It’s such a shame for those poor Tories and Ukippers who want the UK to leave the EU. There they were twenty two months or so ago, all happy that Barack Obama had intervened in the Scottish independence referendum to tell those uppity Jocks to get back in their shortbreid tin and to close the lid behind them. It was a statesmanlike intervention on a matter of international security, they sagely nodded. Only now he’s intervened in the UK Brexit debate, and all of a sudden they’ve discovered that it’s really not on for a foreign head of state to interfere in an internal UK matter. To which any self-respecting supporter of Scottish independence can only say: ha ha ha, get it right up yese.
Obama thinks that Britain leaving the EU would be an act of self-harm on a par with David Coburn sticking a fork into his inefficient EU approved toaster in an effort to howk out some breid that was sufficiently brown. Although a Brexit wouldn’t have the same comedy potential. I’m just being honest, said Obama, in what was something of a departure for an American politician, as he slapped down Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, Liam Fox and Nigel Farage.
Barack Obama hasn’t just intervened in the Brexit debate, he’s not just weighed in with a shovel. He’s weighed in with a JCB. He’s delivered a strong statement that if the UK wants to leave the EU then the USA will relegate it to the back of the queue when it comes to negotiating a trade deal. Only Americans don’t use the word queue, they stand in line. And a post-Brexit Britain will be standing in line with Bolivia, Belarus, and Bhutan waiting for the USA to get around to allowing us to import Hershey bars. Although why anyone would want to import Hershey bars is a bit of a mystery, because Americans don’t just not use the word queue, they also make some seriously boggin chocolate. Be that as as it may, there will be no Hershey bars, Oreos, Twinkies or Cheerios for a post-Brexit Britain. Well there will, but you got the man’s drift. Brexit bad, very very bad.
When Obama intervened in the Scottish independence debate his comments were nowhere near as strong. He only weighed in with the silver spoon that was in Davie Cameron’s gob when he was born, not a piece of motorised earth moving equipment. And he only did that after Davie pressed the spoon on him telling him what a lovely spoon it was and begged him to use the spoon. Because if Scotland were to have marched off, Davie would have risked losing his spoon entirely.
Obama clearly didn’t give much of a toss one way or the other, because what he was was the absolute minimum you’d need to say no to further upset a host who was clearly in some distress. He didn’t say that Scotland would be cast out into the utter Bolivianness. He said words to the effect that he’d prefer the UK to remain united, and then spent more time and energy speaking out against the UK leaving the European Union. It was obvious even then which of the two scenarios he cared more about. The United States would find it a lot easier to accommodate an independent Scotland that wanted to be an active and willing participant in international organisations than it would a UK that wanted to exist in a pouty xenophobic huff in glorious isolation.
As we all know, it later transpired that the US president had only said anything at all about the Scottish independence referendum because he’d been prevailed upon to do so by a desperate Davie Cameron. On the other hand it’s pretty clear that Obama’s opinions about Britain remaining within the EU are his own, not his host’s. Otherwise he’d probably have kept his gob shut in order to avoid pissing off Liz and Phil, who according to the Sun are in favour of a Brexit. Which is a peculiar stance for a German and a Greek to take, but still.
It’s unlikely that people are going to be swayed in their view on how to vote in June by what the American president says. But it’s still funny to watch the discomfort of Tories and neo-conservative Little Britons who were quite happy for him to intervene when he was on the same side as them during the Scottish independence referendum but now they’re upset because he doesn’t share their opinion on Europe and are discovering that their so-called special relationship with America isn’t really that special after all. The USA only has a special relationship with the UK in as much as the UK does the USA’s bidding, and the USA sees its interests being best served by a UK that’s a member of the EU.
The only people who ever speak about a special relationship between the USA and the UK are British politicians. It doesn’t even figure on the radar of the average American, most of whom are not of British descent and have no particular emotional or historical ties to the UK. The idea that Britain can leave the EU and form some sort of close relationship to the USA is a fantasy. No one in America is interested. On the rare occasions that the UK impinges on the consciousness of the average American, they think of bad teeth, royalty, and driving on the wrong side of the road. And if you’re Scottish they don’t even think that you share a common language, because as I discovered to my chagrin You. Can. Talk. To. An. American. Like. This. But they’re still going to think that you’re speaking German.
For the USA the value of the UK is as a part of a strong and united Europe. That’s what they’re concerned about, and a UK which left the EU would result in a weaker Europe and a weaker UK. But they don’t care that much whether that united Europe consists of the current 28 member states, or if it increases to 29 with the addition of an independent Scotland, as long as it stays united.
But then if the UK does leave the EU, then Scotland may very well accede to the EU as an independent state in its own right. And the USA will be quite happy with that, at least.
BARKING UP THE RIGHT TREE Barking Up the Right Tree has now been published and is an anthology of my articles for The National newspaper. You can submit an advance order for the book on the Vagabond Voices website at http://vagabondvoices.co.uk/?page_id=1993
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