Truly then I fear you are damned both by father and mother. Thus when I shun Scylla your father, I fall into Charybdis your mother. Well, you are gone both ways.
– Launcelot, “The Merchant of Venice”
As someone who loves his history & mythology, I often think of the trials of Odysseus. The episode of Scylla and Charybdis, the two monstrous terrors which dwell on opposite sides of the Straits of Messina which the Argo must navigate, is one of the more famous tales. On the one side, you had the horrific six-headed Scylla, each frightful head bristling with triple rows of crushing teeth; on the other, the merciless whirlpool of Charybdis, sucking ships down into the black maw. You cannot navigate the Strait down the middle: you have to lean to one side. Do you brave the polycephalic nightmare, or the relentless force of nature? You are gone both ways.
I was thinking of this in regards to yesterday’s post. The Greenland-Iceland-UK Gap could be considered a strait of sorts, with the horrors being man-made rather than mythological. We even have our own Charybdis – guess we know what our Scyllas are.
First of all, I mentioned the 6,000 square miles of stolen Scottish maritime territory. Looking at Ireland, their plight is magnified: not only are they cut off from the EU by sea, their own sea boundaries have a great knife plunging from Cornwall into the Atlantic. When the UK was part of the EU, this was no problem – but as soon as England & Wales decided to leave, all of a sudden, Ireland became very isolated. And unfortunately, even an independent Scotland outside the EU wouldn’t be able to help.
It’s only looking at the map again that I notice: Blair & Dewar’s carving just happened to cut off Scotland’s connection to the Danish and German EEZs, and gave them straight to England (as well as a bit of Norway):
Prior to the 1999 Sea Grab, Scotland was – at least in maritime terms – contiguous with those two nations, all through that tiny stretch due east of Edinburgh. Even in the event Scotland becomes independent, we will no longer have maritime continuity with Germany & Denmark – unless, of course, we get our waters back. Then, not only would Scotland have that tiny sliver of continuity, but Ireland would too.
Why is this important? Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) are big deals for island nations:
1. In the exclusive economic zone, the coastal State has:
(a) sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring and exploiting, conserving and managing the natural resources, whether living or non-living, of the waters superjacent to the seabed and of the seabed and its subsoil, and with regard to other activities for the economic exploitation and exploration of the zone, such as the production of energy from the water, currents and winds;
(b) jurisdiction as provided for in the relevant provisions of this Convention with regard to:
(i) the establishment and use of artificial islands, installations and structures;
(ii) marine scientific research;
(iii) the protection and preservation of the marine environment;
(c) other rights and duties provided for in this Convention.
2. In exercising its rights and performing its duties under this Convention in the exclusive economic zone, the coastal State shall have due regard to the rights and duties of other States and shall act in a manner compatible with the provisions of this Convention.
But it’s this article that’s particularly relevant:
1. In the exclusive economic zone, all States, whether coastal or land-locked, enjoy, subject to the relevant provisions of this Convention, the freedoms referred to in article 87 of navigation and overflight and of the laying of submarine cables and pipelines, and other internationally lawful uses of the sea related to these freedoms, such as those associated with the operation of ships, aircraft and submarine cables and pipelines, and compatible with the other provisions of this Convention.
Having even the slightest connection to the rest of the EU will be extremely important – which is why the Scottish Government must get our waters back.
But Scotland is not the only EEZ which is of great strategic importance here.
Gibraltar and Spain hold the northern shores of the Strait of Gibraltar. Just like Messina, there are two sides to the strait: stay north, and you’re in Spanish seas; veer south, and you’re in Moroccan territory. And just as Scotland leaving the EU would shrink the EU borders of the GIUK Gap, Gibraltar would leave behind a great swathe further south – and reduce the connection between Spain’s southern and eastern EEZ zones to that tiny area due north of Ceuta.
The Strait of Gibraltar is the gateway to the Mediterranean, and has been of vital strategic importance since humanity took to sail. In times of peace, it is a crucial part of the trade & security of the sea; in the future, it could transform the continent as a crossing to Africa, or even transform the sea itself. Its importance to the Mediterranean cannot be understated – nor its commitment to the European Project. What would happen if that stretch of water was out of the EU?
It’s no coincidence that the SNP invited the Gibraltarian Government to Annual Conference: Scotland and Gibraltar both occupy straits infested with monsters. If the UK continues to ignore Scotland & Gibraltar, then it would be foolish both to assume we would either stay put in the UK dominion, or be left in the cold by our European neighbours. Those are the two terrors the UK must navigate as it leaves the European Ocean: anger the Euroscylla by leaning softly, or lead the Good Ship Britannia out of existence by leaning hard. Either risk the wrath of the Euroskeptics within and without your party, provoking the rise of other parties in forthcoming elections or a takeover among your own = or risk losing Scotland, & likely Gibraltar & Northern Ireland, ending the United Kingdom as we know it. Both options unpalatable; both options will wreak destruction on your government, party, and country; both options may destroy you.
As the bard said, you are gone both ways.