Copied from editorial comments Sunday Telegraph 29 October 2017
Not so much, ‘We told you so’, but rather a suggestion that, by seeking to impose heavy handed control from the centre, on any group of people with their own clear and separate identities, it will inevitability lead to some form of rebellion.
How such a rebellion, whatever it’s form, is responded to, is not only key to regaining the loyalty of the rebels, if that’s a possibility, it’s also key to the longterm credibility of those seeking to impose their will, in the eyes of those watching from the sidelines.
Spanish crisis shows
UK is on right path
Ever since the EU referendum, opponents of Brexit have called it reckless, even suicidal. But the events in Catalonia prove how rational Brexit actually is. We are leaving behind a chaotic EU that is blind to its problems and incapable of fixing them, and while Brexit is undoubtedly a monumental decision that has to be handled extremely carefully, the crises on the continent are far greater by comparison.
The Remainer narrative is that everything on the other side of the Channel is okay. The economic picture has improved in the short-term thanks to the European Central Bank’s easy money policy. But structurally the continent remains in crisis and its politics veers to extremes. The Czech Republic has elected an anti-corruption businessman who is under investigation for financial irregularities. Hungary and Poland are in revolt. Two Italian regions have voted for enlarged autonomy. Austria may well be governed by a coalition that includes nationalists. And Germany’s far-Right won 94 seats in the Bundestag.
Spain is at the epicentre of Europe’s crisis of identity. Catalonia’s declaration of independence caps a violent history of regional nationalism that British politicians of Left and Right have tried and failed to explain in terms relevant to our own country. In fact, the stark contrast between how the UK is handling the Scottish nationalists and how Madrid has mishandled the Catalonians illustrates the wide gulf between Britain’s tradition of small government versus the authoritarianism found across much of the continent. London prefers diplomacy and democracy. Madrid’s force backfired horribly, and if it thinks that will resolve this disaster then it is likely to be mistaken.
The EU looks on, impotent – knowing that Catalonia won’t be the last region to make this leap into the unknown. The nationalist genie is out of the bottle and no amount of coercion, condescension or feigned ignorance will make it go away. Brexit is not Europe’s biggest problem. Under the present circumstances, given that all we are asking for is to depart on good terms and trade to mutual benefit, the EU would be wise to keep Britain onside and conclude a deal as swiftly as possible.