Europe Hostage to the Ludicrous Hyperbole of the Spanish Constitution 111

Borders shift, over time, as the tides of human history and interaction ebb and flow. They always have and they always will. A Historic Atlas of Europe at 100 year intervals shows up the constant flux.

All within only the last 100 years, even a really major state like Poland has started by not existing at all, having been abolished 130 years previously, then come back into existence for two decades, then been abolished again, then been reinstated once more but entirely shifted a full two hundred miles westward from its previous incarnation.

There have been six truly major boundary and status changes to Germany in the last 150 years, the last only 27 years ago.

A glance at a historical atlas of Europe century by century shows a kaleidoscope of continuing shifts in states as they form and reform, move, merge and dissolve. It is the normal state of Europe. Nor is it in any sense slowing down; this is not a process which has stopped. Even in the short period since I left university, eight states currently members of the European Union have undergone truly drastic changes to their national boundaries or nation state status.

Even Hitler was only nuts enough to think his Reich would last for a thousand years. Spain (which incidentally was almost entirely Muslim a thousand years ago) tops Hitler for mad ambition. Spain believes its current borders will last forever. The Constitution specifies the “indissoluble unity” of Spain. This plainly mad claim is the entire basis of the “legalistic” stance of Rajoy. An excellent article today by Gerry Adams in the Guardian points out that Rajoy is making negotiation impossible by insisting on the precondition that it is illegal even to discuss Catalan independence.

I do not know how long the human race will last. I tend to the optimistic assumption that it will have a good few thousand more years to run. It is vaguely amusing that some people believe that, whatever the state of Europe and human societal organisation in 3017, there will still be an indissoluble Spanish nation with its existing frontiers. I suspect those people like to forget that in 1017 their ancestors were Muslims. They also, of course, do want to see a border change in having Gibraltar returned to Spain – something in which I always supported them unequivocally, until the Guardia Civil in Catalonia beating old women one Sunday, and the fascists marching down the street the next, gave me doubts.

I suppose if you are a right wing Catholic you are more inclined to a mystical view of indissoluble human unions that people whose life view is more grounded in reality. Nobody in their right mind believes any of Europe’s current political boundaries will last forever. The entire Western Establishment and media did not just recognise, but pushed for, their dissolution when it was Yugoslavia or Serbia in question. But they have now, for reasons of right wing solidarity, adopted Spain’s “indissoluble union” hyperbole. Even Establishment outlets like the Economist which once claimed intellectual credentials, proclaim this daft clause as though it were God’s writ.

The boundaries of Europe change, all the time. They have throughout human history. The pace of those natural shifts has not slowed. It is part of the ebb and flow of human societies on this wonderful, culturally rich continent. To attempt suddenly to freeze all national borders is not just gross hypocrisy, given the attitude of the same political leaders to other border changes and to Spain’s demand for Gibraltar. It is an effort that could only be sustained by ever-increasing use of violence.

Spain has decided to stand on the crazed idea that it is indissoluble. The logic of that is that, if 100% of Catalans or Basques were to seek Independence, it still should not be allowed. Is that really a position Europe’s politicians wish to adopt?

Allowed HTML - you can use: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

111 thoughts on “Europe Hostage to the Ludicrous Hyperbole of the Spanish Constitution

1 2
  • Rose

    The short answer Craig, to your question looks like “yes”. But then independence from prevailing powerful interests is never on the cards is it – hence war and rumours of war, plus the bread and circuses thrown at the populace.
    There can never be too much violence on the planet for war-mongers and those who feed off it. ‘Twas ever thus.

  • Geoff

    Safer ground here. The resident Russophiles won’t be leaping in to attack Craig for daring to suggest that all is not utopian

    • Martinned

      Well, until someone points to art. 4(3) of the Constitution of the Russian Federation:

      The Russian Federation shall ensure the integrity and inviolability of its territory.

      • reel guid

        That sounds more like a pledge to defend rather than a prohibition on self-determination. But you’re the lawyer.

        • Martinned

          1. Assuming that there is a distinction, I would have thought that Craig would disapprove of a pledge to defend just as much as a formal prohibition on self-determination.

          2. The Russian constitution means whatever Putin says it means. Legal skills aren’t very useful in such a setting. For example, the Constitution of the Russian Federation also says this:

          Article 29

          1. Everyone shall be guaranteed the freedom of ideas and speech.

          2. The propaganda or agitation instigating social, racial, national or religious hatred and strife shall not be allowed. The propaganda of social, racial, national, religious or linguistic supremacy shall be banned.

          3. No one may be forced to express his views and convictions or to reject them.

          4. Everyone shall have the right to freely look for, receive, transmit, produce and distribute information by any legal way. The list of data comprising state secrets shall be determined by a federal law.

          5. The freedom of mass communication shall be guaranteed. Censorship shall be banned.

  • Martinned

    I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

    • Carl

      It would be interesting to hear Craig’s view on whether the secessionists of the slave south should have been allowed their breakaway nation, each of the seceding states having democratically voted for separation from the USA. Last week he said the neoliberal political and economic motives of the leaders of Catalan secession should be considered irrelevant, that shared culture and democratic will were insuperable justifications for separation. By that measure, should not the slaveholding Confederate States of America also have been recognised as legitimate? (As they were in fact by Great Britain).

      • Martinned

        Indeed. Note the words of Chase, CJ in Texas v. White (1869):

        The Union of the States never was a purely artificial and arbitrary relation. It began among the Colonies, and grew out of common origin, mutual sympathies, kindred principles, similar interests, and geographical relations. It was confirmed and strengthened by the necessities of war, and received definite form and character and sanction from the Articles of Confederation. By these, the Union was solemnly declared to “be perpetual.” And when these Articles were found to be inadequate to the exigencies of the country, the Constitution was ordained “to form a more perfect Union.” It is difficult to convey the idea of indissoluble unity more clearly than by these words. What can be indissoluble if a perpetual Union, made more perfect, is not?

      • craig Post author

        No, because nobody asked the slaves.

        You could of course ask precisely the same question about USA secession in 1776, which was largely motivated by the founding father’s worry about a threat to their personal slaves, following the judgement of Lord Mansfield.

        • Carl

          So where do you stand on the existence of the USA in that case, given the slaves were allowed no say in its formation either?

          • craig Post author

            I think the existence of the USA is a terrible historical crime perpetrated on the genocide of the native American population.

          • Clayton Bradt

            ” I think the existence of the USA is a terrible historical crime perpetrated on the genocide of the native American population.” In your view, did this crime begin with the initial colonization, or only after idependence?

        • Calyton Bradt

          Re: Sommerset’s Case (Printed in The London Chronicle, June 18–20, 1772)

          “It is said that some generous humane persons subscribed to the expence of obtaining liberty by law for Somerset the Negro. It is to be wished that the same humanity may extend itself among numbers; if not to the procuring liberty for those that remain in our Colonies, at least to obtain a law for abolishing the African commerce in Slaves, and declaring the children of present Slaves free after they become of age.
          By a late computation made in America, it appears that there are now eight hundred and fifty thousand Negroes in the English Islands and Colonies; and that the yearly importation is about one hundred thousand, of which number about one third perish by the gaol distemper on the passage, and in the sickness called the seasoning before they are set to labour. The remnant makes up the deficiencies continually occurring among the main body of those unhappy people, through the distempers occasioned by excessive labour, bad nourishment, uncomfortable accommodation, and broken spirits.3 Can sweetening our tea, &c. with sugar, be a circumstance of such absolute necessity? Can the petty pleasure thence arising to the taste, compensate for so much misery produced among our fellow creatures, and such a constant butchery of the human species by this pestilential detestable traffic in the bodies and souls of men? Pharisaical Britain! to pride thyself in setting free a single Slave that happens to land on thy coasts, while thy Merchants in all thy ports are encouraged by thy laws to continue a commerce whereby so many hundreds of thousands are dragged into a slavery that can scarce be said to end with their lives, since it is entailed on their posterity!”
          ~ B. Franklin

          I wonder how many founders thought that Mansfield’s decision was a threat to slave holder in America? Ben Franklin apparently did not.

  • willyrobinson

    A whole series of previous constitutions declared Spain to be indivisible and in dissoluble, containing such regions as Cuba, Colombia, Bolivia etc. Guess what happened…

  • reel guid

    There’ll always be an England apparently. And England shall be free. Unless of course you’re the Celtic add on nations that get told you’re coming out the EU.

  • Andrew

    You say “I suppose if you are a right wing Catholic you are more inclined to a mystical view of indissoluble human unions that people whose life view is more grounded in reality.”
    But didn’t Piugdemont receive a private Opus Dei education alongside the son’s of the corrupt Puyol’s – the family/clan that took a 3 percent commission on all public works in Catalunya, and supported the first Aznar regime in Madrid? Now if that doesn’t make someone a right wing catholic then what does. Or is the only good right wing catholic an independista?
    I’m really not sure you have the full picture, and now you seem to be referring to medieval wars as rational for a possible conflict in Spain.

    • tartanfever

      Good call Jerry,

      I’ve spent part of the weekend looking at this website, they are putting forward some interesting discussions and I would recommend everyone have a look at it.

  • Juteman

    If the present Spanish borders are set in stone forever, I expect them to give up any claim to Gibraltar.
    Maybe that’s why the UK is so supportive of Madrid?

  • Sm Sung

    ” I suspect those people like to forget that in 1017 their ancestors were Muslims.”

    Their ancestors weren’t muslims, they threw them out. Your ignorance of Spain is boundless.

      • Sm Sung

        An occupying force of invasion, squatting on the country for hundreds of years – mainly in the South, not so much in the North for a comparable period of time – is hardly a benevolent interpretation of “ancestors”.

        Nevertheless, when they mustered the forces they expelled them and their religion so they evidently didn’t view as benevolent. Victims of rape don’t usually honour the rapist as one of their relatives.

        • Martinned

          Who said anything about “benevolent”? If you go back far enough, most of my ancestors are Saxon hordes who raped and pillaged their way through Western Europe. Does that somehow not make them my ancestors?

  • reel guid

    I agree Craig. That’s an eminently sensible and mature article by Gerry Adams in the Guardian.

    But on the same website there is an article by Will Hutton which is as stupid as Adam’s is wise.
    Hutton trots out the usual platitudes about dark traditional nationalisms and implies that the bulk of the blame for the situation in Catalonia lies with the Catalan nationalists. He then has his usual unfair go at the SNP. Mentioning them in the same sentence as France’s Front National.

    Must do better Will. Read Gerry’s article about conflict resolution and how to make progress. It’ll improve your approach to these matters.

  • Alan

    Perhaps as an institution, the EU has become accustomed to thinking of major changes as requiring unanimity or at least a qualified majority. Or at least, they prefer to have more than simple majority support wherever possible, particularly when (even minority) opposition is entrenched and veto-wielding.

    This is where Catalonia *just* falls short of an undeniable threshold. As in Scotland, it’s clear that a plurality wants independence… but this support was definitely not at supermajority levels. Who’s going to argue with a, for example, 67% of 80% turnout or 90% of a 65% turnout?

    Oh, I understand the arguments that 50%+1 is enough and should be enough and how turnout can never reach 100% because of death, migration, etc. providing the status quo with an inbuilt advantage. Does the EU, though? At the federal decision-making level, it doesn’t really suffer from member states dying or slipping off unnoticed. I don’t know enough about voting patterns in the European parliament, but the last vote numbers I heard was something like 550-95. If that sort of consensus is the norm, then it’s quite obvious why the “Brussels bubble” is reluctant to get involved at this point. They prefer to talk it out until three fifths, two thirds or three quarters agree.

    • Martinned

      Oh, I understand the arguments that 50%+1 is enough and should be enough

      Could you share that understanding with the rest of the class, please?

      Constitutional amendments usually require more than a bare majority. That’s why it is so odd that – outside Switzerland – referendums amending the constitution (or, as in this case, doing things even more drastic than that) don’t contain such a requirement.

      • Alan

        No. It’s an understanding of the concept, not an agreement with said concept. Anyway, I already provided some reasons, in the rest of the sentence you partially quoted. In any case, I don’t want to argue about where the arbitrary line should be – 50%, 55%, 60%, 67%, 75% or 100%. All of those are valid(and invalid) in different situations, for different reasons.

        The main thrust of my post was to point out that the EU is accustomed to seeking supermajoritarian consensus. It is really reluctant to do anything with “only” 50%+1 support. Expecting extremely proactive intervention from the EU in the current situation is foolish and whoever believes otherwise has actually bought into the “federal superstate” rubbish. Hooked, lined, sunk.

  • tartanfever

    As I came late to previous discussions, I’m interested in people’s thoughts on the EU response to the Ukrainian coup a few years ago, which the EU backed monetarily and threatened sanctions on the Ukraine, yet was clearly unconstitutional and against a democratically elected government of the time.

    In other words, the complete opposite of the current Catalonian situation.

  • Stefen D

    You can rush into “Independence ” half-arsed as the UK has shown with the EU and in Catalans case, the little matter of €71 Billion worth of debt would need to be looked at The Basques ETA who ran a war for years against Madrid similar to the IRA that killed many. The Catalans had Terra Lliure who operated on a minor scale compared to the Basques. Why then are the Basques so quite?. The Basque Country and Navarre are the only two regions that collect their own taxes and transfer a portion of them to the Spanish Treasury. The percentage (“cupo”) is negotiated between Spain and the Basque Country and Navarre separately, and it is greater than their share of population or GDP. Handling their own taxes gives them a level of economic autonomy far greater than that enjoyed by Catalan authorities. I suggest that the Catalans are looking for the same deal and that the optics of independence are economic based, the Catalans are shrewd business people.

  • Lolwhites

    The Spanish transition to democracy took place under the watchful eye of Francoist generals who were quite ready to stage a coup if things went too far for their liking; in fact, this actually happened in 1981. At the time, it’s unlikely that they would have settled for anything less than “indissoluble unity” in the constitution. The fact that Mariano Rajoy clings to this provision rather than have a sensible conversation about its appropriateness in 2017 tells you all you need to know abot the man.

  • John D Monkey

    I read with interest the interview with Rajoy in El Pais.

    I look forward to his announcement that Spain is withdrawing their claim on Gibraltar, since seizing it would clearly dissolve the current borders of Spain and since he says “There is no government in the world that is prepared to accept talking about the unity of its country nor about the threat to the unity of its country. Nothing can be constructed under the threat of blackmail.”

    Not holding my breath…

  • reel guid

    As I said the other day, this is the ‘unity’ of Unity Mitford. It’s saying the principle of self-determination is overturned and the big bully should hold sway because might is right.

    Meanwhile the SNP Government have reached their target of reducing youth unemployment by 40%. Four years ahead of schedule.

    Also, when the SNP first took office 10 years ago only 12% of pupils in Glasgow got three or more higher passes. Now it’s more than 30%.

    Just more evidence of the SNP fixating about independence and not getting on with the day job. That’ll be why they’re languishing 17% ahead of both Labour and the Tories in the polls.

    • Republicofscotland

      Yes reel guid, the SNP are certainly getting on with the day job. The other Westminster puppet parties at Holyrood, Greens aside, have no policies except to constantly bleat out, no second referendum.

        • Republicofscotland

          Yeah the wheels turn slowly at Holyrood, especially when you have three Britnat parties, questioning and opposing your every move.

          Being a minority government doesn’t help.

          • Martinned

            If the SNP can’t find enough common ground with, say, the Greens or Labour to form a majority government, they really have no one to blame but themselves. At least in Westminster they can plead ignorance, their system is not set up to promote compromise. But with the election system for Holyrood coalitions should be the ordinary course of events, and if the SNP don’t win an absolute majority they shouldn’t blame the other parties’ unwillingness to have another indyref as a reason why a coalition is impossible.

          • Republicofscotland

            They have found common ground with the Greens, it was the Greens who backed the SNP, on a majority mandate for a second indyref.

  • Republicofscotland

    Catalan representative receives standing ovation at SNP conference in Glasgow. Whilst SNP members wave Catalan flags in solidarity.

  • harrylaw

    Gerry Adams contribuion to conflict resolutions in Catalonia mentioned by Craig is welcome, unfortunately it took 30 years, 3,289 deaths and 42,000 injured during the ‘troubles’ in Northern Ireland for him to arrive at the conclusion that the people of Northern ireland [Catholic and Protestant] have the right to self determination. This was agreed by the terms of the Good Friday Agreement when the Irish Republic agreed to change articles two and three of its constitution [which claimed the whole Island of Ireland and its territorial waters as its own] The Republic changed its constitution from a ‘claim’ [which, it must be said, the Provos were only trying to enforce] to an ‘aspiration’ and it did so in 1999 with a yes vote of 94.39% to 5.6% No. This complemented the border poll in Northern Ireland in 1973 which was 98.8% to remain part of the UK to 1.2% to leave [Sinn fein boycotted the poll, so only a 56% turnout] All perfectly democratic and in theory [since there can be no change in the constitutional position of NI within the UK without a majority agreeing to it, there is no need for armed conflict in the future.

    • frankywiggles

      Northern Ireland was created in perfectly undemocratic circumstances, due to the threat of bigoted Orange terror.

    • graph

      It took him 30 years harry or the british government. from the guardian piece I would suggest the latter.

      Out of interest, what would your reaction be to mass imprisonment of your family, friends, neighbours and community for the ‘crime’ of being a different religion to the sectarian throne? Interment without trial.

      What would your reaction be to the execution of civil rights marchers campaigning for equal access to housing, transport and education denied to them because of their religion? Men, women (one pregnant), children, priest.

      How would you react to state collusion (funded by the taxman) in the execution of innocent people within your own community?

      If I remember correctly the ‘troubles’ began with the need for an army presence due to loyalist mobs burning catholic communities out of their homes, no? For being catholic. british civility full throttle.

      Its unfortunate the army decided to emulate the black and tans shortly after arriving. Sharing their weapons with loyalist death squads, providing intelligence and targets, colluding in state funded terrorism. Are you happy your tax money funded death and destruction on your neighbouring island?

      But hay ho Gerry Adams has finally seen the light.

      Does the uk still not negotiate with ‘terrorists’? that would suggest the uk does not recognize the IRA as a terrorist organisation, right? Or is your government just full of shit to this day?

      • harrylaw

        graph, Thanks for your reply. When Northern Ireland came into being, the Unionist’s only wanted to be governed like the rest of the UK, their leaders knew well that it would be seen as Protestants governing Catholics and wanted no part of it, a sort of “Factory of Grievances ” but the British government thought they Knew best and forced Stormont on the Northern Irish people, hoping that the two parts of Ireland would merge together, this did not happen but the arrangement hobbled along for the next 40 years with Stormont rubber stamping Westminster Legislation, where possible, until what the Unionists said was inevitably going to happen, did happen,with explosive results. When the Stormont “experiment” was suspended in 1972, Westminster took over and governed directly from London, all major UK political parties refused to put up candidates to contest those Westminster seats, they did this even though they should have been obligated to fight seats in every part of the UK, the Labour party constitution for instance actually said ” it’s aim was ” To establish in the country and in every constituency, a political Labour party” the party did not take this seriously when it came to Northern Ireland, any application for membership from Catholics or Protestants or socialists and Trade unionists [most TU in NI were in UK based unions] resident in NI were thrown in the bin. Many spurious excuses were given for this discrimination, one of them ” we do not have a constituency organization in NI and that is the only way to join” so a group of socialists got together and formed the ” South Belfast Constituency association ” and applied to affiliate with the party. No dice, more excuses. Then a court case at the Westminster Industrial Tribunal found the Labour party guilty of discriminating against residents of NI by refusing them membership of the party, under the terms of the 1968 Race Relations Act, later overturned on appeal on a technicality, now with more threats of legal action the LP has agreed to set up a Province wide Labour Forum with a view to contesting seats in all NI constituencies. The clear issue here is if you cannot vote for the party that governs you and it is the Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem ones that ultimately Govern NI, then you effectively have no vote. Catholic and Protestant socialists and Trade Unionists had been told you can only vote for your local sectarian parties and we will make sure you cannot breakout of that straightjacket and vote with your class instincts and make decisions with like minded citizens in the rest of the UK, at Westminster.

        • frankywiggles

          Unionist leaders did not want to be “seen as Protestants governing Catholics”. Heavens no, the very last thing they wanted! All the records show they strove to make their little Orange statelet a place of matchless civic equality, a non-sectarian nirvana.

          So, too, their collaborators in creating “Northern Ireland”, now rightly recognized as some of the noblest, most committed democrats in modern western history.

          • harrylaw

            The constitutional position of Northern Ireland has been decided by all the people of Ireland freely voting in referendums first in 1973 in the Northern Ireland border poll, followed in 1999 with the Irish Republic voting to remove the claim of sovereignty over the whole Island of Ireland and its territorial waters. You may not like that, but the majority of Irish people do. When a majority of the people of Northern Ireland vote for Irish unity, then constitutional arrangements can be negotiated with the Republic to bring about that change amicably.
            Opinion polls over the years have indicated that at least half the Catholic population do not want a united Ireland.
            A 2011 survey by Northern Ireland Life and Times found that 52% of Northern Irish Catholic respondents favoured union with Great Britain over a united Ireland. This is despite the fact that most Catholics who vote do so for political parties that are Nationalist.
            According to a 2015 opinion poll, 70% expressed a long-term preference of the maintenance of Northern Ireland’s membership of the United Kingdom (either directly ruled or with devolved government), while 14% express a preference for membership of a united Ireland. This discrepancy can be explained by the overwhelming preference among Protestants to remain a part of the UK (93%), while Catholic preferences are spread across a number of solutions to the constitutional question including remaining a part of the UK (47%), a united Ireland (32%), Northern Ireland becoming an independent state (4%), and those who “don’t know” (16%).
            All that is now required is for Jeremy Corbyn to give all the people of Northern Ireland Catholic and Protestant alike the elementary right to vote for the party that aspires to govern them.

          • harrylaw

            I should add that all 18 Westminster seats in Northern Ireland are up for grabs. How can the Conservatives remain in power with the help of the sectarian DUP when the Labour party could repair the democratic deficit in Northern Ireland and allow the electorate there to vote on normal class issues, and condemn sectarianism to the dustbin of history. In Liverpool we also had Protestant and Catholic parties and almost a civil war between the sects, it was only with the growth of a strong Labour Party that sectarian politics was finally eradicated in the 1970’s.

        • graph

          Thanks you harrylaw for not answering any of the questions directed to you. Your comes across as extremely disingenuous in your blinkered ‘analysis’ of Irish historical matters.To be expected.

          Your back to the future flip flop justification of claim to the north through illegal and boycotted polls is laughable.

          When Northern Ireland came into being
          I see you do not address the democratic deficit at this point in Irish history. Why would that be?

          What right did a tiny minority of the population of the island have in annexing a portion of the country through a sham voting process whilst denying the vast majority of the population of the country a vote in said process? No problem with this harrylaw? World renowned British ‘democracy’.

          As for your reference of opinion polls below (fucking hell, opinion polls. After Brexit, Trump and GE’17 I’d imagine rational minds would steer clear of referencing ‘opinion polls’ as an accurate, solid source of information, but here we are) to somehow reinforce a justification to a continued illegal occupation of Ireland, to quote an intellect of our time – ‘So sad’. Well done you.

          If the polls you reference below are so robust why not hold the border poll guaranteed within the GFA now? After the Brexit referendum every Irish party called for it, every nationalist party in the north called for it. Only the loyalists and the Con party seem against such a vote taking place. Why would that be harrylaw? With such faith in ‘opinion polls’ you’d walk it, no?

          Either way the inevitable is only a matter of time. The reunification of the country will happen soon. If the ”ulster scots” have any problems with it they know where the ports are. I’m sure their klan flags, swastikas, bowler hats and bigotry will find a smooth transition if and when they do decide to return.

          I wonder was one of the preconditions holding up negotiations over the 30 years with Adams and the IRA that he had to have a voice over at the negotiation table? Ooooooh scary voice.

          • frankywiggles

            graph, you’ve identified a slight (gaping) hole in harry’s claim. If opposition to reunification is as rock-solid as harry is convinced it is, then surely it would be the rule Britannia brigade who’d be itching to have a border poll, confident the result would confirm harry”s claim and put the reunification question to bed for a generation or more.

            Of course, it’s possible that Arlene and the Tories aren’t aware of the polls harry mentions. If he could somehow let them know i’d be certain they’d quickly change their minds on a border poll.

            harry, the survival of the wee orange statelet could lie in your well-researched hands. Act NOW, to save her, man!!!

          • harrylaw

            graph, you do not seem to grasp the fact that the Irish people have spoken, North and South. The Republic of Ireland has acknowledged that Northern Ireland has the right to self determination and that there can be no change in the constitutional position of NI within the UK without a majority in NI voting in a referendum for it.
            The Nineteenth Amendment to the [Irish Republics] constitution allowed the government to ratify the Good Friday Agreement done at Belfast on 10 April 1998, which included changing articles 2 and 3 of the Irish constitution which effectively claimed Irish sovereignty over Northern Ireland. The agreement was also endorsed in the simultaneous referendum in Northern Ireland. Articles 2 and 3 were subsequently changed in December 1999.
            Nineteenth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland referendum[1] Choice Votes %
            Referendum passed Yes 1,442,583 94.39
            No 85,748 5.61
            Valid votes 1,528,331 98.90
            Invalid or blank votes 17,064 1.10
            Total votes 1,545,395 100.00
            Registered voters and turnout 2,747,088 56.26
            Northern Irish referendum in 1973. For staying part of UK 98.8% in favour 1.2% for a united Ireland. [poll boycotted by sinn fein]. Turnout 58%.. OK, forget the opinion polls. What is it about real polls you do not understand?
            Watch Martin McGuinness praising Ian Paisley in this clip.

          • frankywiggles

            Three facts you have continually and very conspicuously evaded when asked to address:

            1. The creation of “Northern Ireland” was laughably undemocratic.
            2. It was created to be, and for the vast majority of its existence was in fact, a bigoted Protestant supremacist entity.
            3. For all the polls and articles of Constitution you keep citing, loyalists are bitterly opposed to holding a border poll that would settle the reunification question decisively for another generation.

            Your evasion of these facts had already been pointed out to you and yet you’ve continued to pretend it hasn’t and have instead resorted to more desperate efforts at deflection. Very immature behaviour.

          • harrylaw

            Franywiggles. The problem with your arguments are that you refuse to look forward, and to recognise the new realities both the UK and Irish governments including Sinn Fein have had to face when signing up to the Good Friday Agreement [GFA] You obviously do not agree with the GFA, in that case are you going to pick up the armalite and confront both the British and Irish governments including Sinn Fein. For your information the reason Sinn Fein boycotted the 1973 referendum was because they knew how badly their side would lose. By all means have a new referendum, question is I suspect you would not respect that result either. You are living in the past, and you are no democrat.

          • frankywiggles

            Not arguments, harry, facts. All of which make a nonsense of your efforts to depict the orange statelet as a righteous wee country destined to see many centuries more.

      • harrylaw

        No doubt Catholics were discriminated against in NI however one of the slogans at the time was “one man one vote” this was the entitlement to vote at local government level, these reforms had been implemented in GB in 1948, those local government elections had different entitlements to vote based on property ownership, business ownership and such like, mainly in the inner cities, strangely because of the greater number of working class Protestants in these areas slated for reform, more Protestants than Catholics were disenfranchised, but in my opinion the greatest act of discrimination against all citizens of Northern Ireland was the refusal of the major political parties in GB to contest elections in NI, particularly the UK Labour party who steadfastly refused to accept membership applications from Catholic and Protestant workers alike resident in NI, it was a fact that British people resident in any part of the world could become a member of the British Labour party, except anyone resident in NI. At the time the British Labour party was uniquely placed to help end sectarianism in NI just as they had done in UK cities such as Glasgow and Liverpool, but they refused, not wanting to dirty their hands by getting involved with the working classes of both religions, but more importantly to keep NI at arms length from the politics of the rest of the UK, so workers could only vote for the local sectarian parties, but that’s another story.

  • Republicofscotland

    Well, Channel 4 news tonight certainly made no bones about which side it’s on, regarding Catalan independence.

    Channel 4 news referred to the Catalan’s as separatists, whilst claiming that economically it would be a disaster if UDI were to be declared tomorrow.

    Throw in Channel 4 news virtually claimed that yesterday’s crowds in Barcelona were the silent majority, even though we know that many, many Spaniards flooded into Bsrcelona to make their feelings know.

    Channel 4 news also using the news that France will not recognise a independent Catalonia, as stick to beat those that do support the self determination of Catalonia.

    Matt Frei, was the bringer of doom and gloom.

    Geez now Channel 4 news claiming that a poll shows Ruth Davidson is doing a better job than Nicola Sturgeon.

    John Snow is at the SNP conference.

  • Josep

    Craig, you are a historian and a cultivated man, please, don’t use arguments that are not historically accurate:

    The majority of Spain was not muslim 1000 years ago. The majority of Spain was never muslim, (I have nothing against muslims but it is just a fact) , neither the majority of our ancestors were muslims, just like DNA and historical data shows. Your argument is similar to somebody saying: “The majority of Jamaica was European” or “The ancestors of Jamaicans were British. The fact that most of Spain was conquered by 20.000 thousand arab soldiers didn’t change the religion, neither the language or the ethnicity of the local people.
    The country had by far a Christian majority.

    Regarding your point about the Spaniard Constitution, you are right; it is absurd to try to make impossible that a nation lives forever, having said that, the problem with The Catalonian referendum is that today, literally today, the Catalan government broke the Referendum law. In fact even if Spain law is not recognized, and even if the Constitution is out of the picture, last week referendum is still illegal (you can check today’s news for details)

    But at the end of the day all this is not about any metaphysical right about independence, it is about the consequences that follow independence. As you know Western countries didn’t recognize the right for Crimea to split from Ukraine and join Russia, they lied everybody during the Yugoslavian wars (I recommend to read interviews with CIA agent Robert Baer on the subject) , they wanted to hurt an enemy (Serbia) and a weak power (Russia) , independence movements are used as a rule to weak enemy countries just like we are seeing now in Syria.

    Could we debate about the philosofical wight of Syrian Kurds to secede? Could we arm the opposition and use militias? Sure, it is the normal policy.

    But you have to take on account that all that have consequences, that France is afraid that the problem will from to France in next decades (as you know there is a part of Catalonia that is in France) and as you probably know one of the Catalan deputies of CUP party said today (literally) that they will install a system of Capital control in Catalonia when they declare independence. As you also probably know that means usually huge lines in front of the banks, massive demonstration and people dead in the streets.

    So the real scenario is very complicated and many people here is very scared. Everything was peaceful 1 month ago, now we are talking about war in the streets. I will say it again, I don’t want a Yugoslavian solution for my country with dead people in the street and war for years and huge chances of a fascist counterattack wave that could end pulling the country.

    • craig Post author


      DNA cannot show if someone was a Muslim or not.
      The majority of Spain was Muslim. The thing that DNA has taught historians is that movements of ruling elites impact the genetic pool of the common people much less than had been previously presumed. It is an interesting Mediterraoena failing that people refuse to acknowledge the truth about switches of religious conversion in line with the ruling religion. The all want their ancestors to have been “pure”.

      • Josep

        Craig, the majority of Spain was not Muslim, we know that using several sources:

        1.- The army that invaded the country wasn’t a huge one, at no point exceded 30.000 soldiers. We know by DNA analysis that the middle eastern DNA in Spaniards is very low. I totally agree with you that people usually want to think that their ancestors have some kind of “purity” and what DNA shows us is just the oposite, we are all the result of very complex mixtures. And in fact the Spaniard DNA is a big cocktail. I agree with you that DNA doesn’t show the religion of a person, I think it is something obvious, but it is also obvious that it give us some context. In other words, If there is more people from X place and people from X place have Z religion then the chances that this Z religion is more spread are higher, of course it is not a sure thing because a minority can impose their religion to the majority but we can conclude analyzing other muslim areas that the religion growth was not fast at all because they were very tolerant (in that context)
        Even if formally maps show muslim rule in the majority of Spain except Asturias, the truth is that all the Duero area was only nominally under the Caliphate.
        I haven’t seen ever numbers of estimated muslim demographics in the Iberian peninsula during middle ages over 15% of the total population. Usually around 10%, with 5% of jews. Islam was not even close of being the main religion in the Iberian peninsula.
        In fact when muslim population was expeled from the country, the amount was 4% (of course some people had converted but that percentage at no point could go from 60%, 51% or even 30% in less than 150 years.

        • Laguerre

          This is nonsense, and typical anti-Muslim stuff. The Muslim army that landed in Spain was nearly all Berber. There were no Middle Easterners until a Syrian army arrived in 741-2. That’s why there’s little Middle Eastern DNA. The Muslims were mainly local converts and North Africans. The proportion of Muslims was much higher than you pretend – but of course they were ruthlessly ethnically cleansed by the Castilians after their conquest (not ‘reconquest’). Most converted to Catholicism (which is where your poor figures come from) and then formed a large part of the exodus to the Americas (to get away from the Castilian oppression of course).

          • Sm Sung

            Typical convivencia-style fantasy. For “converts”, read the offspring of booty/al-anfal. The muslims didn’t encourage conversion so they could use the local populace as indentured slaves paying their jizya. If it was such a wonderful place why did the Spanish fight back and throw them out?

            As for “ethnically cleansed”, ffs – invaders were thrown out. If it happened in Scotland you’d all be creaming yourselves.

          • Josep

            That is not correct, at no point the majority of Iberia was muslim. You are correct in one fact, the initial force of the invasion was majority Berber, that initial wave it is considered that was about 7000 -10.000 soldiers , with other waves during the VIII century that could put that number into the 30.000 territory, some of those ways coming from present day Jordan and Syria.

          • Martinned

            @SM Sung, @Josep: I get the joy of argument for argument’s sake, believe me, but is there any reason why you think this issue is important? Because it looks suspiciously like you’re taking the idea that there might have been many muslims in the Iberian peninsula at some point 1000 years ago as some kind of affront to Spanish dignity.

          • Josep

            You are totally right Martinned, it is not the main point of the article of Craig, just a detail and it is not worth start looking for bibliography or continue arguing about it. I think my professional background makes me passionate about history details. I stop here.

          • Martinned


            Works the same way for me when people throw around the phrase “right to self determination” without knowing what it means…

        • Ba'al Zevul

          Perhaps it would be helpful to suggest that, while the majority of the Spanish people may not have been Muslim, the rulers of most of Spain were, unequivocally, Muslim. And rather more tolerant – subject to payment of taxes – of Christians and J**s than the Christian rulers who succeeded them were of Muslims (and J**s)

          Muslim rule had a lasting influence on Spanish culture, and it is futile to deny the effect of Islam on Spanish identity. IMO in a good way.

      • Sm Sung

        “The majority of Spain was Muslim.”

        For a self-styled “Historian” you are completely ignorant and just trot our your prejudices. Listen to Josep, you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.

  • FranzB

    CM – “They also, of course, do want to see a border change in having Gibraltar returned to Spain – something in which I always supported them unequivocally, until the Guardia Civil in Catalonia beating old women one Sunday, and the fascists marching down the street the next, gave me doubts.”

    Gibraltar was ceded to Great Britain in 1713 as a fall out from the war of the Spanish Succession (after English and Dutch forces had captured the territory during that war in 1704). The Act of Union of Scotland and England in 1707 was partly at least to ensure that an independent Scotland wouldn’t make alliances against England during the war of the Spanish Succession. Once Brexit takes effect it’s entirely possible that Scotland will end the Act of Union. The EU will also be free to back Spain against the UK if Spain sends its Guardia Civil thugs into Gibraltar (perhaps to prevent any pro UK referendum).

    • Martinned

      Once Brexit takes effect it’s entirely possible that Scotland will end the Act of Union.

      Doubtful, since that’s not something that Scotland has the power to do.

        • Martinned

          The Acts of Union are primary law, and can only be abrogated by another piece of primary legislation. Prerogative and certain (other) obscure Acts of Queen in Council aside, only Parliament can make primary legislation in the UK under the constitution as it stands. So, to be brief, “ending” the Act of Union can only be done in Westminster.

          Ending the Union, on the other hand, might be possible unilaterally as well. I would like to continue to recommend the Verfassungsblog. Taking a (non-Spanish) post from yesterday, which I think is pretty much right:

          there is much confusion over the international law side of the conflict. It is by now quite clear – especially in light of the Kosovo Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice – that a declaration of independence would not violate international law. But does the international legal order grant Catalans also a right to secede? The principle of self-determination of peoples, enshrined in the UN Charter, the human rights covenants, and customary international law, is often interpreted as providing for a right to secession only in colonial contexts and, potentially, in cases of remedial secession when grave human rights violations and political oppression are at stake. But the text of the relevant provisions is not clear in this respect, and, as also noted by Zoran Oklopcic in his recent post, it is questionable whether, in an age of democracy, we should keep interpreting it in this restrictive way – in a way which is, naturally, favoured by governments interested in maintaining the unity of their territories. Peoples around the world – the Catalans among them – have taken the principle to bear a broader promise, one including the possibility of ‘the establishment of a sovereign and independent State, the free association or integration with an independent State or the emergence into any other political status freely determined by a people’, as the UN’s Friendly Relations Declaration puts it. Even if this might not imply outright secession, it should require governments to enter into a good-faith dialogue with the peoples concerned about the ways in which their self-determination can be realized – something the Spanish government has refused for years now despite numerous calls for it from the Catalan side – and potentially secession if that dialogue does not take place.

          • jake

            It was the jurist A C Dicey who said ” neither the Act of Union with Scotland, nor the Dentists Act, 1878 has more claim than the other to be considered a supreme law.’
            However I’m no Diceyan, but I will concede that as you say the Acts of Union are primary law, the point being of course that the primary law in this instance required an Act of both the English Parliament and an Act of the Scottish Parliament. It was a feature of the treaty and the laws which gave it effect that Scottish law ( as it existed) was retained. It remains to this day, Scots Law, quite distinct, ( in some ways perversely and/or anachoristically so). None the less it exists and is protected by these very same legal instruments. English law had no such protection; in fact it then ceased to exist. English Law became became British Law to that extent that it didn’t, in Scotland, have any effect contary to pre-existing Scots Law. In matters up to and including the Scottish Act of Union, Scots law ( in Scotland) is, and remains, the superior law/point of reference. Even that recent innovation, the Supreme Court, recognises this and is meticulously careful in this regard, restricting itself to making advisory or hortatory opinion ( however learned and wise).

            It won’t surprise you, I’m sure, that I’m impressed by the views of Lord Cooper who said
            ” The principle of the unlimited sovereignty of parliament is a distinctively English principle which has no counterpart in Scottish constitutional law….Considering that the Union legislation extinguished the parliaments of Scotland and England and replaced them by a new parliament, I have difficulty seeing why it should have been supposed that the new parliament of Great Britain must inherit all the peculiar characteristics of the English parliament but none of the Scottish parliament, as if all that happened in 1707 was that Scottish representatives were admitted to the parliament of England.”
            That being so, I’m sure you’ll follow my line of reasoning when I say that while it might be true that only the Uk parliament can modify or repeal the Act of Union passed by the then English parliament, it is for the Scottish people, not the Uk or any other parliament to be paramount in the matter of the Scottish Act of Union and the extent to which, if at all, it should continue to have effect.

            As to the matter of whether or not there is an obligation on the part of Scots to honour the spirit of the Treaty of Union, I’m of the view that is a matter for all Scots to consider in good concience. I note in passing though that had the Treaty of Genoa (1705) entered into by the Catalans and the English been honoured at all events in Barcelona then and now might have been quite different.

            While Bolingbroke said

            It is not for the interest of England to preserve the Catalan Liberties.
            —Henry St. John Bolingbroke, Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs; (Utrecht, 1713)

            The Lords reflected that:

            “[..] the Honour of the British Nation, always renowned for the Love of Liberty, and for giving Protection to the Assertors of it, was most basely prostituted and a free and generous People, the faithful and useful Allies of this Kingdom, were betrayed, in the most unparalleled Manner, into irrevocable Slavery.
            —Journal of the House of Lords, vol 19, 20 (1715)

  • Strategist

    “Even Establishment outlets like the Economist which once claimed intellectual credentials, proclaim this daft clause as though it were God’s writ.”

    Hmmm. The Economist has been a massive load of shit for the past 20 years at least. Intellectual pretensions – yes. But the reality has always struck me as resembling a well-funded symphony orchestra playing the same one note over and over again, every issue.

    • Josep

      Not only The economist, Craig is assuming that because it is an absurd concept to want to “live forever”, there are no countries who want to stay forever when in fact is the opposite, Countries rarely allow changing their borders easily. Usually wars are what changes border not referendums. I doubt referendums changed even 0’5 of the total borders since the French revolution.
      Even the Supreme Court claims that the union of Unted States is “Indestructible”

      “The Supreme Court has consistently interpreted the Constitution to be an “indestructible” union.[53] There is no legal basis a state can point to for unilaterally seceding.[55]”

      I think the Scottish solution is the best, but it is impossible to not take into account the context, The referendum in ireland wasn’t made the same way than the one in Scotland that is why the Ullster problem was created.
      When we talk about Catalonia we have to take on account that 75% of people in Spain (and not Catalan) is against it and that French government will support Madrid position. Former French Prime Minister, Mister Valls said two days ago:
      “There will be war in Europe if Spain falls”

      It is very clear that French are afraid that the process would spread to the part of Catalonia and Basque country that are inside France.

      The actual situation and the present context in Spain is not at all like the situation in the UK.

      • reel guid

        The situation between Spain and the UK was different in 2012 when Cameron signed the Westminster Agreement for the 2014 referendum. Now Westminster is denying Scotland a referendum, is taking us out the EU against our wishes and is not transferring powers from Brussels that are by definition devolved ones. Labour and the Lib Dems are fully backing the Tories on this suspension of Scottish democracy.

        So the situations in Catalonia and Scotland are not so dissimilar. If the British nationalist elites increasingly start behaving like Spanish nationalist elites and preventing the Scottish people making free democratic choices then it will erode what’s left of democracy in Britain overall.

        Corbyn and May are denying Scotland freedom and are taking on the characteristics of the Francoists in Madrid.

  • reel guid

    After the good SNP showing in the Holyrood voting intentions poll we have the YouGove poll for Westminser.
    The SNP are 10% ahead of Labour and again 17% ahead of the Tories. Davidson’s party is down to 23%. So much for all the hype about Ruth. The Scottish business community are getting sick of the Tories over Brexit. Most folk have had enough of Davidson playing the orange card.

  • Republicofscotland

    Westminster’s man in Scotland Governor General David (fluffy) Mundell, and his staging post, I mean Scotland Office, conveniently forgot to tell Holyrood about Brexit bills passing this month.

    The deliberate, sorry I meant, the accidental overlooking of the bills means Holyrood won’t be able to scrutinise the bills properly.

    • reel guid

      That was deliberate. The British nationalists think they can rub Scotland’s nose in it.

        • jake

          I mean, Mrs May has already said quite unequivocally that as PM she is far too grand to be talking with the likes of the First Minister of Scotland and that the Scottish Secretary is of a more appropriate rank to act as the intermediary. He’s a message boy…and he can’t even do the messages. He needs to consider his position.

  • Dolphinfish

    A thousand years ago the southern two thirds of the Iberian Peninsula was ruled by Muslims; it was never “almost entirely Muslim”.

  • freddy

    France is under Martial Law for the last two years.
    France will help Spain to suppress Catalonia, with the say so of President Macron.

  • Njegos

    The EU has zero credibility on issues of self-determination. This was obvious after Bosnia where a vote to separate from Jugoslavija was confused with a vote for an independent Bosnia.

    25 years later Bosnia remains a failed state.

1 2

Comments are closed.