“There must be some kind of way out of here, ”
Said the joker to the thief,
There’s too much confusion, I can’t get no relief.
Business men – they drink my wine
Ploughmen dig my earth
None of them along the line
Know what any of it is worth.”
The above quote is taken from the first few lines of the classic Bob Dylan track “All Along the Watchtower”, which was of course covered by Jimi Hendrix. These lyrics are an effective summary of the sentiments of anti-EU campaigners in the UK, their resentment of European integration and the deleterious effects they perceive the process as having on the UK. The British will go to the polls in a referendum on the 23rd of this month on the Brexit to decide whether or not the country leaves the European Union it joined in 1973 after plenty of domestic debate on the matter, and amid a measure of reticence to the idea on the part of the French. The meaning of the image will be clear by the end of the post.
Both the Vote Remain and Vote Leave camps have been pulling out all the stops to convince the voting public that staying in or leaving is the most suitable course of action for the country and that the alternative put forth by the other side is plain old lunacy. Neither side has any shortage of clever slogans and ads to illustrate its point, and they are each able to argue convincingly diametrically opposed points using the exact same statistics, which reminds me of undergraduate literary analysis classes where anything, it appeared, could be argued based on a text as long as one had a sound reasoning for one’s point of view.
Both in the UK and in continental Europe, page after page has been written in newspapers, magazines and other publications on this matter. Most in the EU paint a bleak picture of what would befall the UK in the event of Brexit being voted. Not even John on the Isle of Patmos could muster as cataclysmic a chain of events as such commentators are all but certain will come to pass if Britain leaves the EU.
Those who favour Brexit dismiss those who predict the country’s demise. The whole thing made me wonder what if a Brexit for Britain were to be met with the same reaction as colonised countries’ independence or request for such received from their European colonisers?
One of the following situations could very this turn out to be the case for Britain in case of a Brexit triumph:
1 Belgium and The Democratic Republic of Congo, circa 1960: when the Belgian Congo – which had once been the personal property of the murderous invading King Leopold who ended up nicknamed “the butcher of the Congo” – became independent from Belgium on 30th June 1960 the vast and diverse country was fraught with ethnic and territorial division. Ceasing on this, the Belgians stoked separatist efforts in the resource rich Katanga province. The intention was that Katanga would secede with its riches and then become a lucrative client state for the Belgians. A Cold War misinformation campaign was conducted against Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba due to his Soviet leanings. It all came to a crescendo when Lumumba’s murder was facilitated by some combination of Belgian and sundry Western machinations in the country in what was one of decolonisation-era Africa’s greatest tragedies.
What if a group of countries under the auspices of the EU were to conspire to destroy the political equilibrium of the not so vast but certainly territorially fractured UK? What if they pushed the Scottish to have another independence referendum and leave the UK to have all its North Sea crude windfall revenue for itself, and invite European corporations to engage in its extraction? Good thing for David Cameron that he himself is campaigning for Vote Remain so he wouldn’t go the way of Lumumba!
2 The UK in Kenya: when native Kenyans requested political rights and land reform of the British colonial administration in the early 1950s, there was nothing doing. After a few years, Kenyan nationalists took up arms to take their country back from the occupying outsiders. The British sent in troops to put down what became known as the Mau Mau uprising. Tens of thousands were killed, summarily arrested and tortured. Cases for compensation continued to be in litigation in British courts over a decade into the 21st century.
Would the EU organise an army and march on London to weed out the likes of Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage and their many supporters who lobby the EU for greater control of their territorial integrity?
3 France and its blackmail of Haiti: when Haiti became the first black republic by defeating all European comers to gain their independence on New Year’s Day in 1804, the French decided to exact revenge by imposing a blockade on Haiti and demanding they be paid compensation to the tune of a sum that would run into the billions.
Maybe the European Central Bank will confiscate what remains of Britain’s gold reserves after Gordon Brown had half of it sold off when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer?
4 France and Sekou Touré’s Guinea: In the 1950s Charles De Gaulle went around French-speaking Africa pedalling the idea of a French African community. It was to be a sort of pseudo-colonial federation affiliated with France. The 15 or so African territories under French colonial control would manage certain domestic issues, but foreign affairs, defence and certain issues pertaining to natural resources had to be managed by the French themselves. The idea was sold as a way to ensure stability in the post-War world. It was, in fact, a manoeuver for France to retain sway over at least one part of the outside world, along with its resources, so as to prop up the country’s claim to being a great power on the world stage. One of the first countries to be presented with the idea was Guinea. Its leader Ahmed Sekou Touré turned it down outright and opted for independence in October 1958 – some 18 months prior to other French-colonised African territories eventually becoming independent, and making Guinea the second country in sub-Saharan Africa, after Ghana in 1957 to emerge from under the thumb of its colonial occupier. Touré’s refusal led an infuriated De Gaulle to storm away from the discussion room and order that any and all French-run activity of any nature be halted forthwith, like an angry little boy taking his ball and going home. It is reported that departing French civil administrators went as far as to rip out phone and cable lines and order shipments of cargo from France to turn back even if they were close to arriving in Guinea. In the years following Guinean independence, France continued its vendetta against the country by manufacturing and airdropping untold sums of counterfeit Guinean francs in order to destabilise the currency’s value and wreak havoc in the economy. It is worth noting that even today a Guinean franc is worth less than the CFA franc used in most francophone African countries. The French also trained opposition elements and tried to have Sekou Touré deposed. Touré responded by breaking off diplomatic relations with France. He only reinstituted them almost 2 decades later in 1980.
Is it possible that the ECB would make fake sterling and litter the UK with the notes? If they were to want to, and wanted to make sure the counterfeit was realistic, they would have to take in mind that the UK is currently upgrading the material used to produce its bank notes from paper to plastic!
5 The Dutch and Indonesia: The Netherlands established itself as a colonial power in the Asia-Pacific region since the days of the Dutch East India Company, which spanned all of the 17th and 18th centuries. In the 19th century they consolidated their presence in Indonesia. This was interrupted during World War 2 by the Japanese occupation. The Japanese encouraged the Indonesians to separate from the Dutch. After Japan capitulated, the Indonesian nationalists proclaimed independence from the Netherlands. The Dutch were having none of it, and attempted to take the vast colony back by military means. A chorus of international condemnation of this course of action, especially coming on the heels of years of war on a global scale, led the Dutch to engage in 3 months of talks with the Indonesians to iron out the details of Indonesian independence.
Perhaps the EU would try to force Britain back into the Union if Vote Leave wins, but then have to back down after being called out by the UN and the Americans?
The charge that the EU is some kind of empire has been many by British Eurosceptics before, among them Boris Johnson, the former London mayor who one day hopes to succeed David Cameron as UK Prime Minister. It is almost comical that Johnson declared that US President Barack Obama had “a problem with the British Empire” since his father was Kenyan and reportedly suffered at the hands of the British. To Johnson the erstwhile British Empire is something about which we should all beam with pride, but the current EU empire should be given no such treatment.
Johnson need not be so cagey; maybe he read Aimé Césaire’s Discourse On Colonialism and the words “Europe is indefensible” went to his head, but times have changed, haven’t they? Europe now is different, isn’t it? Like Michael Jackson reassuring Ola Ray at the end of the Thriller music video, an EU official needs to put their hand on Johnson’s shoulder and ask “what’s the problem”? Then again, in the video the King of Pop really was an undead monster…….