National independence, at least in modern times, is a myth – an illusion, a chimera, a lie, a Trumpism. Every country is dependent on others, including even ‘superpowers’, which depend on others being subservient to them. Imperial Britain depended on her colonies for her markets; modern America depends on the Middle East for its oil. For ‘lesser’ nations, independence is never one of the choices available to them. They must either be subservient to other, ‘greater’ powers, or bound together voluntarily in order to be able to resist their demands. That latter was the choice made by Britain when her Empire fell to pieces after the last War; which now however looks like being exchanged for the other choice – subservience to the USA – if Brexit goes through. Trump’s ludicrously gaffe-prone visit to the UK and Ireland this week makes this clear. Without a ‘free’ European market Britain will depend largely on the USA for its essential trade, which means bowing to American demands with regard to food standards, and (probably) selling off its much-prized National Health Service to American capitalist firms. Where’s the ‘independence’ in that?
No wonder Trump is so much in favour of Brexit, and so pally with our ‘hard Brexit’ politicians. Over on the other side of us, Putin also seems to be playing the Brexit card for all it’s worth, although more cleverly and subvertly. Shouldn’t that make the Brexiteers think again? Or is a status as an informal colony of the USA what they really want?
That takes me back, historically, to the turn of the twentieth century, when every clear-sighted person realised that the Empire couldn’t last for ever – Britain had just been humiliated by a bunch of rough Dutch farmers in South Africa – and that it could only be preserved by drastic means. One that was mooted was coupling up with the new emerging super-power of the twentieth century, which might be seduced into rejoining the Empire it had broken away from in 1776, but with the centre of that Empire now shifting to Washington. An odd American historian called Carol Quigley thought he perceived a great conspiracy behind this – one of the biggest and most successful of modern times – planted by the capitalist-imperialist Cecil Rhodes, by means of a secret society – the ‘Round Table’ – and scholarships given to American students to study at Oxford University to cement the ‘speclal relationship’. Bill Clinton was a ‘Rhodes Scholar’. And Trump’s favourite Brexiteers, of course, were Oxford educated. (Apart from Farage.)
QED? Of course not. I doubt whether any of our upper-class Brexiteers are aware of this. I’m sure that they’re merely misled by the superficial myth of ‘national independence’ that any imperial historian worth his salt should be able to disabuse them of. I only hope that Trump’s much publicised inanities (including that unbelievably stupid one about the Irish border) will bring them to their senses in this regard. But they may have too much invested in Brexit for that.