taking powers away from Wales and Scotland.
The Levelling Up Fund and the Community Renewal Fund will be administered from Westminster, meaning that any capital projects in Wales will be plastered with UK paraphernalia.
What the British Government won’t admit of course is that they are effectively recycling Welsh taxes.
The Prime Minister’s strategy is to assert Westminster primacy and so he has refused to create statutory intergovernmental structures for the four governments of the UK. In doing so, he has ruled out the possibility of creating a genuine partnership of equals, a mini EU for the UK as I have labelled it.
Thinking unionists would realise that this is the only way to save the British State.
The Prime Minister, however, is not a great thinker and the reality is that the psyche of the British establishment implodes at the thought of its Welsh, Scottish and Irish territories being treated on an equal basis.
Realising that it’s probably the endgame in Northern Ireland and Scotland, Westminster is increasingly talking about an England and Wales polity.
As I mentioned in a recent debate in the House of Commons, and as former First Minister Carwyn Jones has said, an England and Wales state will hold little appeal for most people in our country.
This brings me back to Serbia and Montenegro and the Socialist People’s Party of Montenegro.
If a similar offer is the best Westminster can give to Wales, I can safely say to my fellow citizens – I have experienced the future and the future is ours.
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