Fighting the Anglo-British nationalism behind Brexit is not ‘yesterday’s battle’
Huw Prys Jones
There is “little point in fighting yesterday’s battles” according to Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price in his keynote speech this week.
Taken on face value, such a statement is perfectly logical. It is plainly obvious that there is nothing that Plaid or anyone else can do to stop Brexit at this stage.
However, it must come with the caveat that standing up to the kind of Anglo-British nationalism on which Brexit is based can never be dismissed as “fighting yesterday’s battle”. Neither is holding the establishment to account for the lies and deceit that were at the heart of the Leave campaign in the discredited 2016 referendum. It is a matter of fundamental natural justice that the truth must continue to be told against the barrage of fake news thrown at us daily.
Let us be in no doubt that the rabid union-jack waving this weekend will be an ominous sign of much more to come. Resisting this unionist English nationalism must be seen as a key battle for our identity and culture, and as a core objective for the national movement in Wales.
Having based so much of their appeal on English/British ‘patriotism’, the whole credibility of the Brexiteers’ project will depend on the continuation of such sentiments among the general public.
This ‘patriotism’ – which in essence means pride and loyalty towards the state and the establishment – is a direct threat to any furthering of Welsh identity in Wales. There will be little chance of success for the national movement in Wales until and unless a far greater number of Welsh people will feel resentment towards the Anglo-British establishment. And realise that the whole edifice of Brexit Britain will have been built on a pack of lies.
Those of us who believe in greater powers for Wales will need to view with suspicion anything that seems like an attempt to place a positive spin on Brexit.
In fact, the implications of Brexit for the aspirations of the national movement are much greater than what many political leaders are probably willing to admit.
Plaid’s stated aim of independence in the European Union, for example, will be particularly hard hit.
Whilst such an aim would always have been ambitious, with huge obstacles in its way, it could nevertheless be envisaged as a credible prospect within the context of all countries of Britain as member states.
With an English government on course for the hardest of Brexit, an independent Wales as a member of the European Union could well mean a hard border along Offa’s Dyke. Such an objective would be inevitably portrayed as an attempt to sever ties with England in order to join a political union with France and Germany. With Wales being so Anglicised in culture as well as in language, such a prospect would now seem to be in the realms of political fantasy.
Without a pan-European context for an independent Wales, some kind of indy-lite or devo-max would be the maximum that can be achieved. An independent in-name-only Wales in full customs union and sharing a single market with England would not be entirely impossible. It would, however, be under the shadow and domination of an England nearly 20 times its population and wealth.
No time for despondency
The outlook for Wales in a post-Brexit Britain may well look bleak. Now is not the time however for despondency. Nor to hint at any sign of capitulation to the horde of alt-right swine that are responsible for the mess we are in.
The only response can be defiance and determination to build resistance to this English nationalist triumphalism. There is a great deal of mischief that can be done to deflate morale and to denigrate the values of the Brexit establishment.
It was wonderful and inspiring to hear Irish Taoiseach Leo Varadkar this week mocking the fact that the UK is now merely a small country. This is the kind of message that we should be repeating whenever there is an opportunity to stress Britain’s insignificance in the wider world. And to openly gloat whenever we see Boris Johnson humiliated by other European leaders.
Let us demolish the Brexiteers’ outdated and extreme interpretation of ‘independence’ and their bizarre obsession with sovereignty. Their belief in the absolute power of the nation-state must be exposed as an alien concept that is totally detrimental to the needs of the increasingly inter-dependent world of the 21st century. And let loyalty to the Anglo-British establishment be seen as an object of derision, and a lack of understanding of the complex nature of today’s world.
Whether we are inside or outside the European Union, Brexit will continue to represent a much wider cultural divide. We cannot wish it away with some superficial political spin. Yes, of course, we recognise the constitutional reality of leaving the EU. But that does not mean any obligation to compromise on our identity or values in any way.
It is clear that Boris Johnson and the Brexit establishment will use ‘patriotism’ – as always the last refuge of scoundrels – to maximum effect over the coming months. There will also be calls for ‘healing the divide’ – which really means loyalty and unity towards the state and complete capitulation to the Brexit cause.
Let us relish any opportunity we may have to deny them their hopes, wishes and aspirations.