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Sunday, 2 April 2017

Language and Political Economy

It is notable that the President of the Council of the European Union - a Pole - gave his announcement in response to the British notice of withdrawal from the EU in English. English has become the de facto common language of the Union, and it will obviously remain so when the UK [with or without Scotland and/or Northern Ireland] has left. English will remain - alongside Irish - the official language of an EU member state, and this will legitimise the continuing use of English in the Councils and the counsels of the Union.

English remains [reluctantly] accepted as an official language in India, South Africa and many other African states: and it is, of course, the official language of the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Many people have noticed the paradox that English is at its most powerful ever as an international language, at the time when millions of 'remoaners' believe that Britain is cutting itself away from an advantageous position in the continent from which the British Isles cannot be removed. But English is predominantly the language learned by Chinese, native Arabic speakers, and Latin Americans. In all of this, the British state has made no attempt to emulate the French who have tried to impose their official version of French on the Francophone world, and thus helped to maintain those aspects of the language which make it difficult and uncongenial for aliens to learn. Only twenty years ago there was widespread recognition that French had been the language of diplomacy for several centuries, and an expectation that this might continue: it did not.

I draw hope from the eclipse of the French language that the pseudo-science of Economics can quickly be replaced in common discussion, worldwide.

The replacement must be valid, of course: and what it presents must be consistent with the facts. So here I will make a few indicative points in that direction. First, as to Britain's decision to leave the European Union. This is perceived in the UK overwhelmingly as an economic issue. Mrs May's letter of withdrawal is clearly based on the assumption that a 'divorce' from the political entity can be secured [perhaps for as little as £40 billion] and then a place for Britain in close proximity to the free-trade zone of the EU can be found that leaves the UK free from the political and judicial institutions of the Union. Mrs May acknowledged that the Irish issue needed to be resolved, without suggesting how that might be achieved [and probably in ignorance of its complexity]. President Tusk completely reversed the emphasis of the negotiations by raising the purely political issue of Gibraltar as one of the preconditions before the economic talks can begin. The intractable polar opposition of the opening British submission from the starting point of the European integrationists has put the UK in a position from which it becomes a petitioner that is open to any historical grouch that any of the other EU member elects to advance. The continentals see their club as a political entity first and foremost. Economic issues are - and always have been - secondary to the political imperative. The mass of the British, with their cheerleaders in the popular press, have never seen this: hence came the result of the referendum in June, 2017. The Brexit talks are going to be massively more difficult than the British establishment anticipated; and may never end satisfactorily.

The world is increasingly and rapidly changing, from one where individual sovereign states each strives in their own way to reach free-trade agreements with other states to one where hegemonic blocks of at least 300 million people pursue mercantilist policies: with the objective of protecting the technology and the jobs that have developed and are developing within their territory. Mr Trump will have to reach an accommodation with Canada before his trade policy is set; the open land frontier between the two states is not susceptible to the construction of a wall. He will then confront the EU, China, India, the Latin American economic area; and face the question of how his successors can compete with the outputs from entities with larger populations than his own [even after he recognises that he must reverse his policy towards Mexico, and restore the North American Free Trade Area to its existing place in the US map of the world economy]. To bring his trade bloc to a size where it really can face up to China and India - as they will be by 2030 - his successors will need more territory and natural resources: and more people, better technology, more real wealth. The United Kingdom has already been offered first place in the queue for a new economic relationship with the USA. Australia and New Zealand will receive similar offers: a concept familiar to Winston Churchill is about to be reinvented.

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