Plucky little Wallonia, a French-speaking part of Belgium, is threatening to derail years of negotiations between the EU and Canada by refusing to agree to a new trade deal. Apparently, under Belgium’s constitution, the
Wallonians Walloons (thanks, dearieme) have a right to do this. EU leaders are now falling over themselves to get to Namur, where the hold-outs have their gang hut, in order to persuade them to come on board.
One is permitted to contrast the reaction of the EU leadership towards Wallonia in the past few days with their reaction towards Britain voting to leave the EU and, prior to that, Prime Minster David Cameron’s attempt to get some concessions ahead of the vote. One would have thought that accommodating a country of 60m people would be of greater importance than a region of 3.5m to the EU, but obviously it’s not. To see why we first need to look at an Forbes article on the subject written by Tim Worstall, who speculates as to why the Walloons have rejected the deal:
There are some out there who are simply hostile to the idea of any trade deals at all. This is an undercurrent in left wing and environmental politics over here. There are actually people so deluded about economics that they think that trade is something bad, to be avoided. Goods and services should be locally produced and locally consumed. Economies should be small and self-contained. Yes, I know, it’s an absurdity but it’s a very real current in European politics. The various Green parties near all sign up to this idea as do all too many unthinking leftists. They’re all failing to see that it is trade with its attendant division and specialisation of labour which make us all so much richer than our peasant forefathers.
We then need to look at a post on another blog which I now rather embarrassingly cannot find (I thought it was at Nourishing Obscurity, but I haven’t been able to locate it). It was a photo taken in Brussels of a street sign which bore the name Salvador Allende Square. As the blogger noted, if places are being named after communists in non-communist countries, that tells you a lot about the local politics. France is no different: the Parisian suburb of Montreuil has an Avenue du Président Salvador Allende. Lyon has a Salvador Allende Tram stop, and Nanterre a Salvador Allende public car park. Paris also has a Karl Marx college. The city of Brussels even has a tribute to Salvador Allende on their webpage.
Time of for an anecdote. I have an acquaintance here in Paris who worked through from the 1970s to early 2000s for EDF, the French state power company. He told me the company was “openly communist”, which I took to mean the management and employees were either communists or communist sympathisers. Because of EDF’s nuclear expertise, my acquaintance used to travel to the USSR, North Korea, and other communist states to share nuclear technology. He told me he went as a visitor to the top-secret bomb-making facilities in the Soviet Union where there were portraits of the Rosenburgs on the wall. I’ve included this anecdote just for fun.
The point is that Belgium, France, and many other European countries are far more left-wing than England is. I say England because Scotland, and to a lesser extent Wales, are more left-leaning than England but even they are not as left-wing as places like France. In France, the Socialist party holds power and is being challenged from the left by a Communist party. By contrast, the communists in England consist of a gaggle of clowns who think the Soviet Union is still in existence, and the socialists under the banner of Labour only managed electoral success when they shifted rightwards. When Labour ran as socialists under Neil Kinnock they were roundly rejected by the electorate. Britain’s most successful post-war Prime Minister in terms of time in office was the decidedly anti-communist Margaret Thatcher and the second was Tony Blair who the left-wing hated for abandoning socialist principles. Now Labour is being led by socialists and communists and they are a laughing stock who stand zero chance of attaining power unless they ditch this lot for some who are much further to the right. The only place in London bearing Karl Marx’s name is his grave. The closest we have to Salvador Allende avenues in the UK are places named after Nelson Mandela which lefty councils foisted upon cities during the apartheid struggles.
And this is why the EU leadership – particularly the French and some Belgians – cannot stand Britain: we are right-wingers who lean towards free markets and capitalism whereas they are made up largely of socialists. A good number of French and other Europeans believe that the EU should be more socialist and more powers granted to the centre, whereas most British believe the exact opposite. Socialist Europeans know they cannot attain, or retain, power at the nation-state level (or make the books balance) and so are attempting to do so at the EU level: Britain leaving represents a setback to this goal. Listen to Francois Hollande – a socialist – saying Britain must “pay the price” for leaving. What price? Scuppering the plans of European socialists? Whereas the Walloons are good, old-fashioned socialists pushing back against capitalism, and so they get treated with kid gloves.
It is also enlightening to look at how the Remainers in the UK lean politically: most of them are left-wing. Having failed to bring about many of their desired policies via national elections, they have been quite content to see them imposed via the EU where socialism holds much more sway. They know that without their fellow travellers in Europe, socialist policies in England are pretty much dead.
A lot of the anger around Brexit is not actually about Britain leaving: it’s about communists, socialist, and other left-wingers not being able to join forces and impose their policies on the English who are stubbornly centre-right. And this is why it is getting so damned bitter.