Sunday 28 January 2007

So we'd lose all international influence if we went our own way?

Or at least that’s what Peter Hain says.

Let’s examine the contention carefully. He’s actually claiming that we have more influence (whatever that means) on international affairs as a small component of a much larger state, than we would have as a state in our own right.

The Republic of Ireland is roughly similar to Wales in terms of population & size (they have a population of roughly 4,000,000 – we have a population of roughly 3,000,000). The external body that’s most important to them & us is the European Parliament. We have 4 MEPs, they have 13. They have a seat on the Council of Ministers, we don’t. They get to chair the EC (and thus set the agenda) when their turn comes round, we don’t.

If we take a wider perspective the story’s pretty much the same. They have a seat in the UN, we don’t. They’ll get a seat on the Security Council when their turn comes round, we won’t. If they think that some country or other is worth influencing they’re free to open an embassy with full diplomatic status there. We can’t.

It’s difficult to know exactly what Hain is saying. I suppose that what he really means is that the UK has more influence internationally than Ireland. This is probably true, but that influence doesn’t often help us. Although Wales has never come close to voting Tory since the commencement of universal suffrage, we usually end up with Tory governments. So the normal state of affairs is that we have little influence on the international policies of our own government.

And of course there’s the fact that the UK has historically been more likely than virtually anyone else to wield it’s international influence by means of armed conflict. But that’s another story.

18 comments:

Der said...

That's another one of Hain's arguments dead in the water. This blog is turning out to be a mine of usefull arguments against Labour's belittling of Wales. Excellent post Cai!

Wynne Jones said...

As I argued in a previous post on my Blog (apologies for this blatant self-promotion) Cymru/Wales will NEVER have any 'clout', to use Hain's term, so long as it relies on political and economic hand-outs from London.

If we in Cymru/Wales broke free from this childish dependency culture and mentality that the likes of Hain and the other Brit Nats continually reinforce then perhaps we WOULD have some 'clout'.

Very good post Cai.

menaiblog said...

Quite correct.

We never mature politically because we live on public money generated in SE England.

It's a self perpetuating circle - we can afford to be dead keen on having a huge public sector because someone else pays for it - & that public sector in turn

Normal Mouth said...

Much would depend on the manner of Wales's independence (for what thats worth - see an earlier comment which remains substantively unresponded to).

If Welsh independence resulted in two or more successor states, then Wales would be likely to take up membership of the bodies mentioned in your post.

If, on the other hand, independence came about in such a way that there was a continuing United Kingdom, then Wales may have to apply for (for example) membership of the EU. As a new entrant, she may have to wait some time and accept all the obligations placed upon new Member States.

Penddu said...

To pick up on Normal Mouth's comments - this is wrong. Under the Vienna Convention on Successor States (ie what Wales and UK/England would become follwoing Welsh independence) Wales would be automatically bound by all treaties previously signed by the UK - ie it would already be in the EU, although there would have to be negotiations on the details. I am not making this up as I go along - this is what happened to Greenland following its independence from Denmark (in 19992?). It had to negotiate its way OUT of the EU - in much the same way as Wales would do out of Nato?

Normal Mouth said...

There is no such automaticity in international law. If Wales was deemed to be a successor state (as I noted in my post above) then membership of those bodies which the UK is currently a member may well be conferred upon Wales.

(The Greenland case is not analogous, incidentally. Greenland did not become indepdendent of Demmark, therefore the question of continuing EC membership was on different terms. It was in effect a part of a Member State wishing to leave the EC. That would be like Wales attempting to leave the EU while remaining part of the UK - the inverse of what we are talking about).

However, if the UK was deemed to be the continuing state this may not be the case. There are numerous examples in international law where one part of a state seceeds and the remainder assumes the status of the continuing state (Netherlands, after Belgium seceeded in 1830, Russia after Finland left in 1917 etc).

As I say, much would depend on the manner of Wales's independence.

Penddu said...

Normal Mouth - I accept what you say about Greenland which is only partially independent from Denmark - but enough to decide for itself its relationship with the EU (or EC as it was then). But I dont agree with you regarding Wales starting outside of the EU - the Vienna Convention was not around when Belgium split form Netherlands - it has been applied to the breakdown of the CIS & Yugoslavia - and would be equally applicable to the breakup of the UK - Scotland will probably pave the way and we can then learn from their lessons.

Normal Mouth said...

To be clear, I am not saying that and independent Wales WILL begin life outside of the EU. I am merely saying that it is possible, and that there is no automatic assumption to the contrary.

A number of the Successor States of the USSR have invoked the Vienna Treaty expressly NOT to succeed the USSR in respect of human rights obligations, choosing instead to sign such treaties as new (i.e replacement) states; free from the retrospective obligations they may have otherwise been held to. So the mere existence of the Vienna Treaty does not mean that Wales (along with the other constituent parts of the UK) will automatically succeed the UK in international treaty.

If, as you suggest, Scotland has become or is in the process of becoming independent at the time of Welsh independence then I would suggest that the chances of the UK (i.e England and perhaps Northern Ireland) being declared the continuing state would be significantly reduced and each constituent nation would become successor states instead (and would likely each inherit the UK’s treaty obligations, as did Sweden and Norway in 1905). But even here, much would depend on the manner by which Wales and Scotland were becoming independent and how the international community viewed that process. They might, under certain circumstances declare either Wales or Scotland as the continuing state, meaning that England may have to apply for EU membership. :-)

Penddu said...

Normal Mouth - I can actually foresee the situation where following independence Wales & Scotland as Succesr states negotiate to stay inside the EU, with England as the continuing state leaving....

Normal Mouth said...

Needless to say, that would manifestly be against the interests of all three nations. I suspect that is a prediction based on the rather lazy assumption that everyone in Scotland and Wales is a good European while everyone over the border is a gin-soaked little Englander.

Welsh Nationalists had beeter hope it doesn't happen as well; the prospect of custom and passport control on the Severn crosing is just the sort of thing unionists have used for years to warn against separatism.

Much more interesting is to go beyond the reather sterile debates about whether Wales or the UK ought to be direct members of the EU and ask how much further subsidiarity can take us. In a deeper European Union it may be possible and desirable to create a Europe of the regions at sub-national level that would ultimately serve their peoples far better. Luxembourg can eixst as a state, so why not Glamorgan, Yorkshire or Orkney?

Gareth said...

Normal Mouth: Merely being independent and out of the EU would not mean that there would be passport controls on the border. Ireland and the UK have been in a Common Travel Area since the former's independence; it is natural to assume that the same arrangement would hold for the remaining home nations' independence.

Normal Mouth said...

That was pre-EU. In any case, the chances of England leaving the EU and Wales remaining are marginal in the extreme.

Penddu said...

Normal Mouth - considering the apparent support for anti-EU parties in England (Conservative, BNP, UKIP) and the support for pro-EU parties in Wales and Scotland (PC/SNP & LDs) this is a realistic scenario (although I am not saying it WILL happen). But England would almost certainly remain in EFTA and Wales & Scotland would almost certainly enjoy a similar free-travel arrangement as Ireland. So no armed guards and sniffer dogs at the Severn Bridge!

Normal Mouth said...

Given that there has scarcely been a General Election in which the Tories have polled less than double the vote share of Plaid Cymru in Wales (and indeed have frequently polled far in excess of twice PC's vote share), given that in 2001/2005 UKIP polled 0.9%/1,5% of the vote in Wales, compared to 1.4%/2.4% in England (the BNP share in 2005 was 0.12% in Wales and 0.83% in England for the record), your argument does not stand up. Wales is only marginally less likely to pull out of the EU by your logic.

Penddu said...

And in the last Welsh elections (and also for European elections) Plaid outpolled the Conservatives, so your point would then be....

Normal Mouth said...

...My point would be that, contrary to your claim, the Conervatives outpolled Plaid Cymru at the 2004 European Parliamentary elections in Wales, as indeed they did in 1979, 1984 and 1989 (though not in 1994 or 1999 which were respectively very bad and good years for the Tories and PC).

My further point would be that PC's lead over the Tories at the 2003 Assembly election was 1.2%, which is scarely either an endorsement or a repudiation of either party's European stance.

My additional point would be that the last time the voters of Wales were asked to pass verdict on these parties Plaid Cymru got 12.5% of the vote while the Tories got 21.5%%.

But my fundamental point would be as per my previous post; there is almost no evidence to support the claim that Welsh voters are any more pro or anti European than their English counterparts.

Penddu said...

Lets agree to disagree over the actual numbers, as this was not key to the original point in any case

A said...

What does "international influence" bring us anyway?
The some of the countries least involved in European affairs - Iceland, Switzerland, Norway are some of the richest countries in the world.
The concentrate on their own affairs without getting into the mess which is European and world politics.