Spaniards, in general, seem rather bemused by the rising tide of political frustration that is breaking over the rocks of Europe right now. A movement of disaffection and frustration at the malaise of the European Union that is being deflected and scorned as “populism”. As the “progressive” media hails the recent Dutch election results as a victory against narrow minded nationalism, what they fail to digest is the trend of political movement. UKIP in Britain have only ever held one Parliament seat and currently only one Local Authority, yet their voice has shaped government policy of all political hues and of course they have achieved what we were all told was unthinkable, unimaginable, impossible…the reversal of ever certain union.
Living as we do in a Union of countries, it is an obvious failure of us all to not be aware of the political trends in other parts of the union and consider how they shape the course that we may tread. Spanish opinion in general is that the EU is a good thing for them and there is little appetite to consider anything otherwise. The choices of Britain are of concern to Britain and have no bearing on Spain, do they?
Well, obviously not. There is the obvious first layer of impact. The significant respective populations that live in either country. For all the hand wringing, uncertainty and political manipulation, this can be solved rapidly and amicably if either Government was carrying out their job to protect and provide for their citizens. Anything less should only seek to remind us all of the posturing of power and self interest. A bi-lateral visa system and sensible dual nationality treaty takes care of the concerns of citizens from both nations, but does not serve the narrative of economic and political suicide and perpetual protracted difficulties that come with leaving the Union.
Many recognise the second layer of machinations as the Scottish Nationalists seek to exploit the uncertainty of the uncharted waters we occupy. This touches the nerve of Madrid insecurity over the soluble nature of the ties that bind Spain. Once again political self interest outweighs pragmatism and increasingly it seems that Spain now finds itself facing a cold wind of hostility from Brussels, I mean Strasbourg, or wherever they are meeting this week. Until Brexit, Spain was safe in her position of defiance against legacy state membership, now, as it serves the paymasters in Brussels to tantalise the Scots into landing political body blows on Westminster, the cost of maintaining the viability of the EU experiment may be nation states themselves, including Spain.
This is the third layer of the rotting onion. Yes, although EU membership suits Spain, it is after all a net beneficiary of membership in financial terms, and always has been (the question of where that money goes is something perhaps for another day) but as the foundations of that Union are shifting and as Britain, a net contributor to the Union walks away, that financial landscape begins to change. Consider a landscape with a departing Italy, a crippled Greece, a debtor Scotland, a sceptical Germany and a cynical France, let alone the divisions on opinion between East and West and the intimidation emanating from Turkey, and what Europe needs is strong coherent political leadership, not a self serving political gravy train class whose only raison d’etre is to ensure the money flows into their expenses fund.
Most Brexiteers are not enemies of Europe, racist or xenophobic or narrow minded. Most simply grew tired of the stubborn failure of the EU machine to consider pragmatic and needed reform. Given the chance to make a stark binary choice they have voiced their opinion with a flat rejection and sadly the EU attitude is to double down on the same absurd path that fed the growth of political disquiet we are dealing with now. Spain must start to have the conversation as to what best serves their interests. As to what the nature of the European club is to be. Spain must be prepared to read the game ten moves ahead and prepare strategies for both outcomes. Whether the EU survives this crisis of pig headed self interest and thrives or fails to see off the pragmatic concern of those it labels as “far right” and “living in the past” and crumbles, both paths are now clearly pointing toward extensive pressure on Spain as a contiguous State.
Jacob Rees-Mogg, a quintessentially English MP made an astute observation on the night of the seismic Brexit vote. As he was asked about the crippling conditions that would be placed on Britain to make an example of them, to ensure no country would have the appetite to follow them out, he replied calmly by stating that if you wish to leave a private members club and the management threaten to break your legs to stop you, perhaps it is not the sort of club you would want to be part of in the first place. Spain should at the very least discuss collecting your coats. If the doorman greets you with a hammer and a smile, then the political struggles elsewhere across the continent become suddenly much more lucid.