Wallonia proves it's not Brussels that calls the shots in Europe

SO it’s not Britain which holds the fate of Europe on a taut string. It’s the tiny region of Wallonia, which I bet few of you had heard of until this week.

The 3.5 million strong corner of Belgium has as its national symbol a red cockerel on a yellow background. Boy has it been strutting its stuff - and making itself heard.

Wallonia has sunk, for now at least, the free trade agreement between Canada and Europe called CETA that took seven years to negotiate.

So who says only Brussels, or indeed national governments, call all the shots in Europe? The Walloons are not actually a nation like Scotland. They don’t have the global recognition of our brand - tartan, bagpipes, whisky and Andy Murray. They didn’t invent penicillin, television or create the world’s first cloned sheep.

But Wallonia's parliament is much more powerful that Scotland, because Belgium’s federal structure gives them parity with the capital region of Brussels, and with Flemish speaking Flanders.

Contrast Wallonia’s role as power-broker for the whole of the EU with that of Scotland. We are told - by both Labour and the Tories before the 2014 independence vote that we would have the most powerful devolved parliament in the world. But despite voting to remain in Europe by 62% , our people and parliament are over ruled. It would never happen in Belgium.

To our coarse ears, the term Wallonia sounds rather comic, like the fantasy realm of a Disneyfied fairytale, complete with dancing bears, talking frogs and singing princesses.

In fact it has more in common with Motherwell than the Magic Kingdom. Rich in iron and coal it was the first truly industrialised area of mainland Europe in the 19th century, a land of blood, sweat and socialism.

The mines and steelworks have closed, and unemployment was high for too long. There is a direct parallel with west central Scotland and other “post industrial” parts of the UK.

Read the rest of my column here.

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