The Future of Belgium

End of Belgium should be a warning to Gordon At the end of some office crisis, the late, great Bill Deedes had a way of turning to you - if you were lucky enough to have been through the crisis with him - and saying, in his conspiratorial way: "Well, old cock, I think we got through that one all right." And that, I imagine, is the feeling in Downing Street today. The panic is over, apparently. The queues of frenzied depositors have died away. By the amazing expedient of nationalising Northern Wreck, and by offering unlimited sums of taxpayers' money to guarantee the liquidity of everyone else, Gordon Brown seems to have contained the damage caused by the first run on the banks since the collapse of Overend and Gurney in 1866. So, before the next building society goes belly up, and before Gordon uses yet more of our dosh to protect the financiers from the consequences of their reckless deals, let me warn the Prime Minister of another crisis on the horizon; a problem that is more pregnant with risk for this country than any collapse of the housing market. Once again the bad news comes from abroad, and no, I am not talking about American mortgages, or the terrifying prospect of a Bush-led bombing raid on Iran. It is a sign of this column's complete indifference to fashion that this week I take my text from Belgium. Yes, Belgium is the place that Gordon should be watching: because lovely, misty little Belgium, with its triste cobbled streets and Calpol-tasting beer, is now on the verge of a tragic disintegration. For 102 days, the country has been without a government. The Walloons can't abide the Flemings, and the Flemings want to maroon the Walloons, and there is now a real chance that they will call it quits. It is a superb and suggestive irony that the people of Europe are now being forced to accept a new constitutional document intended to unify 25 different polities, and yet the desire for national self-government is so strong that Belgium itself - the very country that plays host to the EU institutions - is in danger of breaking up. Belgium, that state de Gaulle claimed had been invented by the British to annoy the French, may be about to go the way of the Soviet Union, of Yugoslavia, and of Czechoslovakia; and if it does, my friends, I will be the first to mourn. Anyone who has spent any time in Belgium will know that the country has its genius, and that there is far more to it than the sum of Flanders, Wallonia and the Brussels region. There are those who say the Belgians have given the world nothing of cultural significance except chocolates, as though that were a trivial contribution. There are still those who resent the Belgian refusal to give - or even sell - the British Army weapons during the first Gulf war, though that is now surely a distant memory. There are those who say there are no famous Belgians except two fictional detectives, Tintin and Hercule Poirot, and one of those was invented by a British author - as though they had never heard of Magritte, or Simenon, or Brueghel, or Johnny Hallyday, the world's greatest Francophone rock star. To all those who say Belgium is a non-country with a non-culture, I say come with me to the Grand Place and after our menu gastronomique let us sit under the stars with our coffee - and our speculoos biscuit and Nutroma milk substitute - and let our eyes wander over the lacy intricacies of the medieval stonework. If you think that sounds a bit pricey, then we can just catch the ferry to Ostend and buy a hot waffle, and as we crunch away at this classic Belgian delicacy, we can study this peculiar port and reflect that, of all the resorts in the world, it was Ostend to which Marvin Gaye repaired for a period of recuperation and which inspired him to his greatest height of musical ecstasy, Sexual Healing. Belgium has a sophisticated identity, based on compromise and a fusion of cultures; not only the battleground of Europe, but the place where two great linguistic traditions are preserved side by side, where a road diversion is a wegomlegging as well as a deviation. Of course, there would be a sudden rush of energy in Flanders if the Flemings were detached from the Walloons, and perhaps the Walloons, like some chronically undervalued and put-upon spouse, might feel all liberated and renewed in the aftermath of the divorce, and perhaps the warring couple might find some way of sharing Brussels, the child of their union. But something would be lost. Belgium would be gone, the Belgium that produced Belgian hens and Belgian horses and that bourgeois Belgian finicketiness about how to make steak tartare or moules frites. Belgian-ness would be over, and the many who feel neither particularly Flemish nor Walloon would be deprived of their portmanteau identity, and that would be sad. If Belgium splits up, that fissure will not only make a mockery of Belgium's central role in the cause of European integration. It will be a huge boost to Europe's remaining separatist movements, the Basques, the Corsicans, the Welsh - and, above all, the Scots. If the Belgian creation of 1830 is capable of falling apart, why should we expect the union of 1707 to be imperishable? It is one of the wonders of the Brown "bounce" that no one any longer sees fit to point out the infamy of the West Lothian problem. We have a Scottish MP Prime Minister, promulgating measures on health and education and other matters that have no effect on his own constituents, and while Scottish MPs are able to vote on English schools and hospitals, English MPs have no corresponding say in Scotland. The English seem utterly passive in the face of this injustice; and in spite of this passivity - or perhaps partly because of it - the Scots advance ever further on the path towards independence. Alex Salmond now calls his executive a government, and Gordon can do nothing to correct him. Look at Belgium, Gordon, and tremble.

21 thoughts on “The Future of Belgium”

  1. You forgot Jean-Claude van Damme. People tend to only do that once.

    For example, I forgot him in 1992 and have been much happier since.

  2. I hope Belgium stick together because I want no encouragement for the Union to break up. It might put the Tories in in Westminster, but there would be no more Britain.

    It’s all bloody Blair’s fault. Bloody devolution. And we gave the man a standing ovation!

  3. And; apologies for the double post, but I meant to note that as explained in “Just Say No! 100 arguments against the euro”, by John Redwood, there has long been alliance between the eurofanatics and state separatists. Both want to undermine the powers of present central state governments. Once that object is achieved they will come into conflict, and the EU will win, but for now they are allies of convenience.

    Think how bloody pleased the French and Germans would be if Britain hacks itself into little pieces!

  4. Having driven through Belgium a number of times, stopping to buy petrol and cheap baccy, I have been wildly impressed by the linguistic skills of the staff at filling stations.

    Checkout girls in their teens and twenties flit from Dutch to French to English to German without so much as a pardonnez-moi. Compare with Tracey who can just about manage “can I pu va in a bag foryoo atorll”. (Yes, just half way please).

    How interesting that Belgium is ticking along with no government for 102 days. This system should be maintained indefinitely. All they need do is keep just enough people to ensure that essential services are in place – schools and hospitals remain open, law and order is kept, roads are mended, electricity and water supplies sustained – and let the Flems and Walloons organise their lives in a manner that suits them best (while, of course, giving two fingers to most EU diktats, as neighbouring countries do).

    Belgium, the Cinderella of nations, would then become the most desirable place in Europe.

  5. You forgot Jean-Claude van Damme – muscles from Brussels. People tend to only do that once.

    For example, I forgot him in 1992 and have been much happier since.

    How could anyone forget van Damme? His repetoire is easily a rival to that of Dolph Lundgren or Chuck Norris.

  6. You forgot Jean-Claude van Damme – muscles from Brussels. People tend to only do that once.
    For example, I forgot him in 1992 and have been much happier since.

    How could anyone forget van Damme (the “muscles from Brussels”? His repetoire is easily a rival to that of Dolph Lundgren or Chuck Norris.

  7. I’ll throw a personal comment in the thread for all you blind unionists to mull over.
    the sooner Scotland has the common sense to declare independence the better,go for it Alex, good luck to you and the Scottish people.
    I,as an Englishman,am fed up to the teeth with the unelected,no mandate Broon..and the Scottish Raj..running the country I love,and ramming Britain down my throat day after nauseating day.
    We are second class citizen’s in the land of our birth,and treated as such,but Boris I think the word “passive” should be “gutless”, please stand up and express your comments where it matters, in parliament.
    Independence for England,to hell with the non existent union.

  8. Sir; Comrade Broon may be bad and Scottish, but Wilson was bad and English. Scotland has no monopoly on dangerous leftists. Sir Malcolm Rifkind, Niall Ferguson, Lord Strathclyde, Liam Fox – all perfectly decent Tories who we would lose if the Union broke up. The south-east is full of Scots Tories who would not be best pleased with a Tory party that allied itself to Salmond.

    It would be immoral to hack of Scotland from the Union and desert loyal Scots; and it would weaken Britain politically, leaving us with a smaller army, less by way of natural resources, etc.

  9. “To all those who say Belgium is a non-country with a non-culture, I say come with me to the Grand Place and after our menu gastronomique let us sit under the stars with our coffee – and our speculoos biscuit and Nutroma milk substitute – and let our eyes wander over the lacy intricacies of the medieval stonework.”

    I welcome your offer, when do we leave?

  10. Dear Mr Johnson,

    Would you please mind your own business, whatever that may be. As a Fleming, I am not even remotely interested in your British union, but that other union of your British making unfortunately is mine, that creature of waffles and frites that is rotten to the very core.

    Your artificial Belgian state has served your British interests very well indeed. Early 19th century, at the brink of the industrial revolution, the united Netherlands, comprising Flanders, was the first region on the continent to embrace the industrial revolution. Britain had again, with good reason, envisioned a formidable competitor in the Netherlands. Flanders had excellent prospects.

    Only to fullfil your own British interests, Britain succesfully teared the united Netherlands in pieces, and as soon as that artificial creature of yours established itself, the Flemish region was completely ripped from its industrial backbone, and left the Flemings impoverished and treated with nothing but contempt by their Belgian rulers, francophone Belgian snobs and perverse, pretentious french speaking racist masters exploiting the Flemish servants.

    Up till this day, Flemings are continuously discriminated to the wellbeing of the francophones, are treated with contempt by their King and his ‘Belgian’ entourage. Or how would you feel if your royalty would categorically refuse to speak your language?

    Do I really need to take it that you, Englishman, of all people, who can hardly take any advice from any continental foreigner, are to interfere again in our business?

    Mr Johnson, how dare you pretend to be a conservative? You should know that your Belgian creature today serves only one purpose, i.e. to continue the socialist policies imposed upon the Flemings by the welfare state of socialist Wallonia, its corrupt leaders financed by exploitation of the Flemings, a situation which only serves the trade unions clinging to their eternal power. Flemings are fed up with this situation, and that is the very reason of Belgian’s crisis today.

    The majority of the Flemings favour a conservative, non-socialist agenda. I thought that was your agenda too, but the politician’s hidden agenda is as ever, a socialist one. Please prove me wrong.

    If not, I would like to suggest the following European reintegration policies for Britain: the mayor of London elected in Paris, with perhaps, a transfer of your English income to those poor frogs, and as for the icing on the cake, the introduction of a “new culture” that leaves the English feel obliged to speak French as soon as a frenchman presents himself in his neighbourhood. It sounds perhaps bizarre to you, it sounds familiar to any Fleming who has ever worked in Brussels.

    Better, admit your writing was just another joke.

  11. I would like to correct my previous comment:
    The first line ought to be: “Would you please not mind your own business”

  12. Dear Mr Fleming,

    “Mind your own business”, you say? Is this a prohibition on reporting internal Belgian affairs? I can’t think of many reputable states which object to foreigners discussing them.

    Did Boris Johnson encourage Brown to intervene in Belgium? No. He can’t do anything at all in any case. No action is advocated.

    The purpose of this article is purely about Britain and British politics. Astonishingly, Belgium can affect British politics and insofar as it does it is somewhat unreasonable to expect British writers to carefully preserve a dark silence.

    If Mr Johnson was only interested in the British interest, what of it? He is a British MP and a prospective Minister of Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom. It is the interests of this country that he is bound by duty and instinct to to serve.

    A general hope that Belgium does not split is not a “socialist policy”, any more than it is a conservative one. What it shows is that Mr Johnson is not internationalist in outlook. He isn’t that interested in whether Belgium is socialist or Thatcherite – he is interested on the implications of a Belgian split on British unity.

    Belgium is being held up in Mr Johnson’s article as a parralel of the situation in Britain. In both cases, a country has become more and more divided, half is socialist and half is conservative, and a split may be imminent; and a split would destroy Mr Brown’s career, as he is a Scot. If Britain were to fall to pieces, it would be a great loss. Britain would be gone. Certainly there would be English people who, like you, would be glad to be shot of a bunch of unwanted antipathetic socialists, but there would be others who would only have cause to lament.

    The most important part of Mr Johnson’s article is the penultimate paragraph. This is a Tory MP attacking a Labour MP, by means of an interesting parallel of British affairs which dips into reporting events in Belgium which I have read almost nothing of in our useless British papers.

    I am unaware of whether Mr Johnson’s statement that “many who feel neither particularly Flemish nor Walloon would be deprived of their portmanteau identity, and that would be sad”, really does hold true in Belgium. I serve as an illustration that this would be true if Britain broke up, which is really what this article is about.

    I find it worth returning to the word “interfere” that you use. Nowhere – and I have scoured the article carefully – is a suggestion made that Britain should “do” anything in Belgium. The whole is a warning to Mr Brown, that if he maltreats England then the Union can and may well fall apart.

    I am not well enough aquainted with Belgian affairs to say quite how comparable the Walloon-Fleming union that makes up Belgium is to the Anglo-Celtic union that makes up Her Majesty’s United Kingdom. That our union was created internally and yours by external forces perhaps makes it weaker and more disliked, but the comparison is topical. It should be remembered it need only work for a British audience. How many Belgians read The Daily Telegraph?

    In my earlier post I wrote that “I hope Belgium sticks together”, but I did not write that “Britain should act to ensure Belgium sticks together”. A split in Belgium would encourage the SNP, who I loathe even more than Brown & co. And I worry that a Belgian split serves the purposes of the vile European Union that we are unhappily bound to. But whilst realpolitik may commend the creation of an unwanted state, if it is still unwanted by its populace after 200 years living together, a reduced Britain in the 20th century has very little excuse to intervene to maintain this godforsaken state. Our only excuse would be if separation was being imposed by a small minority and some business interests, as happened in Ireland, when the terrorists rejected Dominion status against the wishes of the Irish people, for example.

    This last paragraph is all about me and what I think, but as far as I can see from Mr Johnson’s article, our views are much in accord on this subject. I am being reduced to searching for new ways to reiterate the point that this article uses Belgium as a warning to Brown, which does not mean that it advocates intervention in Belgium by any means.

    Whilst Telegraph reporter on EU affairs, I believe that Mr Johnson lived in Brussels, so he speaks from a position of less ignorance than I do. Whatever you think of Belgium as a single entity, it is not unreasonable for a foreigner to develop a whimsical attachment to a place that existed in a certain form at a time when they resided there. As for the socialist-conservative question, it might be said that some things are more important to many even than the great battle of conservatism and socialism – for example, I would myself prefer to live in a socialist Britain than a conservative England.

    Concluding, I don’t believe that you are being fair to Mr Johnson. If you read this article primarily as an article about Belgium, I believe you misinterpreted it. If you think that Mr Johnson advocated British intervention in Belgium, I believe you misread it.

    In postscript I might add that if Paris elected our Mayor, we could scarcely get lumped with something worse than “Red” Ken Livingstone, and I might add that all articles by Mr Johnson are intended to be read with a slight pinch of salt, and specifically set out to entertain. As a writer, his clownishness is an asset, and as a policymaker his clownishness evaporates as far as is necessary.

  13. Boris

    Loved your piece about Belgium. Have you been to Hasselt with its free buses? Doesn’t stop people driving into town though.

    Anyway, there is a rule that applies to Belgium. If it’s any good, it’s French. If it’s no good, it’s Belgian. Thus the French claim chips and Johnny Halliday as their own, whereas Plastic Bertrand is considered Belgian.

    Best Regards

    Kevin B

  14. I never thought my writing would ever be taken so seriously, and I did not mean to offend.

    Upon further reflection, I notice your British politicians are not any better than ours. If this lukewarm picture Mr Johnson painted about Belgium, is only to suit his tactical manoeuvring to engage his prime minister, I wondered if he did not have anything better to do. The irony is what happens when Mr Johnson effectively gets Mr Brown to rebalance the relations with Scotland. Mr Brown, while hiding his accent, is bound to blow hot and cold simultaneously, so much he fails to persuade his fellow countrymen to remain in the union. The outcome would be Mr Johnson’s greatest nightmare, Scottish independence. Which is my best hope as it is one more trigger for us “Belgians” to split happily!

    I would further love to watch the next episode where, as the English are always so keen to mock the Welsh, having already pushed Wales so deeply into labour, they would sprout a newborn that leaves both its political parents argue whose child it is. And if regional class differences continue to come into play, people realising that neither major British political party is either able or interested in improving the life of the vast British underclass, what to think about the Midlands for independence? Oh poor Britain, it would find its lovely patchwork reintegrated into Europe, a Europe with no countries, no flags to raise, just flexible regions that matter to people instead of politicians.

    Fair enough, this countryless Europe would greatly affect British, by then English, international politics. No more fighting with France or Germany, themselves already reduced ever since the union expanded. No more troops to send to the middle east, marching the streets of Baghdad or who knows where next, the streets of Teheran and Damascus, and for a reason no politician bothers to tell, but undoubtedly following the footsteps of that other once so great Anglo-Saxon nation that pursues the greater cause with such vigour that it left more than a billion Muslims wondering whether a personal crusade began against each and everyone of them. No more weeping in solitude for Mr Johnson when trembling from emotion whilst greeting those brave British soldiers returning from battlefield, for queen and country. Because imagine no country, no queen. A great saving indeed. What next, perhaps no government? That would mean Belgium, in its current and hopefully future state of non-existent government, in the run-up to its non-existence, for the first time setting an example to the world.

    For what it is worth, Mr Johnson does not live in isolation. It suits most bigger countries’ politicians to paint a similar picture of Belgium, as all of them are afraid of regional disputes. Otherwise, it might hurt their country, their agenda, what they consider their personal belongings. And it suits them when by accident, as most if not all international reporters in Belgium for obvious reasons do understand some French, but no Dutch, they completely ignore the true cause of this regional dispute. As no region can live in isolation, this is not entirely without consequence to Flanders, being such a small region in the centre of a continent. Hence, its international perception matters. This is why I considered it not totally inappropriate to react.

    If Mr Johnson does have some positive feelings for the country he undoubtedly knows well, I think he should have swallowed a few of the better features in Belgian life, other than waffles and beer. He could have mentioned Belgian schools and health care, both services perhaps having an edge over yours. Services based upon a system that thrives on internal competition, results in choice and quality for all. He could have taken that to the conservative party, which I hear is desperate for change.

    Formally apologising for my offensive writing and persistent interference into your business, I am more than happy to invite you for some beers and frites with mayonnaise. In exchange I would appreciate you took along your Iron Lady, who once described Belgium as the worst governed country in the Western world. Undoubtedly, she was unknowingly referring to our so-called waffling iron policy, i.e. a budget policy that balances expenses amongst its regions with no regard to balancing the budget. If we are to split this waffled country, we first need to crack its trade unions pressing the waffling iron and who else is better suited to assist?

  15. Princess Diana’s inquest trial has started..it was reported that the queen is being called to testify…. there was a funny cartoon in the Daily mail today. image of the queen talking on the phone – asking Dame helen Mirren( THE QUEEN) to do her a little favour…

  16. Mr Fleming,

    I don’t know if I was offended, per se. But I felt that you were unfair to Mr Johnson, because, as I wrote, “if you read this article primarily as an article about Belgium, I believe you misinterpreted it. If you think that Mr Johnson advocated British intervention in Belgium, I believe you misread it.”

    I don’t actually agree with Mr Johnson’s views on rebalancing the UK. I think we should persuade the Scots that Tory values are better than socialist ones, I believe we should abolish the Scots parliament and Welsh assembly, which attract mostly second rate politicians anyway, and I believe that English nationalism should be suppressed for the sake of the greater whole.

    In your reply, you talk a fair amount about the constituent parts of the UK; there exists, however, a genuine and quite strong feeling of loyalty to a united UK – many people positively feel British, wheras you seem to claim that “Belgian” people don’t exist. Belgium may be a foreign imposition, but the UK consists of Northern Ireland (which has fought for a century to be allowed to stay British), Scotland (whose parliament voted, without any threat of military force or similair, to merge with the English parliament in 1707, England (around whom the UK is, neccessarily, based), and Wales (not independent and united for about eight centuries, and then only under the odd very strong ruler of one of the small principalities which made up Wales, many of which swore allegiance and obeisance to English kings in the shortly after the 11th century Norman conquest. Much of its modern population is in fact of English descent (likewise Northern Ireland and Scotland). English is used universally in practice, and this has been practically the case for centuries. The minor languages of Gaelic and Welsh have, like Cornish, only been revived in the last few decades by a few romantics.

    As for all these small poor regions – a newly independent reconstituted Northumbria or Mercia would flop, deprived of the money from the south-east of England. And by weakening ourselves we would easily be open to the influence of major foreign powers like the USA, Russia, China, etc. In any case, you refer to local regions that mean something to people – no-one in England feels “Northumbrian”, or “Mercian”, or “Strathclydian”. England, at least, has been united since the ninth century, and has never lost any territory since, except insofar as England was absorbed into something new called the UK in 1707, by her own instigation.

    We are loyal to our Queen because she’s our Queen. There’s no reason whatsoever for us to change from that.

    I think your policies are pretty ludicrous, but as a Tory I naturally wish you good luck in any battle against unions. We are suffering another Jurassic Postal Strike just now in fact. I should point out that Mrs Thatcher was a good Tory, but also very patriotically British, and she effectively looked after the British national interest, which included not breaking up the union or our remaining foreign territories; and she has dedicated most of her pronounciations since leaving office to the cause of fighting the European Union.

    Good conservative states protect the liberties of the people, protect the weak, guard against foreign aggressors, ensure wealth creation and human progress, and extol virtues such as hard work, self reliance, and self sacrifice. Regarding foreign wars, our involvement in Iraq was probably a mistake, but the motives for our involvement were good, and loyalty, if not blind loyalty, to entities one feels a sense of love, duty, or gratitude to, is absolutely a Tory virtue.

    As a final note on Mr Johnson’s choice of “good things about Belgium” – firstly, he wished to opt for distinctly Belgian things, and secondly, he wanted poetic things. Policies of choice and competition are, I believe, Mr Johnson’s policies in any case. His article was a) entertainment, and b) an article on separatism in the UK and the problems this poses to Brown, our socialist Prime Minister.

    I think that I can let the subject rest at this juncture.

  17. “and I believe that English nationalism should be suppressed for the sake of the greater whole. ”

    thus IRJM .

    A stunning statement of racsim and national hatred . He doesn’t like the English thats for sure . I bet he just lurves Scotland and thinks all discussion of the Barnett Rules must be supressed .
    And what is this ” greater whole you mention ” -the —— United Kingdom which England pays for and from which it derives absolutely nothing .

    Useful though , as a revelation of the thinking of the British mentality – grovel to the celts and hate the Engllish . Says it all .

    By the way IRJM , Flanders was always an ENGLISH ally . It was bounced into Belgium by the British , partly . I doubt that if England had been still independent in 1830 we would have sold an friend down the tubes ,as comes naturally to you .

  18. The best way to persuade the Scots that “Tory” values are better than socialist ones is not by running the country from London again, a practice which naturally produces resentment. The best way would be to support the SNP in their commitment to trying out some free market solutions – for example the SNP have promised, if allowed, to reduce corporation tax in Scotland – this is largely what transformed Ireland from a country 2/3rds as wealthy as the UK to 4/3rds.

    I would even suggest that if this was allowed & worked as i believe it would it might persuade the English to adopt these policies first promulgated by Adam Smith which he would have been astonished to see called “Tory”.

  19. Re: above two comments;

    I am neither Scottish nor English. I am British. I have one parent from Edinburgh and another from London. I have grown up in England and possibly in consequence tend to anglocentricism. No matter. My views are not far off those of my Scottish relatives, and nor far off those of my English relatives.

    I struggle badly to understand the visceral hatred that English and Scottish people have for each other. It really makes no more sense to me than “wessexians” hating “northumbrians”, or vice versa.

    Since England clearly had the stronger influence on all British policies in 1830 (this has usually been the situation since 1707, naturally, as England is the largest, most populous, and most economically succesful part of the UK), I find it very doubtful that an independent England would have taken a different attitude to policy regarding Flanders/Belgium. The monarchy was German, adopted English, I believe the Prime Minister was English, I suspect that the Foreign Sec. was English, and the majority of MPs in parliament would have been English.

    The SNP are not vaguely interested in “right wing policies”, and more than left wing ones. They are one-issue demagogues benefitting from poll-tax-era Tory-hatred, and dissatisfaction with the Lib-Lab coalition previously incumbent in Scotland.

    Obviously the Tories in the Scottish parliament should vote in favour of measures in accord with their ideas of what is best for Scotland and the UK. At present, a sudden reversal of devolution would not work. It would be, were I in an important position as a politician, an ultimate objective of mine to reverse Blair’s worthless devolution settlement, though.

    “English votes…” would help entrench separation and make the calamity (devolution) more irreversible.

    Anything that plays into the EU’s hands must be bad and must be stopped. I deeply suspect that Jake is a europhile; I am incapable of understanding how anyone but a europhile could support hacking the UK to pieces.

    Which brings me to my next point – that “England pays for and from which it derives absolutely nothing”. This is clearly not true. Scotland contributes to our potential energy security, our supply of soldiers, the number of votes we have in the EU and our capacity to survive outside the EU – Scotland may not earn the country the most money, but this can equally be said of Northumbria, for example; attacking parts of the United Kingdom for not earning as much as others is like wanting to sack workers in a company on the basis that they don’t earn as much as the directors on the board. In previous times, union with Scotland has helped England still more – securing its northern border, providing colonists for the Empire, the Scottish contribution to Britain’s wealth in the industrial era of British history. It would be very short-sighted to rule out the possibility (probability, in my view) that union with Scotland will bring more benefits to England in future.

    As for the Barnett forumla – I think it unpolitick to encourage arguments between England and Scotland presently. If there is a bias in money going to one region or another in the UK, it is probably “more money to Labour constituency areas”, rather than “more money to Scotland”. There are various reasons that England should “subsidise” Scotland, which I have detailed elsewhere. In theory, I don’t object to a “readjustment” of said formula if detailed study shows that, even allowing for all special considerations, Scotland receives an unfairly large quantity of additional government money per capita – but it is not especially helpful to pursue that complaint given that my own object is to strengthen the union, so the issue has limited general interest for me.

    If the English are taxed too much, I suspect that the Barnett forumla accounts for rather less of this than the European Union.

    Finally – this idea that the country is “run from London”. MPs and civil servants come from across the UK. If the Scots and Welsh are so tetchy about where government buildings are located, why not move a couple of government ministries to Edinburgh? How about the Department for Transport? The Transport Ministers having to travel frequently from Edinburgh to London and back might focus their minds on their jobs. A separate International Development Department in Edinburgh might give it the sense of independence from the Foreign Office to make itself useful. Or how about the department of Agriculture (Defra clearly needs to be broken up) – why not move that to Edinburgh or Cardiff? Since Londoners evidently cannot manage agricultural issues.

    The “being governed from London” idea is ludicrous, and symptomatic of all that’s worst about wishy-washy Scottish romantic nationalism. As a matter of fact, I am very fond of Scotland, but the Scots are by no means perfect. I refer you to Mr J.P. Marney’s letter in the latest copy of Private Eye.

    I would like the English and Scots to stop fighting each other over petty things and do something useful with themselves in the world. England needs the UK because the UK is our best safeguard against continental rule. If we have to subsidise ever other part of the UK to keep the UK intact, so be it.

    And apart from that, I believe that, unlike, apparently, in Belgium, there is a widespread sense that people are “British”, even if they, unlike myself, consider themselves Scots, Englishmen, Welshmen, or Irishmen first, and Britons only second.

    I object strongly to Jake’s post, which accuses me of “racism” (inexplicable) and “national hatred” (the definition of which I am uncertain of). Alfred the Great, the unifier of England, has always been one of my great heroes (more so than any Scot has ever been). I oppose all anti-British self-hate, apologising for the slave trade, erroneously blaming ourselves for apartheid in Rhodesia or South Africa, determination to suvert ourselves to the domination of the continental nations to prevent ourselves from accidentally fighting a war against someone; I saw in the paper recently that an “English Party” held at SOAS was judged to be racist – and I would write a letter lampooning this ridiculous attitude were I not certain that someone else will do it for me.

    But I am pro-British and proud to be British; and don’t intend upon letting short-sighted traitors to the United Kingdom from stealing my country from me.

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