WHAT NEXT FOR THE UK IN EUROPE?
Unusually for NewNations, two of our three reports in this issue relate to ‘old’ nations, but both the UK and France figure large in contemporary geopolitics. Libya’s under-reported situation deserves wider understanding.
The unexpected decision to ‘Leave’ the EU (Brexit) in the recent referendum, ranks high in the current geopolitical profile of the UK and of Europe. Two of the four regions within the UK are at varying stages of weighing the option of leaving the UK itself. Prime Minister May has made it a priority, clearly seeking to hold the UK together, to visit these two particular regional leaders in Edinburgh and Belfast. She also went to Cardiff (all three of these have devolved government, as well as sharing in UK government via the Westminster Parliament). Both Scotland and Northern Ireland had substantial majorities to ‘Remain’ in the EU and now are considering their options for the future; whilst Wales perhaps surprisingly, since it has been a major EU-funding beneficiary, had referendum results similar to those in England with a tiny majority for Brexit.
Meanwhile, amongst many of “the 48%”or “48-ers,” as some ‘Remainers’ now describe themselves, the reaction to what they consider as a disastrous decision in the referendum, is to find what legal and political options might exist, to force reconsideration and prevent UK withdrawal from the EU. Peter Crisell’s contribution: “The UK & the EU: What Now and What Next?” updates all the known possibilities reacting to the concept of the UK leaving the EU. The Liberal Democrat party, always communitaire, has planted the European flag firmly at the head of its agenda and invited all Brits of goodwill and like mind, to join with them. They have attracted many thousands of new members. The trauma of the Labour Party where the head-on collision of the old socialists with the modernist social democrats, has after some seventy years of co-existence “boiled over,” as it last did 30 +years ago with the SDP – remarkably for much the same reasons.
“France Under Attack”: the current terrorist activities on French soil, and their effect on the nation’s politics in an electorally critical year, are described here by Sara Bielecki. Again, with the natural individual fear at these brutal random attacks and also the concern provoked by nationalist reactions, the characteristic serenity of the French way of life is now under threat. The so-called terror franchise of hard-line Islamic militant organisations, like Al Qaeda and ISIS appealing to distant loners, typically ‘drop-out’ sons of moslem families, that came to the west ( often ironically to escape extremists in their native countries), have proved to be hard to integrate, in terms of community crime prevention. Western societies have never before been subject to such a sustained and irrational assault from a religious minority, apparently convinced of divine approval but also by their personal empowerment against random newsworthy targets, through possession of lethal weapons and explosives.
‘The State of Libya’ takes a careful look at the current situation in that divided nation, strategically close to European interests, that has provoked intervention again, not least because of the raging war between ISIS and various adversaries including an array of western Special Forces, but also the rivalry of different elements of potential stability. There are de facto, two rival governments at opposite ends of this large country that to us suggests a federal solution, plus innumerable armed tribal elements pursuing their own interests, as well as powerful criminal gangs running Africa’s largest frontier-busting refugee rackets, drawing their Europe-bound paying customers from apparently every middle eastern nation and those deep into Africa. Our contributor, a seasoned regional observer, necessarily un-named, describes the state of play across the nation as a whole.
Clive Lindley – Publisher/Editor
The referendum result and its immediate aftermath
On the 23rd June, Britain voted in a referendum to leave the European Union (EU). The Leave (or Brexit) vote was 51.9% and the Remain vote was 48.1%. More than 30 million voted 71.8% of those eligible to vote, the highest turnout in a UK-wide vote since the 1992 general election. The European Union Referendum Act 2015 does not require that the UK government implement its results. It was a pre-legislative, advisory referendum that allowed the electorate to express its opinion before any legislation is introduced.
On the 24th June, Fintan O’Toole of the Irish Times wrote: “Did you ever see a slightly drunk man trying that trick with the tablecloth? He thinks he can whip the cloth off the table with a fast, clean snap, but leave all the crockery perfectly intact. He gives a sharp tug and stands back with a triumphant flourish as the plates and glasses come flying to the ground and shatter all around him. That’s what Brexit is like. Those who have driven it have successfully pulled the cloth off the table – the underlying fabric of modern Britain has been whipped away with a shocking suddenness. They stand in triumph, sure that they have pulled off the trick of removing a whole layer of political reality without disturbing all the family tableware. They have yet to notice that so much that was on the table is now at their feet, broken, perhaps irreparably. [continues...]
In the past year France has experienced violence on its territory on a scale unprecedented since the Second World War. Since the terrorist attacks in Paris of November 13 2015, which claimed the lives of 130 people, the country has been in an official state of emergency, and, in the words of President François Hollande, “a state of war against Daesh”, (IS) the terrorist organisation which perpetrated the attacks, along with that against the editorial team of Charlie Hebdo in January of the same year. The terror attack in Nice on July 14 of this year saw the state of emergency extended for another six months. Tensions in social, political and security terms are running high and are all feeding into the campaigns for the presidential elections to take place next year.
Among the candidates are likely to be, from the Socialist Party, incumbent President Hollande (though he has not stated yet whether he will run or not); former PM and centrist figure Alain Juppé; controversial former President Nicolas Sarkozy and most redoubtably, the leader of the extreme right wing party Le Front National, Marine Le Pen. The latter has capitalised on terrorist atrocities to stoke fears about immigration among discontented, underprivileged French voters. Britain’s decision to leave the EU has given her even more ammunition. Shaking the European project to its core, the Brexit has allowed her to delight in a validation of the idea that the electorate, in no matter which country, prefer sovereignty and the security of their own borders to a supranational, largely left wing structure. [continues...]
Duplicitous European policy facilitates oil production but enhances political divisions
The Libyan State oil company, ‘Libyan National Oil Corporation (NOC) has agreed to merging with its section in rival Cyrenaica, which has its base in Benghazi, managed by the very same Libyan ‘government’ which the international community has not formally recognized. NOC said that the current president of the company Mustafa Sanallah will stay in Tripoli, while the Benghazi counterpart Naji al-Maghrebi will join the Board of Directors. So, just like ‘the good old days’ of the Qadhafi era, there is only one NOC, which remains at the service of all Libyans. Indeed, it was the one institution that always worked properly in Libya, regardless of who was in charge politically. The NOC, it seems, has also proven an ability to withstand anarchy, because while oil production appears to have found a reason to unite Cyrenaica and Tripolitania (Eastern and Western Libya), politics has not.
Will NOC’s re-established unification manage to speed up a political reconciliation, setting the stage for stability? [continues...]