J’accuse….! Jean-Claude Juncker and the European Union elite
Under your watch Britain has voted to leave the European Union. The country will be diminished and the European Union, by losing its third largest member, will be diminished.
The British government bears much responsibility. But so do you. Your ill-judged leadership represents the worst stereotypes of EU remoteness and elitism: essentially, you made it easy for Brexiters.
When David Cameron gave his Bloomberg speech in 2013, he spoke about reforming the way the European Union worked. His motives may have been opportunistic, but he presented a chance for the EU to recreate itself.
Your response was to regard Britain as a problem not as an asset. Your response was to pretend there was not a problem. It is not that Cameron’s renegotiation was not enough, it is that you let a greater prize slip through your fingers.
At every election since 1979 turnout for European Parliamentary elections has fallen. In 2014, it stood at a miserable 46%. Yet you took this vote as a mandate for your candidacy for the commission president.
When EU treaties are put to popular referenda, they are as likely to be opposed as supported. France and the Netherlands voted against the EU constitution in 2005; Ireland voted against the both the Nice and then the Lisbon treaties in 2001 and 2008; last year Dutch voters rejected associated membership for the Ukraine. The list goes on.
Euroscepticism and hard right populism is on the rise in Europe. Geert Wilders failed last week; Marine Le Pen’s may also fail. But your attitude is complacent.
Voters watched as the European Union was paralysed by the migrant crisis, unable to deal with the one of the biggest humanitarian crises. Your halting response provoked UN criticism for not providing a Europe-wide solution. Individual leaders - few and far between - have acted for a common good. But the institution failed.
As former Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, said: "This sight of our leaders squabbling as to who is not going to do their humanitarian duty towards these people - this is going to remain as a stigma upon Europe."
Brexit is a warning that you have lost touch with voters
It is the most stark example of EU failure but it is not the only one. It is now only a few years since the Eurozone forced an economically-illiterate austerity programme upon Greece. Despite the IMF’s estimates showing Greece had become the eurozone’s the most fiscally responsible, the Eurozone demanded more. Even the IMF belatedly recognised the damage being done to the Greek economy.
Somewhere in all of this, you lost sight that governments are there to protect people not interests.
Left-wing voters watched appalled. Other voters saw a proud nation being humiliated and democracy thwarted.
Homogeneity is not created overnight, it cannot be forced. Cooperation between nation states is essential in the 21st century. Without it issues such as terrorism and climate change will persist. Yet, democracy is still a great protector of human rights.
Often nations, with different cultures and histories, move at different speeds. After the implementation of the euro, it would have been possible to acknowledge what was already a reality: that Europe moves at different speeds. You were given another chance in 2013. Both times you ignored the opportunity. So much talk. So little action. Instead your language and posture implied that every country had to accept the totality or just leave.
I accuse you of wilfully ignoring the rise of euroscepticism and hard right populism in Europe.
I accuse the European Union of stubbornly refusing to reform to reflect the needs of 21st century voters.
I accuse the European Union pursuing policies that have damaged its credibility in the eyes of all voters, not just in Britain.
Brexit is a warning that you have lost touch with voters. It is no longer inconceivable for the EU to break apart. The post-referendum debate has been acrimonious but it has shown that people’s identities can exist on multiple levels: many of the 48% are as proud to be British citizens as they were to be EU citizens. They valued the peace and stability that the EU brought. You failed them.
With apologies to Emile Zola. We also accuse:
- David Cameron, George Osborne and Boris Johnson.
- Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party.
- Paul Dacre and the right-wing press.
- Theresa May and the Tory right.
- Nigel Farage, cynical rabble-rouser.
- Dominic Cummings and Vote Leave.
About the author
Educated at Durham University and UCL, Graham is Disclaimer's editor and a regular contributor. He has written for numerous publications including Tribune, Out Magazine and Vice. He has also contributed to two books of political counterfactuals for Biteback Media, Prime Minister Boris (2011) and Prime Minister Corbyn (2016).
A democratic republican lefty, he struggles daily with the conflict between his ingrained senses of idealism and pragmatism.
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