Britain’s future is in Europe

By Dr Burhan M Al-Chalabi 

On the 23rd of June 2016, the British public are being asked, in the forthcoming referendum, ‘To stay in or to leave Europe?’ This is a wrongly phrased question, as debating membership of the EU reinforces a perceived disadvantage to Britain as by the Euro-sceptics. The right question should have been, ‘Does Europe need Britain?’ This question embraces the economic and security advantages to all European countries in the single market union.

To date, no valid economic case, supported by facts and figures, has been made by Euro-sceptics to justify exiting from Europe. Current British exports to the EU are worth £187billion per year. Therefore, some 3 million jobs are dependent on the EU. This export could rise to £277billion by 2030. European markets for transport, energy and digital services combined with global trade deals, could add £58billion a year. An increase of 2.8% to GDP. This increase in the GDP could deliver 300,000 additional jobs by 2020, rising to 790,000 by 2030**.

The current security of employment and the potential for job growth cannot be replaced overnight with trade deals with other nations.There is no political or economic justification for it. Also, neither Britain nor Europe has a coherent economic plan B for the partial or total break-up of the European Union.

The case to leave Europe promoted by the European sceptics has, so far, been entirely based on nostalgia. These emotions are completely irrelevant. Sovereignty is being wrongfully exploited to undermine British and EU interest and national security. 

Britain today faces different challenges to those faced during the first and second world wars. Terrorism, the radicalization of young people turning to Al-Qaeda and religious extremist groups such as ISIS, are the pressing 21st Century challenges. Also, the influx of refugees from North Africa and the Middle East. These challenges can only be successfully confronted collectively with Britain as an integral part of Europe. 

In this context, there is a strong case to coin the phrase “Britain’s Special Relationship with Europe”. This does not have to be at the expense of Britain’s so-called special relationship with the US, particularly as the rise of these threats have been caused by the consequences of the American policy of military intervention and regime change in Iraq, Libya and currently in Syria. The US has been publically extremely supportive of Britain remaining as part of Europe. The US see no imminent threats to its relationship with Britain as a member of the EU, and it continues to participate in NATO.

The conflicts of the 20th Century led Britain to cultivate a special relationship with the US — a relationship centred on shared histories and values as well as common ancestral and religious roots- one that after two world wars has become the cornerstone of British foreign policy. But this relationship is fundamentally flawed,and it does not really serve Britain’s interests as it once did. Britain continues to losepolitical credibility from being known in the councils of the world as Washington’s Poodle. Therefore,if Britain reaffirms its European credentials, it would gain from a little more independence of mind and a greater readiness to “play its politics” as part of Europe.

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Britain’s only visible foreign policy has been to support US foreign policy. In the Middle East, in particular, the US continue to practice hostile foreign policy of destabilization of the region through intervention and regime change in pursuit of its objectives to create New World Order, as part of the project for the New American Century.

As well as being detrimental to Arab interests and national security, US foreign policy has left the Middle East weak, divided by sectarianism and in danger of losing its Arabic identity. It has also created a neo-con political platform to relentlessly demonize Islam and associate the faith with terrorism. In all of this, Britain has been a complicit and unquestioning partner.

Whilst Britain might benefit from privileged access to US intelligence and to US weapons – it is a privilege that has certainly cost Britain much in terms of independence in foreign and defence policy.

Many suspect it has meant that Britain has failed to pursue its own interests effectively because of its allegiance to the US. In adhering to US policies around the globe Britain has forsaken old friends and old relationships. 

Therefore, at some stage Britain needs to assess the cost of maintaining such a relationship. There must be a threshold beyond which Britain cannot continue to sacrifice its national interest in pursuit of this special relationship. The choice becomes harder when an alternative option of being European will offer the same political and economic attractions.

This status quo is borne out in the Middle East where Britain has, in its uncritical deference to the US, sacrificed British trading, commercial and diplomatic benefits with countries like Libya, Iran, Iraq, Sudan and Afghanistan. Britain is not at war with these countries; and none have any quarrel with Britain. Yet Britain’s support of US foreign policies still adds a veneer of prestige to American intervention.Thus, it is not unrealistic to assume that at some time American interests may become incompatible with those of the British.

In today’s global political environment, the only sound case to protect Britain’s interests and national security, is that Europe needs Britain as much as Britain needs Europe. At a time when Europe is facing mammoth political and economic difficulties, the idea of one of the most successful economies leaving Europe will politically be judged as dishonourable as well as being economically disastrous for all concerned. 

Liberated from its moral commitment to blindly supporting US foreign policy, Britain in Europe will have the opportunity to promote a common policy of politicalstability and trade. 

A policy based on the exchange of Energy-For-Technology for the mutual benefit of Europe as well as its rear neighbours Middle Eastern countries.

Europe was once united under the Roman Empire. It was very successful, with Northern Africa being part of the Empire, albeit ruled by non-democratic leadership. Perhaps this idea may, once again, serve Europe well in the future so that the Arabs and Europeans will live in peace and harmony.

The undoubted political and economic advantages of Britain remaining in Europe also ensures that Messianic, crusader fantasists will never again be able to wreak death and destruction on innocent people in the name of the British people.

**Source: Centre for Economic and Business Study titled ‘The Impact of the UK Being in the Single 

Market’, October 2015 

The writer is Fellow of Royal Society of Arts and Publisher of The 

London Magazine

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Estranged wife of hijacker diffuses EgyptAir crisis

Larnaca, Cyprus | AFP |

Authorities arrested the hijacker of an Egyptian airliner that was diverted to Cyprus on Tuesday, after the plane’s passengers and crew were able to escape unharmed. No explosives were found on the hijacker or on the plane.

The hijacker, who officials said was motivated by personal reasons and who had reportedly claimed to be wearing an explosives belt, was detained after several tense hours at Larnaca airport where the plane had landed.

“The hijacker has just been arrested,” Cypriot government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said on Twitter. No further details were immediately available.

An AFP correspondent saw a man emerging from the aircraft, walking across the tarmac and then raising his hands to two awaiting counter-terrorism officers. They laid him on the ground and searched him for around two minutes before taking him away.

Passengers and crew had earlier been seen leaving the aircraft, including one who climbed out of the cockpit window.

 Egypt Air Airbus A-320 on the tarmac of Larnaca aiport after it was hijacked and diverted to Cyprus. PHOTO BY AFPEgypt Air Airbus A-320 on the tarmac of Larnaca aiport after it was hijacked and diverted to Cyprus. PHOTO BY AFP

“The passengers are safe and the crew is safe,” Egypt’s civil aviation minister Sherif Fathy said on state television minutes after Cyprus said the hijacker had been taken into custody.

Egypt’s Prime Minister Sharif Ismail said in televised remarks that the alleged hijacker was an Egyptian and had demanded to speak to a European Union representative.

Officials earlier said there was no link to “terrorism” in the incident and that the hijacker had demanded to see a Cypriot woman who was his estranged lover, with whom he had children. (click here for relates story about estranged wife)

‘Psychologically unstable’

“This is not about terrorism. This is about the individual action of a person who is psychologically unstable,” said the Cypriot foreign ministry’s permanent secretary, Alexandros Zenon.

The EgyptAir plane landed at the airport in the southern coastal city of Larnaca at 8:50 am (0550 GMT), after the hijacker had contacted the control tower 20 minutes earlier to demand the diversion.

Egyptian civil aviation said he had threatened to detonate an explosives belt on the Airbus A-320, which had been headed from the Mediterranean coastal city of Alexandria to Cairo.

Most of the passengers were allowed to disembark after the plane landed, but a handful of crew and passengers had remained on board until shortly before the hijacker’s arrest.

Fathy had told a press conference that the captain, a co-pilot, an air hostess and a security guard, along with three passengers, had remained on board after other passengers and crew were released.

Fathy said there had been 55 passengers on board the plane and that the hijacker had demanded it land in either Turkey or Cyprus.
The plane had been carrying 21 foreigners including eight Americans, four Dutch citizens, four Britons and a French citizen, an Egyptian civil aviation ministry statement said.

Egypt Air flight routeEgypt Air flight route to Cyprus

Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades had earlier told reporters the incident appeared to be motivated by personal reasons.

“The hijacking is not terrorism-related,” he told a joint news conference with the visiting president of the European Parliament, Martin Schultz.

Asked about reports that the hijacker had demanded to see a Cypriot woman, Anastasiades laughed and said: “Always there is a woman.”

Flights diverted

Cyprus’s Sigma television reported that the woman had been brought to the airport from her home village of Oroklini, accompanied by a young child.

State radio had earlier reported that the man was demanding asylum and had asked for a translator.

Cyprus government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said on Twitter that Anastasiades had spoken by telephone with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

The incident came after a Russian airliner was downed on October 31 over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people on board. The Islamic State group claimed to have smuggled a bomb on board the plane.

Larnaca is no stranger to hostage crises. Several hijacked planes were diverted to the airport in the last few decades.

In August 1996, a Sudan Airways Airbus A-310 was hijacked by seven Iraqis between Khartoum and Amman with 199 people on board. After a stopover in Larnaca it flew on to London’s Stansted airport, where the hijackers gave themselves up.

In 1988, a Kuwait Airways flight hijacked en route from Bangkok to Kuwait was diverted to Iran’s second city Mashhad and later to Larnaca, where hijackers killed two Kuwaiti passengers and dumped their bodies on the tarmac.

In February 1978, an Egyptian commando unit stormed a hijacked Cyprus Airways DC-8 at Larnaca airport, where 15 passengers were being held hostage. Some 15 Egyptian soldiers were killed and 15 wounded in a firefight with Cypriot forces. All the hostages were freed and the hijackers arrested.

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click here for relates story about estranged wife

Larnaca, Cyprus | AFP |

The hijacker of an EgyptAir plane diverted to Cyprus has an estranged Cypriot wife he has demanded to see and who is being brought to Larnaca airport, a government source said.

The woman lives in the village of Oroklini not far from the airport, the source told AFP.

 Egypt Air Airbus A-320 on the tarmac of Larnaca aiport after it was hijacked and diverted to Cyprus. PHOTO BY AFPEgypt Air Airbus A-320 on the tarmac of Larnaca aiport after it was hijacked and diverted to Cyprus. PHOTO BY AFP

Everyone on board the hijacked EgyptAir flight has been released except for four crew members and three passengers, Egypt’s civil aviation minister said.

Sherif Fathy told a press conference that the captain, a co-pilot, an air hostess and a security man remained on board, along with the three passengers.

He said there had been 55 passengers on board the plane, which was headed from Alexandria to Cairo, when the hijacker demanded it land in either Turkey or Cyprus.

“He had no gun or anything. We don’t know yet whether his (explosives) belt is real but for the safety of passengers we are dealing with it as real,” he said.

A plane will head to Larnaca  to pick up the released passengers, he said.

Egypt Air flight routeEgypt Air flight route to Cyprus

Meanwhile, the hijacking is not related to terrorism, the island’s Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades said.

“The hijacking is not terrorism-related,” he told a joint news conference with the visiting president of the European Parliament, Martin Schultz.

Asked about reports that the hijacker had demanded to see a Cypriot woman, Anastasiades said: “Always there is a woman.”

Flights diverted

Cyprus’s Sigma television reported that the woman had been brought to the airport from her home village of Oroklini, accompanied by a young child.

State radio had earlier reported that the man was demanding asylum and had asked for a translator.

Cyprus government spokesman Nicos Christodoulides said on Twitter that Anastasiades had spoken by telephone with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

The incident came after a Russian airliner was downed on October 31 over Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula, killing all 224 people on board. The Islamic State group claimed to have smuggled a bomb on board the plane.

Larnaca is no stranger to hostage crises. Several hijacked planes were diverted to the airport in the last few decades.

In August 1996, a Sudan Airways Airbus A-310 was hijacked by seven Iraqis between Khartoum and Amman with 199 people on board. After a stopover in Larnaca it flew on to London’s Stansted airport, where the hijackers gave themselves up.

In 1988, a Kuwait Airways flight hijacked en route from Bangkok to Kuwait was diverted to Iran’s second city Mashhad and later to Larnaca, where hijackers killed two Kuwaiti passengers and dumped their bodies on the tarmac.

In February 1978, an Egyptian commando unit stormed a hijacked Cyprus Airways DC-8 at Larnaca airport, where 15 passengers were being held hostage. Some 15 Egyptian soldiers were killed and 15 wounded in a firefight with Cypriot forces. All the hostages were freed and the hijackers arrested.

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