June 01, 2006

English first, British second

It was with Helen's recent post on British values in mind that I sat on my flight back to England reading the CRE's paper 'Citizenship and Belongning: What is Britishness?' (pdf).

It has long been my view that the British identity politics preached by the British government are a hamper to successful integration in England. The CRE's paper reinforced that view; following are some selected extracts:

In England, white English participants perceived themselves as English first and British second, while ethnic minority participants perceived themselves as British; none identified as English, which they saw as meaning exclusively white people. Thus, the participants who identified most strongly with Britishness were those from ethnic minority backgrounds resident in England.
There is a difference between being British and being English. English is being indigenous, being white and from this country. But being British, the primary thing that comes to mind is that you have a British passport. The second thing is that you live here and you function here, in this society [...] I am British. I am not English (Pakistanis and Bangladeshis, London)
For many ethnic minority participants, in particular, maintaining the difference between the English and the British was crucial, because this provided them with some space to belong.
This seemed to be more important for ethnic minority participants who lived in England than for those who lived in Scotland or Wales, where they were happy to take on those national identities.
At the most basic level, all British passport holders know they are British citizens. However, not everyone attaches any value significance to being British. In Scotland and Wales - and this is true among both white and ethnic minority participants - there was a much stronger identification with each country than with Britain.
We therefore found that most black Caribbean participants identified as black British in England, as black Scottish in Scotland and as black Welsh in Wales.
...it may be that partial devolution in Scotland and Wales means that Scottish, Welsh or even European identies become more attractive than a British identity.

Those extracts seem to suggest that the British government is failing in its aim to integrate immigrants in England, whilst the Scottish and Welsh governments are having some success in fostering a civic, rather than ethnic, nationalism in those countries. Immigrants to England feel distanced from the indigenous population; they largely regard themselves solely as British, certainly in a legal sense; they rarely regard themselves as English, which they see as a ethnic or racial identity.

Why is England failing where Scotland and Wales are succeeding? Well, a quote from Helen's article may help shed some light:

...the government has announced that “All secondary school pupils could be taught about "core British values" such as freedom, fairness and respect under new plans unveiled today.

That British government directive applies only in England; in Scotland and Wales it is the concern of the Scottish and Welsh governments. Why does the British government feel the need to foster a sense of Britishness in an English population that feels palpably more English (and increasingly so) than British, and, conversely, why reinforce a sense of Britishness in an immigrant population that feels palpably more British than English, in defiance of the indigenous population's views? Isn't it all a bit arse about face!

The main drive towards this New Britishness comes from Gordon Brown who has his own selfish reasons for moving against the swelling tide of English self-awareness. It's a mad, bad and dangerous policy - he is playing fast and loose with identity politics for political gain - and the net result may not be a happy one. I forewarned of this in my article English Civic Nationalism which was first published on the Campaign for an English Parliament website in November. I hope it will find an interested readership here.

English Civic Nationalism

Nationalists are people that claim that the nation is the only legitimate basis of the state and that each nation is entitled to its own state. It is a fundamental belief, and the axis around which the world’s politics revolve. Those that claim it is not a fundamental belief are usually people who have their own political agenda, and who wish to see supra- or multi-national states formed from pre-existing nations. In time these multi-national states either become nations themselves, or fail, as we have witnessed in the cases of Yugoslavia, USSR and India, to name a few.

But the issue is more complex than that. ‘Nation’ can mean one of two things; an ethnic nation, based on a common ethnicity, collective identity and culture; or a nation based on shared purpose, beliefs and common goals, usually founded on such principles as democracy and individualism. In most nations though, or at least for most people in most nations, nationalism is a mixture of both these forms.

Academics refer to nationalism based around these two alternative definitions of ‘nation’ as ‘Ethic Nationalism’ and ‘Civic Nationalism’. In the West, especially in multicultural nations, it is the commonly held view that only civic nationalism is acceptable. The USA and France are often held up as examples of nations based on ‘civic nationalism’ as both nations were founded on constitutions expressing common rights and privileges, and the principle of citizenship. Although, from an ethical standpoint, civic nationalism is preferable to ethnic nationalism (in multicultural states at least) the Los Angeles and Paris riots show that neither ideology is without its faults.

It could be said that Britain is an example of a state based on civic nationalism. After-all, we are a multi-ethnic and multi-national state, and, for all intents and purposes, a unitary nation with a shared purpose and equal constitutional rights for all. Or at least we were prior to 1998.

In 1998 Scotland became a nation apart, able to influence English and Welsh legislation, but spared from political interference from Wales, and, more importantly, from England and the English. Scottish nationalism was, and still is, a hybrid of civic and ethnic nationalism, but the path to independence – temporarily stalled by devolution – was driven mostly by ethnic nationalism and a deep-rooted pathological hatred of the English. The Scots define themselves not as what they are, but as what they are not; and what they are not is Sassenachs.

When Scotland ring-fenced its legislation to prevent English interference, and when UK politicians started speaking of Scotland as ‘a proud historic nation’ (Tony Blair) and stating that ‘Scotland is a nation in its own right’ (Nick Raynsford – Labour Regions spokesman) without making similar claims on behalf of England, any sense of a shared collective purpose, for me at least, disappeared. Since that time politicians – most notably Gordon Brown – have invested a great deal of energy in trying to redefine Britain in terms of ideals that unite us and a shared collective purpose.

At the same time there has been an assault on English nationalism, with the Labour Party appealing to the Conservative Party to make devolution to Scotland work by not fanning the flames of English nationalism. Ostensibly Scottish nationalism is a civic nationalism, and Welsh nationalism too, otherwise the UK Government would have had trouble justifying it; and to their credit the SNP and Plaid Cymru are signed up to the European Free Alliance, a nationalist alliance that promotes civic, as opposed to ethnic, nationalism, and which supports all nations in their quest for self-determination. But the UK Government did not allow England the same right to self-determination as it offered Wales and Scotland in their 1997 referendums.

Last month Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, writing in anticipation of an English Ashes triumph in her Independent column, complained that ‘If the cricket is won, many more white Britons will give up on Britain and take refuge in England’. The implication being that English nationalism is purely an ethnic nationalism based on skin colour (see The England Project).

Alibhai-Brown was followed by Vince Cable MP, in his Demos pamphlet on multiple identities, who compared English nationalists to Islamic fundamentalists and white supremacists by stating that ‘The threat to harmonious social relations in Britain comes from those who insist that multiple identity is not possible: white supremacists, English nationalists, Islamic fundamentalists’.

It should be remembered that both Yasmin Alibhai-Brown and Vince Cable are nationalists themselves: civic British nationalists.

Vince Cable went on to say ‘This is the opposition and they have to be confronted. An important element in that confrontation is the assertion of a sense of Britishness’.

As someone that counts himself as an English nationalist – a civic nationalist – I was offended by these remarks and responded to Alibhai-Brown and Cable (see The Green Ribbon) in the same knee-jerk way that they no doubt made their remarks. Having had time to cool down and reflect I am still offended by their remarks, and see them as politically motivated, but I concede that they are at least partly correct.

Where they are correct is in the fact that, at the moment, English nationalism is mostly an ethnic nationalism. Immigrants that come to England are informed that they are now British, and they are. ‘British’ is not an ethnicity, Britain is a political construct that incorporates the different nations and ethnicities, and in that sense it can be argued that Britain was multi-cultural before the waves of immigration that began with the Empire Windrush.

The problem for English nationalists like myself, is that for all our best intentions – arguing for an English parliament that represents all English people regardless of ethnicity – there is no civic nationalism in England, not for immigrants, not for anybody. We English have no collective political representation that allows for an expression of our collective political will, and many or most of our cultural and civic institutions have been appropriated for Britain. Scotland has a Scottish parliament to which all Scots, regardless of ethnicity, elect their Scottish representatives. The Scots also have a National Library of Scotland, a National Portrait Gallery and a National Gallery, and much else besides. Taken apart these things mean little, but taken together an immigrant to Scotland – and I lived there myself for five years – is left in little doubt as to what nation they are in. Minority ethnicities in Scotland are much more likely to prefix their ethnicity with ‘Scottish’ than ethnic minorities in England are inclined to prefix their ethnicity with ‘English’. In fact ethnic minorities in England almost always refer to themselves as ‘British-[insert ethnicity here]’. It makes sense as that is how the Government defines them. This fact annoys me greatly, and I think it is divisive and damaging to race-relations in England, but that said I don’t blame the immigrants I blame the political establishment and the race-relations industry.

Without any form of civic nationalism the English seem only to be able to express themselves through sporting tribalism and xenophobia. That is a sweeping statement, but it seems to be the widely held opinion of what Orwell referred to as English intellectuals, particularly those on the left. The Government’s steadfast refusal to allow or build any form of English civic nationalism has created a situation where English pride is exhibited in moments of pure tribalism; St George’s Day and sporting victories are the only times that England’s flag can be waved without accusations of racism. This is wrong, the English flag should fly above the English National Library, the English National Museum, the English Portrait Gallery and, YES, the English Parliament and Executive. Only in that way can we build a civic nationalism for England in which all can take pride. The Government are culpable in making 'English' a synonym for 'Anglo-Saxon' and in being so they have played into the hands of what Vince Cable refers to as 'white supremacists', which – by the way Vince - is not a synonym for ‘English nationalist’.

‘English’ cannot any longer be permitted to be solely an ethnic description, it must embody more than that. The absurdity of Tebbit’s cricket test is plain for all to see:

A large proportion of Britain's Asian population fail to pass the cricket test. Which side do they cheer for? It's an interesting test. Are you still harking back to where you came from or where you are?

Immigrants to England cannot be informed they are British and then implored to support the English cricket team. Why should they when they are British not English? Why should they take any note of England’s history or achievements prior to the Act of Union when Britain and their adopted ‘Britishness’ came into being? The sense of Englishness is growing, it has been well documented, and a divide is opening up in England between that part of society that define themselves as English and those that don’t. It is noticeable that those that don’t are overwhelmingly from non-white sections of the population, although it is also noticeable, and encouraging, that some blacks do refer to themselves as English. I think that this black-led revelation has come about through inclusion in English sport; it certainly hasn’t come about thanks to the race-relations industry or Government; both of whom constantly seek to define them as Black-British, and whose very policies exclude them from Englishness.

The 'Death of Britain' has also been widely documented - Hitchens, 1999; Heffer, 1999; Redwood, 1999; Marr, 2000; Nairn, 2000 – but it doesn’t have to be that way. We can all be British citizens with equal political and constitutional rights within Britain, and with a democratic say in the way our own nations are run; that is the only way that it can work, the British onion cannot be put back together; Welsh, Scottish and English nationalism are all out of their own halves and running towards the opposition’s unguarded goal. The only guard against a certain goal is in creating an inclusive civic nationalism not just for Britain, but for England, Scotland and Wales. And that’s the task that faces British nationalists like Vince Cable and Alibhai-Brown if they want a civic and civil Britain. Trying to keep the English from asserting their Englishness all the while talking down English nationalism as if it were any less valid or worthy than Scottish, Welsh or British nationalism is simply no longer an option.

The freedoms bequeathed by England to the United Kingdom, guaranteed by law, represented an exceptional method of social integration, 'the most civilized and the most effective method ever invented by mankind' (1948: 476; 489-90). This method of social integration translated a specific aspect of the English political tradition - parliamentary sovereignty - into a British one in order to secure the unity of the United Kingdom (Crick 1991). This made the development of a specifically English nationalism not only counter-productive but also irrelevant (Crick 1995). This has been usually interpreted as an expression of English arrogance. The opposite reading can also be made and it is possible to interpret it as an expression of English modesty, for what is often ignored is the attraction of English civilisation as a method of social integration. In the mid-nineteenth century even one of the stalwarts of the proud Edinburgh Review was prepared to declare that 'the nearer we (the Scots) can propose to make ourselves to England the better' (cited in Massie 2002: 13). Moreover, its method of social integration was also here a method of multi-national integration. England, while remaining England, 'a concrete reference' for poets, in a real sense also became Britain, as its economy drew in the Irish, Scots and Welsh. As an 'absorptive patria', there was no need to base Englishness on blood or soil or even a flag and 'flying the Cross of St George was a protest or a foible, usually Socialist or Anglican' (Grainger 1986: 53-5). The good fortune of this social and national integration relied in large measure upon the relatively stable identity that England gave to England/Britain (Stapleton 1999). The United Kingdom was a nationality not a nation, one that had taught 'its citizens at one and the same time to glory both in the name of Scotsmen or Welshmen or Englishmen and in the name of Britons.' (Barker 1928: 17). --- Arthur Aughey

We need to glory again in the name of Scotsmen or Welshmen or Englishmen and in the name of Britons, but in a multi-racial society we can only do this through fostering a sense of civic nationalism and pride in our collective and separate identities.

Posted by Gareth at June 1, 2006 12:50 PM
Comments

Gareth,

Your posting stimulates me to submit two sets of comments.

First, it is not clear from your account whether English nationalism has some responsibility to make immigrant minorities feel more "English" right now. By emphasizing English grievances, and by emphasizing how the central government's notion of British values fail, you are emphasizing negative things (however justified you may be to do so). If you believe in inclusion, I wonder if you should emphasize in a positive way what an English parliament would do for immigrants and in other positive ways make immigrants feel that an English identity is one they can share.

Second, here in America, ethnic and political geography do not correspond as they do in the United Kingdom. Civic nationalism is not so much a choice as a necessity for us. But the debate you would like to have is a debate over federalism, a debate all of the advanced Anglosphere nations have had at one time or another.

With devolution to Scotland and Wales, it was probably inevitable that the status of England would stand out. There are, however, several problems I see with autonomy for England. These may have been raised before but I would be grateful if you would address them below.

The question would inevitably arise as to what weight to give a devolved England in disputes with the other constituent nations of the United Kingdom. Future ties to Europe may not be divisive now but I don't think permanent agreement on Europe in all parts of the UK can be assumed. And there may be other matters on which the three nations deeply disagree. If the constitutional arrangements of a fully devolved UK allow the other constituent nations to overrule England, or if they allow England to overrule them, the federation could break apart and the loser(s) might seek independence.

In America, the fifty states are relatively close to each other in weight. The disparity between England and the others in a UK federation would be much more dramatic, and it isn't clear how you would manage the tensions that might result.

The need of England, Scotland, and Wales to belong to an umbrella state might also be weakened if the UK level of government is stripped of most of its domestic responsibilities. Foreign policy will surely be more divisive at the all-kingdom level if it is no longer counterbalanced by domestic concerns at that level.

Relations between England and a truncated United Kingdom government would also seem likely to be difficult. A Conservative majority in England would clash with a Labour majority in the UK Parliament and adjudicating these differences could be contentious. I don't think a division of powers can anticipate the problems that will arise in the future that cross levels of government.

You might read the articles in The Round Table from 1910 to 1912 relating to constitutional reform of the United Kingdom, in which the editors tried to promote the idea of four sub-parliaments for England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales. The editors raised many of your objections against selective devolution then.

The idea of four-way devolution before 1914 failed to take hold, of course, because Ireland could not agree on its future; Protestant Ulster wanted no change and the rest of Ireland wanted autonomy and then independence. No such deep divisions appear to exist in Great Britain today, but the disporportionate support for the two main parties in different parts of the United Kingdom would make autonomy for England a partisan issue.

The Round Table debated constitutional reform as part of a larger effort to debate the external relations of the United Kingdom. I wonder if a debate that addresses both today is what is really needed.

Posted by: David Billington at June 2, 2006 04:23 PM

He is an Englishman!
For he himself has said it,
And it's greatly to his credit,
That he is an Englishman!
That he is an Englishman!

For he might have been a Roosian,
A French, or Turk, or Proosian,
Or perhaps Itali-an!
Or perhaps Itali-an!

But in spite of all temptations
To belong to other nations,
He remains an Englishman!
He remains an Englishman!

Posted by: W. S. Gilbert at June 2, 2006 07:36 PM

David Billington writes:

"In America, the fifty states are relatively close to each other in weight. The disparity between England and the others in a UK federation would be much more dramatic, and it isn't clear how you would manage the tensions that might result."

Except that the fifty states aren't close to each other in weight. True, many have roughly the same population and geographical area (to within, say, a factor of two), but many more lie at the extremes-- tiny Rhode Island versus mighty California, or empty Wyoming versus densely populated Florida, and so on.

Because such extremes existed in the original 13 colonies (a problem often labelled "small-state versus large-state"), the Great Compromise was proposed and written into our Constitution of 1787. Representation in the lower house of Congress is set according to a state's population, while in the upper house each state has equal representation, and the consent of both houses is required before a bill can become law. That way, neither the small states nor the large states can ram through Congress legislation that is harmful to the other.

That system has worked well for over two centuries here in the US. A federal Britain might be able to adapt it for its purposes, allowing "small states" like Wales or Northern Ireland to moderate or even block legislation wanted by "large states" like England and Scotland. Due to the small number of "states" in a federal Britain, some sort of super-majority may be needed to prevent, say, Wales, Northern Ireland, and Scotland from ganging up on England, but that's on the next page, as it were.

David further writes:

"The need of England, Scotland, and Wales to belong to an umbrella state might also be weakened if the UK level of government is stripped of most of its domestic responsibilities. Foreign policy will surely be more divisive at the all-kingdom level if it is no longer counterbalanced by domestic concerns at that level.

"Relations between England and a truncated United Kingdom government would also seem likely to be difficult. A Conservative majority in England would clash with a Labour majority in the UK Parliament and adjudicating these differences could be contentious. I don't think a division of powers can anticipate the problems that will arise in the future that cross levels of government."

I would argue the reverse. I believe that it is precisely because so many matters in the United States are now decided at a national level (especially since the New Deal of the '30s) that national politics has become so fractious, nasty, and generally "high-stakes". If the federal government were to reduce itself to its proper constitutional functions (a snowball will appear in Hell first, alas), a lot of the steam would be let out of the national political scene. True, these matters would be argued at the state level instead, but maybe that's where they should be argued. Want an abortion, and Pennsylvania won't let you have one? Then go to Massachusetts or California. Plane tickets are awfully cheap these days, and there's always the bus. Want to have universal, government-run health care, and North Carolina doesn't have it? Move to Minnesota (let us say) to take advantage of its liberal social policies.

That was the beauty of the Founders' original idea of limited government at the national level-- if you didn't like some aspect of the laws and their consequences in one state, you could move to another state to be free of them, and still be an American. Nowadays, with so many things decided at a national level, you can't "get away" from some hateful law without ceasing to be an American.

For example, "one size fits all" sounds wonderful when applied to, say, nationalized medicine, but when (not if) said medical system becomes dysfunctional (see the NHS in Britain), how would one "get away" from it short of leaving the country? If such things are decided at the state level, and (hypothetically speaking) Minnesota is making you wait a year to see the doctor about a bad heart, you can easily hop a bus (again, hypothetically) to Illinois and its free-market medical system, and get the treatment you need on the spot, without having to hassle with things like passports and customs certificates for foreign drugs.

As for one party being dominant at the national level, with another being dominant at a "state" level in a federal Britain-- so what? It happens all the time here in the United States, has happened all the time since the founding of the Republic two centuries ago, and the Republic hasn't fallen yet. Yes, it makes for some fireworks and awkwardness, and yes, government doesn't always move very fast or smoothly under such awkwardnesses, but perhaps that's the point-- a government that lumbers is much easier to evade, trip up, and generally discipline through the ballot-box than a government that can act swiftly and decisively, in an extreme case so swiftly and decisively that opposition to it becomes effectively impossible, at least temporarily. So, is "gridlock" (to use the American term) a bug in the system, or a feature? I say it's a feature, and a damned handy one. (But then I'm an advocate of limited government, so maybe I'm biased. ^_^ )

Posted by: Hale Adams at June 3, 2006 04:04 PM

Hale,

The points you raise are certainly fair and one can argue from American experience that my concerns are misplaced. But I do think some differences are significant.

There is no American state containing 80 percent of the American population. If Britain adopted our two systems of representation for its all-kingdom Parliament, England would have permanent control of one house and the three smaller states would have permanent control of the other. This imbalance would also follow lines of ethnicity. Of course, much would depend on what issues would be in contention. But the two forms of representation work in our Congress, not just because the two houses balance each other, but because we are splintered into fifty states, all of which have heterogeneous populations. It is hard for me to imagine what arrangements would mitigate the problems of representing only four states in two houses, and if there is only one house then the question is what powers would remain to that house.

My concern is not so much that domestic policy is made centrally or at a devolved level as what would happen if overlapping responsibilities are claimed by one government representing all of the kingdom and another representing 80 percent of it. No such near-duality exists in federal-state relations in the United States and I don't see how the United Kingdom could survive with it. Even if the all-kingdom level confines itself to foreign relations and defense, ties to Europe, which intrude on domestic policy, would still involve the national parliaments in foreign relations.

The United States did not have an easy time in the nineteenth century sorting out relations between its own federal and state governments, and the American federal government had to be dragged into greater responsibilities in the twentieth century, mainly for military reasons. Similar centripetal forces could operate to make an English state stronger and more bureaucratic, unless the English people change in what they want from government and from themselves.

Gareth's argument seems to me one of equity and on those grounds I don't see an argument against it. The question is whether it is really an argument for English independence, if a likely consequence of an English parliament would be stresses on the union that may not be possible to manage. If so, then I would imagine considerations of English interest besides equitable devolution would need to be taken into account. But again I don't know enough about his proposal to see whether my concerns are real or exaggerated.


Posted by: David Billington at June 4, 2006 01:57 AM

David,

The differences you cite may be significant (I can't judge one way or the other), but I think you overstate their "weight" in the argument.

From what you've said about England having 80 percent of the UK's population, I think the Great Compromise would work very well in a federal UK. With England dominating the lower house, and the other three states dominating the upper house, both sides are forced to compromise. That's the name of the game in politics.

A unicameral legislature would be far worse-- look at our experience with a unicameral Congress under the old Articles of Confederation. Between the large-state/small-state argument and the Articles' requirement of unanimity, paralysis was the order of the day.

I really don't see where there would be conflict between a federal UK parliament and the state parliaments, as long as the responsiblities of each are clearly spelled out. It would be helpful if the federal UK constitution had an equivalent of our Ninth and Tenth Amendments (not that they've gotten much respect since the Civil War, let alone since the Progressive Era after 1900) that would restrict the UK government to do only those things the constitution authorizes it to do, and leaves the states free to do those things not forbidden to them.

It's because things like foreign relations are solely the province of the federal government here in the US that the states stay out of foreign relations. Yeah, you get fatheads at the state level that like to posture and make funny noises (like the governor of Maine making nice recently to Hugo Chavez about low-cost heating oil for Mainers, if I recall correctly), but said fatheads get put in their place pretty quickly by the feds, and quite rightly so. I think the same thing would happen in a federal UK.

I think your point about centripetal forces acting on government is well-taken. What ultimately happens depends on what people want. It's just too damned bad that we've were sold a bill of goods by the Progressives (here in the US, anyway), who extolled the wonders of a highly centralized state. Only now are we waking up to the reality of Barry Goldwater's remark that a government big enough to give you what you want is big enough to take away everything you have. But that's a rant for another day......

No matter what constitutional arrangements are proposed for a looser union, federal or otherwise, the proposers are going to have to make the case (as you noted, David) to the English people that it's to their advantage to be in a union with Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. If such a union looks like it's going to be a raw deal for the English, it will be doomed. And I think the present union has to be sweetened for the English, or it too will be doomed. Whether that's a good thing or not is beyond my knowledge to even speculate on.

Posted by: Hale Adams at June 4, 2006 06:53 PM

The problem of England having 80% of U.K. population is easily solved -- break up England into smaller pieces. Anyone in favor of bringing back Mercia, East Anglia, Essex, Wessex, Kent, Sussex, and Northumbria?

Posted by: Peter Saint-Andre at June 4, 2006 09:34 PM

Hi folks, thanks for the feedback. I will return to the questions - just a little busy at the moment.

Posted by: Gareth at June 5, 2006 04:22 AM

What ever happened to the days when ones loyalty was given to the Sovereign?

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Posted by: bawie at June 7, 2006 03:29 AM

The problem of England having 80% of U.K. population is easily solved -- break up England into smaller pieces. Anyone in favor of bringing back Mercia, East Anglia, Essex, Wessex, Kent, Sussex, and Northumbria?

Posted by: Peter Saint-Andre at June 4, 2006 09:34 PM


Exactly what the EU/DCLG/Govt Office regionalisation agenda is pushing with regional assembiles - divide and rule. They have already tried to obtain a democratic 'mandate' for it, and failed in the North West. Hence, in true EU federalist fashion, they proceed by stealth. They know their history - that the only nation to successfully withstand European dictators has been Protestant England. Thus they must subvert and emasculate England to have their united Europe. If asked, most English people would probably rather choose independence for England - OUTSIDE the EU.

Posted by: Alfred of Wessex at June 7, 2006 11:24 AM

Perhaps OT, but related: I've often wondered how Muslims living in France, Germany and Italy regard themselves, especially the more fanatic types dedicated to eventual Islamic hegemony. Do they think of themselves as Muslim Frenchmen or Muslim Germans or Muslim Europeans or just Muslims? Or, if they are from Iraq or Egypt, for instance, do they still look at themselves as Iraqis and Egyptians? So would Iraqi Germans have more in common with Iraqi Frenchmen than with other Germans? Would any German Iraqis think of themselves as Bavarians or Saxons? Is it possible to ever imagine a Frenchman of Egyptian descent thinking of himself as a Norman or Burgundian? Or do they regard those regional identifications as restricted to "white" French or Germans?

Posted by: Robert Speirs at June 8, 2006 02:46 PM