Chapter 24: Accession
Six new flags were raised outside the commission building
“On 1 January 2007 the EU welcomed six new Member States and over 100 million people to the European Union. This completes the EU's historic four rounds of enlargement reuniting Europe after decades of division. To mark this important day President of the Commission, Margo Wallstrom said: “The 1 January 2007 is a historic day to celebrate. I congratulate the people and leaders of our new members for the courage, determination, and work in preparing for membership. I thank the people and the leaders of the EU for their vision in supporting this project. I also welcome the six new Commissioners, I look forward to working with them.” Enlargement Commissioner Günter Verheugen added: "My warm welcome to the people of our new member states." - Six new members join the EU family, EU Commission Press Release (2007)
On new year's day 2007, The United Kingdom joined the EU. Several thousand British citizens emigrated on the first day alone, many of them younger folk moving for study or graduate jobs, and many of the other medical professionals lured by the promise of a better life on the continent. Whilst there weren’t cataclysmic scenes at the banks like some feared, there were a flood of last-minute panic withdrawals as people switched their pound notes for Euros. The EU was raised in London, and the Union Flag was hoisted outside the EU building in Brussels. Britain was now officially in Europe, and Britain was now legally the EU’s problem.
Things got off to a rocky start when the EU announced they were raising inflation rates by 0.5%, the sudden flood of Euros needed to sustain new members, as well as the deteriorating global economy meant inflationary actions had to be taken. This didn’t set a brilliant opening tone for a country that had crawled into the EU for the very promise of economic salvation. For those who hoped accession would solve Britain’s financial woes, they were found very much wrong, many miles of hard work still lay ahead for the treasury if Britain was to ever recover.
Nor did EU membership fix Britain’s internal woes. The Peace Pledge Union was an organisation of secular pacifists set up in the 1930s, whilst they faced brutal repression under the Junta they had survived until present day, now they campaigned for justice and reconciliation in the transition and an end to Britain’s military industrial complex. For the last several weeks the PPU had set up camp around MoD Donnington, near Telford. Donnington remained one of Britain’s largest arsenals, storing much of the military’s equipment. A lot of this equipment mysteriously found its way onto the international black market during the dying days of the Junta years, with the base’s management famously corrupt.
Suprise military "exercises" were still common place
“Many attribute the British Military to the "manifest destiny" model of political militaries. This model conceptualises that military officials consider themselves superior to civilians as the only savior of the nation. Under this model, the military justifies intervention on the basis that civilian regimes suffer from mal-administration. They believe it is only the military that can protect and defend the national interest. Another interpretation is the corporatist model. According to this model, the military is a corporate entity. This means that military individuals have collective tendencies and a singleness of purpose. The armed forces consider themselves different from civilians. Such a perception on the part of the military represents the conduct of civil-military relations as a zero-sum game.” - Corruption and the Military in Politics, Lecture by Muhammad Majeed, University of Glasgow
The PPU camp called for the base to be closed and the weapons within destroyed. The Donnington situation would come to a boiling point when a young activist attempted to climb the chain-link fence surrounding the base and hang a banner. The facility’s guards opened fire at the activist, killing him and injuring seven others. The young man’s name was Kareem Dennis, a young rapper from London, he was just 20 years old. Now usually a soldier firing into an unarmed crowd and killing a 20-year-old would be swept under the rug, no longer was this the case. Now came the question of what to do with the soldier who shot Dennis.
Dennis, known better by his rap handle "Lowkey" was a major figure in the anti-military movement
Luckily for “Soldier A” as the court case called him, he had friends in high places. Several leading military officers, both serving and former lept to the defence of Soldier A, arguing he had acted in self-defence and the PPU activists were attempting to storm the armory. One of his loudest supporters was former Minister of Labour General Jonathon Riley who declared Soldier A’s prosecution was an “attack on all servicemen''. Privately Defence Secretary Charles Guthrie warned Justice Secretary David Miliband not to prosecute Soldier A, warning the military was a powder keg waiting to go off. Nonetheless, Soldier A had to be held accountable for his actions.
After a several-month-long court-martial with strong civilian oversight from the MOJ, Soldier A was convicted, his name was revealed as Jonny Banks. However, Banks’ conviction pleased no one. Banks was convicted of manslaughter, and sentenced to only four years in prison, the minimum manslaughter sentence under British law. Banks’ conviction had been the most expensive and high profile court-martial in British history, behind the scenes it was a tug of war between the Ministry of Defence, unwilling to throw one of their own to the wolves, and the Ministry of Justice, eager to see Banks in prison.
The high-level intervention from Guthrie and other senior military officials was reported on by the progressive press, whilst the Junta was no longer in charge, the military could still tip the scales whenever they wanted and the MoD was still far too powerful. Protesters on both sides, backed up by paramilitaries from the Red Brigades and Civil Assistance, immediately burst into violence again outside Bulford Camp where the court-martial was held. The base had to be locked down and armed riot police had to be dispatched to separate the crowds and calm them down. Not only did the Banks’ court-martial agitate the military, it also greatly harmed the reputation of the British justice system. It was not the first time military crimes had been left off leniently.
“Colonel Peter Oliver, had been standing trial for two years for negligently performing a duty. But a judge yesterday ruled that there was no case to answer, as charges against Col Oliver and five of his men were abandoned. It came on the 600th day of the trial, which army sources say will cost the taxpayer over 30 million. Col Oliver's men had been accused of mistreating civilians detained during the occupation of Glasgow in the 2003 General Strike. It was alleged that some of the colonel's men abused detainees. This included keeping them hooded and deprived of sleep, - interrogation "conditioning", banned under international law. One of the prisoners, John Glen, 26, a hotel receptionist, died. The prosecution had alleged that Col Oliver did not ensure the detainees were treated according to international law.” - Judge orders charges dropped against six soldiers accused of abuses, The Scotsman (2007)
Many officers avoided justice for crimes commited during the fall of the Junta