Over the past three days, I have featured three excellent articles from other blogs that deal with the Brexit/EU/Fixit issues. Also in my blog, there are numerous articles that deal with these same subjects.
The underlying theme concerns the future of Europe. And, to be more specific, the future of the European Union. Of course, when we are debating about the future of the EU, then we are also considering the fate of the common currency, the Euro.
I get a strange sense of deja vu when I look back over the past twelve months. Wasn’t this exactly how things went with Greece last year? Well, maybe not exactly, but similar?
Now, as the British square up to decide their fate (or salvation?), we are again called upon to consider all of the issues and take a stand. And when I say we, I mean that every single person in the EU must know the facts and have a point of view…….this concerns all of us!
Many of us still have the debates about Greece’s fate fresh in our minds – it was Troika or Grexit and we know how that decision has played out. Now the issues concerning the United Kingdom have come into the spotlight, EU or Brexit? Some people have pointed to the position that Norway took in relation to the EU question and, keeping a bit under the radar, Finland is also now on a slow economic death spiral, a la Greece. A Fixit is being spoken about as a possible outcome there.
Norway is out and not in, although they are half-in and half-out. The UK is in and they are considering going out. Greece is in, but some that are in wanted to throw them out. A few other EU countries that are in, wish that they were out. Turkey and a few other poorer European countries are out and they want to get in.
I have to admit that I have become a bit confused – Is it better to be “In” or “Out”?
On media websites and on blogs, you can find dozens of stories regarding all of these countries and their dilemma with the the EU. They range from highly emotional scare stories of impending gloom and destruction to factual, well written articles debating the pros and cons of the issue. Each country has its own particular set of problems, although there is a similar basic thread among all of them: the failure of the EU/Eurozone to be able to deal with the economic and social problems that exist in those countries.
Here is a short book titled “The Demise of the Free State” written by David G. Green that was published in 2014. Although it is mainly concerned with the United Kingdom’s situation in the EU, the issue of the erosion of democracy in the EU applies to all the EU countries:
“…..The UK joined what was then the Common Market in 1973 at a time when our imperial role was rapidly disappearing and our economy was in deep disarray. It was our lack of self-confidence in 1975 which persuaded two thirds of those who voted in the only referendum ever held on our membership that there was no future for us unless we stayed in. History since then, however, has shown that the instinct of those who opposed continuing membership, based at least partly on concern that we were foregoing the priceless advantages of our democratic system of government, had much more to be said for it than might have appeared to be the case at the time. It is not a coincidence that the economic success enjoyed by the original Six has melted away as top down economic policies – the Snake, the Exchange Rate Mechanism and now the Single Currency, all the antithesis of Anglo-Saxon pragmatism – caused the growth rate in what is now the EU to plummet, and support for it to wither.
Most of this occurred because there is no effective democracy in the EU of the type developed over the centuries in the UK, which might have stopped these mistakes being made. The EU crucially lacks democratic accountability and hence the electoral support and endorsement it so badly needs. As this pamphlet scathingly says, to much too great an extent, there is no European demos, no shared culture, no confidence that groups will not seek to take advantage, no sense of the common good, no shared story of how we got to where we are today, no common view of obligations to future generations, no shared approach to law, and no common attitude to personal freedom, individual responsibility, civil society and the pursuit of public purposes in organised private life. Instead there is a classic case of producer capture with unelected officials having too much power to run the EU in ways which suit themselves rather than those who would like to be able to elect and to dismiss them.
…..It is hardly surprising, in these circumstances, that it is the UK which is taking the lead in pressing for radical reform in the EU and a return to free trade rather than the ‘ever closer union’ beloved of the EU’s founders, who had much more faith in officials than politicians. It is not difficult to see why, half-way through the twentieth century, this was a widely shared view among many continental leaders. A thousand years of history have taught the British something different, however, and this is why more and more people in the UK are coming to agree with David Green’s thesis that democracy and the EU don’t mix.
It is bewildering that a country like ours with such a proud history of upholding freedom and democracy has allowed its capacity for self-government to drain away to Brussels. One cause has been the failure of our schools to teach an objective account of our own history, leaving our young people bereft of understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of our system. It is vital, therefore, to remind ourselves of the precious political and cultural heritage left by earlier generations who fought to make possible a free and democratic life for all citizens of this land.
The argument is organised as follows. Chapter 1 summarises the main elements of liberal civilisation and especially the distinctive idea of individualism as moral, practical and intellectual independence. This is the heritage being put at risk by our EU membership. Chapter 2 is a shortened version of a previously published pamphlet, What Have We Done? The surrender of our democracy to the EU, which describes how our system of government developed from Anglo-Saxon times. Rather than putting readers to the trouble of digging out the earlier text, I thought it would be more convenient to include the descriptive sections (with some updating and a reply to critics of the earlier version) in the current publication. Chapter 3 tries to understand how we lost our way, and Chapter 4 touches briefly on the importance of the independent nation state for maintaining a liberal international order.”
To get you up to speed with some of the wider issues in more detail, here are a few articles with some good background info:
- “The Future of the Euro – Options for Finland” is a report that is based on a book with the same title, and that was published in Finnish in Helsinki on 7 May 2014. The book is based on the work of EuroThinkTank, a group of 12 individuals with several years of background in academia, economic research, financial markets and investment banking. The group gathered in the facilities of the University of Helsinki during autumn 2013 and spring 2014 to evaluate the future of the euro and Finland’s future as a euro member.
- What about the half-in and half-out situation that Norway has with the EU: “Why does nobody in the EU/Eurozone talk about Norway?“. Well, maybe they do….but only very softly otherwise the cat might be let out the bag that we are all being taken for suckers!
- A blogger named Paul Reynolds also looked into the “Norway Option” in far more detail than I did and kept coming up with interesting answers: – “Cameron Watch – Norway has no say over the rules?” and “Cameron Watch – how much does Norway pay?” and “Cameron Watch – Norway a bad option?” and “FUD-Fight – Keeping the score on The Norway Option“.
- And then another blogger, Tony Edwards, has also tumbled onto the merits of the “The Norway Option” and “Beyond Norway“.
- In an article last year, Don Quijones, who is an Internet journalist, raised the idea that the UK could exit the EU and join the BRICS – “Just another BRIC in the wall?” Despite, the apparent humour of the title of this article, the article also includes a link to a very good concise guide on a Brexit, courtesy of The Economist: “A background guide to “Brexit”.
- Why does the UK need to be in the EU? Read Paul Reynolds opinion here.
- We are led to believe that a Brexit will be bad for British businesses. But that view is not shared by the Business for Britain organisation that was set up to give a voice to the large, but often silent, majority among Britain’s business community who want to see fundamental changes made to the terms of the UK EU membership. Business for Britain want to ensure that the British people understand that many UK business people want a better deal from Brussels and are not scared to fight to achieve that change: – “Change or Go!” and “Business for Britain’s support for Vote Leave” and – “The European Union is falling apart: why is getting out the risky option” and “Essays: Leading historians declare there is no such thing as a European demos as Historians for Britain launches“
- Peter North wrote an excellent article titled “Why we should leave the EU“. This was his closing comment:
“Put simply, the EU is a yesterday’s pisspoor solution, to yesterday’s problems, built on a foundation of intellectual sand, and now it is a solution in search of a problem. Now is as good a time as any to put it out of its misery. Brexit is the beginning of that process, and it signifies the beginning of true European reform and nobody has anything to lose from it. Except maybe the parasites who did this to us in the first place. Cry me a river.”
- How about “Project Fear”. The “Remain in the EU” campaign is currently largely premised on the risks or “perceived disadvantages” of a Brexit. How about this article – “I hate the EU. But I’ll vote to stay in it“. The sub-title of the article mentioned previously is “The European Union is an undemocratic corporate stitch-up. But leaving would be worse.” The fears of the “Stay In” brigade are often founded on half-truths that have a following among the average people-in-the-street. An example of this is articulated well in the following comment from a reader to an article titled “After Brexit: the Eurosceptic vision of an Anglosphere future“:
“Living in Scotland, I remember all to well the “Project Fear” of the Better Together Campaign and the many dubious scare-stories they put out. With that experience not long past, it’s all too easy to think that warnings and fears over what might happen as a result of an EU referendum are equally unwarranted. But sometimes fear of what may happen as a result of policy choices is very much justified. Nobody knows what the effect of a Brexit would be. What will it mean for the 5.2 million people who’re either UK citizens living in other EU countries or UK residents with passports from another EU country. How many of them will keep their residency rights? How many, especially of the more vulnerable (e.g. elderly people who may have lived in a country for years or decades and have nothing and none to return to) won’t? Could a Brexit that comes during the EU’s most serious crisis ultimately trigger a wider breakup of the EU and borders barring other European citizens once more? What could the consequences of that be at a time when racist and quasi-fascist movements and parties are on the rise in many EU countries? What will happen to what remains of environmental and public health regulations in the UK? The answer to that last question at least seems clear: They’ll go up in a final bonfire of ‘red tape’ which the EU has so far prevented the UK from getting rid off. No, there’s nothing exciting about remaining in the EU. But the alternative could be far more dangerous than most people like to think.”
- Then we should consider some of the arguments being put forward why staying in the EU would be a good thing for the UK. We have already read what Yanis Varoufakis had to say regarding this. Here is another view-point from a blogger iGlinavos:
The lack of a positive message:
The ‘stay’ campaign in the EU referendum is having difficulty finding its feet. The reason for this is the lack of a clear, easily transmittable positive message about the EU. It is possible to win on the basis of fear, scaring voters about the consequences of an exit. This seems to have been the strategy of the stay campaign in the Scottish referendum. The issue is however that this is a dangerous strategy for two reasons. First, negative campaigns do not work very effectively. Second, negative campaigns do not settle the issue conclusively.
If pro-Europeans want to win this referendum and stop the demagogues of the right from demanding another one in a few years, they need to offer a positive narrative about Europe. Can one be found however that will work for the ‘leave’ leaning British voter?
I am not so sure. We can all come up with a fairly convincing list of arguments on why Brexit is a bad idea, but can we think of reasons why staying in the EU is good, other than the velocity of existing arrangements?
EU law is positive in protecting the consumer as most lawyers know. This is unlikely to have much impact on a public ‘disgusted’ with ‘health and safety gone mad’ and other such tripe.
Should we try and convince the public that EU immigration is good for the country? It is, but good luck with that argument. So far as third country immigration is concerned and the refugee crisis, best not go there at all.
Let’s show how EU institutions have effectively dealt with economic crisis in the Eurozone… Eh, maybe not.
You get I hope the nature of the problem. The ‘stay’ campaign needs a positive narrative, for sure. How to come up with one is less sure.
Lefty zika heads:
An additional problem is the attitude of the left towards the EU.
There is a problem with the Corbynite Left. Actually there are many problems with the ‘grassroots’ non-Parliamentary left, but I will focus on just one.
They are an unpredictable danger for the In-camp in the EU Referendum. The reason for this is that the condemnation of the EU as a neoliberal, pro market Leviathan, may lead significant numbers of young, newly energized voters (by the Corbyn effect) to vote for Brexit. They may do so thinking that this enables more discretion and more options in their attempt to re-balance the state-market relationship in Britain.
The idea that a Britain outside the EU may allow socialist type alternatives is a fallacy for two reasons.
Reason one is that Socialism in One Country (Социализм в одной стране in Stalin’s words) does not work. The theory held that given the defeat of all the communist revolutions in Europe in 1917–1921 except Russia’s, the Soviet Union should begin to strengthen itself internally. That turn toward national communism was a shift from the previously held Marxist position that socialism must be established globally (world communism). The British hard left seems to think that while leftist movements have failed in Europe (Syriza abandoned its leftist pretenses in Greece, Podemos is fizzling out etc), a left alternative could be built in Britain, starting with Corbyn taking power in 2020.
It will not, because Corbyn cannot and will not win in 2020. No pollster, or betting shop or academic who has looked at the numbers think that Corbyn has a better chance of winning than a snowball materializing in hell.
Reason two is that in the short term defeat in the EU Referendum and Brexit will launch the country sharply to the right. In the mayhem that will ensue, the left message will be lost in the nationalist fervor and right wing anti-immigrant, racist politicking that will dominate between 2017 and 2020.
As Corbyn will have forfeited the higher ground (pro-immigration, pro-internationalist) by not supporting clearly and unequivocally staying-in, he will suffer even worse in the General Election.
Voting for a Britain outside the EU for the working class is equivalent to turkeys voting for Xmas. Voting for Britain outside the EU is voting for a 1000 year Tory rule (if you will excuse the unpleasant analogy).
Does the working class really want to align itself with the Hedge Fund managers who will support the Leave campaign out of unashamedly expressed self interest? Really?
Now is the time for the working class, the left, to come out strongly in support of the EU.
Thinking people of course do not like what the EU has become. Nonetheless, the interests of the working class and the left are best served by Britain staying in and working for a better future for everyone.
Socialism in One Country did not work too well for the Russians either.
Despite the obvious nature of the above, groups of fantasists like LabourLeave are digging the grave of the working class campaigning for Brexit. In what follows I try to explain why they are wrong, without becoming too offensive [iGlinavos goes on to tell us about Kevin and why the choice he intends to make for a Brexit, is wrong].
Lastly, here are my comments to Bill’s article on Finland:
Beyond the threatened economic implosion and emotional appeals for unity (et al) that the pro EU “democrats” reel out as they describe the consequences of the catastrophe scenario, your analysis is logical, down-to-earth and factual. We need more of this to either allay our fears or bolster our resolve.
Unfortunately, at least here in Europe, our political Left, Right and Centre, are basically pursuing the same economic policies. For the life of me I cannot understand why a “real” alternative strategy has not emerged. It seems to make no difference for which political party we vote for anymore, since we are going to end up exactly where we were, before the election. Maybe it is this aspect of our “democratic” process that is turning people into apathetic zombies.
The challenge for the political “Left” to come up with an “Alternative Plan for Europe” is proving harder to actually execute than write & talk about. Many clever ideas are tossed around, but no progress is made.
The politicians, activists and democratic disciples have now had a good couple of years to come up with workable solutions and we are now fully aware of how the scorecard reads. Maybe the time has come to pull the plug on this whole EU/Euro fiasco and start from scratch, whatever the consequences.
The burning question still remains….what will be the best course of action to take?