In Defence of Globalisation

In Defence of Globalisation

If a week is a long time in politics, two weeks has to be an era. The seven stages of grief have been very publicly demonstrated for the twitching corpse of Britain’s EU membership, from denial (No! We can have another referendum!) through anger (All those geriatric bastards who voted Leave don’t deserve a vote, they’ll die soon!), bargaining (Scotland can stay in the EU, right? Please?), and finally, acceptance. Which I guess is Lexit, or left wing exit, a horrible moniker for an equally self-indulgent worldview.

In amongst all this, verdicts have been delivered on why the result came in the way it did. Demographic divides among voters have been identified, pitting the old against the young, the rich against the poor, North against South, metropolitan elites against ordinary rural working folk, contemptuous snobs against uneducated peasants, marmite lovers against marmite haters, or whatever else.

Some idiots (not naming names) have pointed the finger for these splits at globalisation, or at least the effects thereof. Britain has effectively voted for isolationism and retrenchment, for withdrawing from the global project in favour of a mythical island solitude where honest folk made ships and cars, beer was cheap, watery and terrible, food was tasteless and boiled, and everybody was white.

It’s not strictly speaking wrong to pin this yearning for things as they used to be on globalisation, in a very loose macro sense. Globalisation is such a wide and varied process of change that defining it is almost impossible. That said, some aspects of globalisation as “the closer integration of the countries and peoples of the world which has been brought about by the enormous reduction of costs of transportation and communication, and the breaking down of artificial barriers to the flows of goods, services, capital, knowledge and, to a lesser extent, people across borders” definitely had an impact on the Brexit vote.

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Generic Old White Man Pontificates

Generic Old White Man Pontificates

Unrelated news event illustrates why Britain would be better off inside/outside the EU.

GLASGOW – The news that New Zealand has voted to keep its current flag exemplifies why Britain should or shouldn’t vote to leave the EU in the upcoming referendum, an indistinguishably bland, upper class member of either the Leave or Remain campaigns asserted yesterday.

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Securitisation Has Failed

Securitisation Has Failed

It’s somehow fitting that the four month long search for one of the most wanted men in Europe, a desperate search for a terrorist by the combined might of the security forces of half a continent, had its big break because of takeaway pizza.

Salah Abdeslam, one of the last remaining suspects from the ISIS affiliated terrorist attacks in Paris last November was assumed by security forces to have disappeared to ISIS controlled territory in Syria. Instead, he was hiding in the neighbourhood in Brussels he grew up and spent most of his life in, mere metres from his former home.

The chance discovery of a fingerprint on a glass in a raid earlier in the week led to police monitoring his old stamping grounds in the district of Molenbeek. It was then that they began to suspect that one house was harbouring more people than it appeared. In a farcical turn, when the inhabitants of the house ordered what seemed like far more pizza than they could ever eat, the police swooped.

And then, not even a week later, the world awoke to the aftermath of yet another terrorist attack. This joined the litany of terrorist attacks across the world over the past twelve months, the most prominent of which in the Western media was Paris, but which encompasses multiple attacks in Turkey, in Istanbul and Ankara, as well as dozens of others.

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The House of Lords and Constitutional Crises

Last night, the House of Lords performed the function assigned to it by the British Constitution. As the appointed second chamber of the British Parliament, they amended a piece of legislation in line with their scrutinising role, sending it back to the elected House of Commons for further consideration in light of new information. They didn’t block the measure, nor did they destroy it.

Or, depending on your politics and your spin doctor, the House of Lords just posed an unprecedented challenge to the balance of powers within the Constitution that hasn’t been seen for over 100 years, and one that’ll have to be punished.

So which is it? Does it really matter? Is posing rhetorical questions to oneself a lazy and hackneyed introductory device?

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The Economic Refugee

“The term “refugee” shall apply to any person who… owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”

Even amongst lawyers, this particular bit of legalese makes for a confusing read. It’s effectively one 90-odd word sentence, with nary a full stop to be found. The dependent clauses, lists, and all sorts of superfluous commas combine to make a flowing jumble of semi-alliterative repetition, spinning the reader round until they’re not sure which refers to what or whom.

The thing is, though, to fully understand the ongoing furore about refugees and migrants and crises and flows and all those other flamboyant spoutings, it’s essential to have a grasp of that article. That definition is lifted from the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, albeit slightly edited to make it clearer. It’s agreed to be the authoritative statement of who a refugee is by the vast majority of the nations of the world. As such, it’s the definition that is incorporated into national laws and practices the world over. Governments and judges use that definition every single day when deciding on asylum applications.

When arriving in a country and applying for asylum, a refugee goes through a legal process to determine whether they fit that definition. If they do, there are a whole bunch of legal consequences usually entailing some type of entitlement to stay. If they don’t, they’re subject to the same immigration controls as anyone else.

That’s a long way of saying that the division between refugees and everyone else, within Europe and elsewhere, is based on that definition[1]. When politicians prevaricate about ‘genuine refugees’ compared to ‘economic migrants’, that definition is what they refer to.

A refugee is someone who is defined as such by the Refugee Convention. Unfortunately, that makes it a bit of a shame that the definition is hopelessly broken.

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A brief proposal

His name was Aylan Kurdi. Photo Credit: WSJ

The big news in the UK today has been the image above. Taken on a beach in Turkey, it depicts the body washed ashore of a Syrian child drowned while attempting to cross the Aegean Sea to Kos and thus the EU. Despite the well-documented and horrendous stories possessed by seemingly every refugee arriving in Europe, this image has gone viral because it puts the rhetoric into shockingly stark perspective. Talk of ‘bogus asylum seekers’ (despite there being no such thing), of ‘burden sharing’, of ‘maintaining the integrity’ of asylum systems against ‘floods’ of migrants; it all results in dead children.

So how can governments realistically prevent this happening?

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British? Your vote probably doesn’t matter

Apparently, Jeremy Corbyn will cause “annihilation”. He’s been called a “dinosaur” whose policies are backward looking, seeking to drag Britain back into the 1980s, if not earlier. He has been deemed “unelectable”, raising the possibility of a concerted campaign amongst the MPs of his own party to usurp his leadership from the moment he takes office.

The man himself

And the funny thing is that those critiques, overblown while they might be, contain some kernel of truth. Jeremy Corbyn, the so-called “radical left-wing” candidate for the leadership of Britain’s second political party, probably would lose a general election by a significant margin. The Labour party as a major force in British politics could be under threat as it fractures along ideological lines, social democrats abandoning the loose coalition with business friendly neoliberals that Blair helped forge.

Tellingly, though, the alternative is just as unpalatable. If another candidate is successful in their leadership bid, the underlying possibility that makes Corbyn’s campaign so appealing goes unaddressed. Corbyn would be shuffled offstage and business as usual, the politics of the elite, would spin heedlessly on.

But if that happened, a fundamental flaw in British democracy would continue to be ignored.

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Of Crises and Men

A small vignette from the British summer:

A perfect sunny morning in the Kentish countryside. The garden of England is alive with light and fragrance, birds chirping and trees softly waving in the breeze as the golden sunlight spills and flows over the rolling hills.

There is a click and a rustle as the front door of the cottage nestling beneath a small copse eases open. A man steps out, dressing gown tied loosely over a comfortable waist, feet snugly ensconced in slippers. He takes a deep breath of the morning air. Honeysuckle… freshly mown grass… the hint of crisp dew on the wind that freshens in his chest. A perfect Saturday.

There is a slight crinkling, crackling noise from his feet. He looks down and sees his newspaper, pages wafting benignly on the doorstep.

He bends to pick it up. Flips it over absently, frowns at the sport and purses his lips. Those bloody colonials. There must be one good spinner in England, for heaven’s sake. He half turns to go back inside, easing the paper back over in his hand. He sees the front page.

His face is suddenly as off-grey as the page before him. His hand shakes, and the tremors echo in a teasingly innocuous crumpling of the paper in his hands. The birds twitter mockingly. He looks up. The woods looming over his house, the valley it is concealed in, the gentle pastoral grass that could hide a man, all close in.

“Deirdre!” he screams frantically. “Deirdre!”

“What?” Comes a sleepy murmur from somewhere inside the house.

“Call the children! Tell them to lock their doors, grab their valuables and meet me at the old fort!”

“What? John are you-”

“And pack up everything we want to keep! The emergency bag like I told you. Get my gun, I’ll be loading the car with food and water.”

“John, what’s happened?”

“They’re coming, Deirdre. A marauding swarm of migrants has broken loose and they’re coming for us.”


Unfortunately, lacking a concrete plan in case of migrapocalypse, such as a weapon with which to fend off the mindless hordes or an emergency supply of canned food, it would seem most of us are destined to be swallowed up in the great migrant crisis. Or at least, so the media and the politicians would seem to be encouraging us to believe.

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