There was a bit of a Why the show organisers decided that it was appropriate for a show in Wales to be sponsored by the ministry with responsibility only for England rather than the relevant Welsh minister, and then to allow that ministry to determine the branding, is an interesting question in itself. The politicians protesting against the outcome are attacking the branding and the minister concerned; the real target here should probably be the show organisers, even if itâ€™s a lot easier to attack â€˜Londonâ€™. Once the decision was taken, the fact that the ministry for agriculture in England then took a very English (in terms of language) and Anglo-British (in terms of nationality) approach should hardly come as a surprise to anyone. earlier this week about the branding of food at the Royal Welsh Show in Llanelwedd.
I donâ€™t see this as a direct result of Brexit, but it certainly looks like a result of the same underlying philosophy, which is all about British exceptionalism and trying to restore Britainâ€™s place in the world based on an idealised image of a long-gone past. For those who see â€˜standing together against the rest of the worldâ€™ as the natural role of this â€˜proud island nationâ€™, encouraging people to identify with their view of what Britain is becomes a necessary concomitant of their vision. Eliminating what they see as the fragmentation of identity which has occurred in recent decades is another. And, dare I say it, even if they didnâ€™t realise that this was what they were voting for, a majority of the Welsh electorate supported this in the referendum two years ago – the Anglo-British nationalists have some justification for assuming that this is what ‘we’ want.
It isnâ€™t just Brexit driving the rebranding. The referendum on Scottish independence in 2014 gave the Anglo-British establishment quite a scare; the extent to which people felt increasingly Scottish rather than properly British took them by surprise. Itâ€™s another good reason, from their perspective, for trying to reimpose a more standard identity: rolling out union flags, the armed forces and royals at every opportunity.
Whatever the outcome of the Brexit process, if Brexit goes ahead trade with the EU27 will become more difficult than it is now, and in most scenarios (certainly all those currently being supported by the Labour and Conservative parties), there will be tariffs on agricultural products. For those who see this as a good thing (‘taking back control’ etc.) one probable outcome of a reduction in cross border flows of agricultural produce is that we will all be encouraged to â€˜buy Britishâ€™; indeed, we may find that we no longer have much choice in the matter. Another is that the government will be investing more in trying to promote exports of agricultural products to a wider market. For the simple souls who are currently in charge of the country, all of that becomes easier if there is a common branding to start with â€“ and if that just happens to reinforce their view of identity at the same time, well thatâ€™s a bonus.
I know that some independentistas support Brexit because they see the EU as an organisation which will develop into some sort of super state in which individual nations will have less freedom and independence. I think theyâ€™re wrong; I think that a combination of continued external enlargement alongside the probable internal enlargement will eventually lead to a rather different outcome – more like a confederation than a federation. It could be me whoâ€™s wrong, of course; none of us can predict the future with absolute certainty. I cannot, though, foresee any future for Europe in which individual nationalities and identities are not protected and celebrated; Europe is too diverse for any single identity to be imposed on the rest. Wales as a nation and member state would be in the same position as all the other member states and nations. On the other hand, I can very definitely see a post-Brexit scenario in which a centralising government in London seeks to reimpose a single national identity; and weâ€™re seeing signs of that already. The more of a crisis that Brexit provokes, the more the â€˜wartime spiritâ€™ will be invoked. (Itâ€™s a perspective from which the demand for extreme Remainers to be doesnâ€™t look as outlandish as it appears to the rest of us.)
Iâ€™ve argued from the outset that Brexit should never have been primarily about economics from an independentista perspective, and those independentistas who tried to make the case primarily on economic grounds missed an opportunity. It is about Walesâ€™ place in the world. Do we want to be a European state enjoying the same level of independence as other European states, or do we want to be part of an isolationist UK in which a single identity predominates, and is increasingly imposed on the peripheries? I can understand why some independentistas say that neither option is perfect but the problem with rejecting the only two realistic options as things currently stand is that weâ€™ll still end up with one of them anyway. And we can clearly see which it will be.