Ronnie Cowan: An Empire too far

Posted On: 
19th June 2017

Ronnie Cowan MP says that he wants no involvement in the post Brexit reboot of the British Empire. 

Scotland shall continue to seek trade and collaboration based on equality and respect, says Ronnie Cowan MP.
Credit: 
PA Images

I once drove through a snow storm to get from Darlington to Jedburgh. I clearly remember driving up Carters Bar which takes you over the border between Scotland and England. When I reached the top I was chuffed to bits. I had manoeuvred a rear wheel drive automatic through difficult terrain in a snow storm. Then the reality dawned on me. The second half of the journey was going to be harder than the first. A steep decline, twisting and turning with no road markings and every chance of running off the road, that's what lay ahead. And that's my Brexit allegory. Theresa May and her cohorts, blinded by power, have marched us up to the top of the hill only to discover, in this case, it's a cliff edge.

Over time plenty of people have negotiated difficult journeys but I fear the Brexit journey that lies ahead will be a particularly dangerous one because those that are leading it will not admit how hard it is going to be. They should be seeking out every pitfall and identifying all the hazards but instead we are being fed a diatribe of jingoistic clichés. It was a mess before Theresa May called a general election and her selfish actions have now complicated matters beyond anyone's wildest nightmare. Not even the DUP will get into bed with this precarious government, choosing to provide their votes when it's suits them and handling the tissues when it all goes wrong. And this brave new world seems to be based on the ‘we did it before, we can do it again’ empire mentality. There is always the danger in hard times to look to the past and glamorous it as the good old days. In attempting to reform Iran, the Ayatollah Khomeini tried to turn the clock back centuries, Margaret Thatcher aspired to Victorian values to reform 1980s Britain. In doing so they forgot that these times were just as hard and for many a great deal harder. Now is not the time to build a new British Empire or Empire 2 as the anti E.U. lobby has proclaimed it. The last British Empire was guilty of subjugating people, countries and religions. It (we) created concentration camps in the Boer war and were responsible for the Amritsar massacre. The Empire brutality put down the Mau Mau rebellion in ‘British’ Kenya and it starved millions in India under colonial rule. We should remember that the trade routes of the empire were founded on slavery and violence. The ‘overseas territories’ are not rushing to engage with the U.K. They have learned their lessons and are now well versed in negotiating their own deals.

As we turn our backs on the European Union (EU) and seek to create new trade agreements, this time we will require diplomacy and negotiating skills. Things that so far have been conspicuously absent in the whole Brexit mess. That is one reason I have been delighted to hear that politicians across the EU have, in increasing numbers, been prepared to add their support for Scotland to remain in the E.U. and in the single market. While the UK was committed to the E.U. these same voices remained silent, they respected the U.K. and its position but by serving Article 50 to leave the EU the U.K. has turned its back on the EU and the single market. As a result the loyalty of previous partners has been lost. Scotland played its part in the first British Empire and acknowledges the wrongdoing but I want no part of this twenty first century reboot. Scotland shall continue to seek trade and collaboration based on equality and respect. We refuse to be a country tied to our past like an old broken down actor remembering their glory days through a haze of alcohol and pain killers. Rather than that a new Scotland must emerge, seeking a new role as an equal amongst equals. Scotland is looking forward to forging a new future, not trading in fear and laden with hope.

Ronnie Cowan is the SNP Member of Parliament for Inverclyde