The EU is Imperfect and Undemocratic But What Do We Replace it With?
Far From Perfect But Not Flawed Enough To Vote Leave
I’ll confess, the EU has never been at the top of my political agenda. I was slightly baffled by UKIP’s rise, marvelling at how, ahead of an imperilled NHS, scant housing and soaring poverty, this one fusty institution had become a target for the everyman’s vitriol. It smacked of scapegoating, as though anti-EU campaigners were urging us to mentally concentrate all our woes in Brussels on the promise that by leaving - BAM! - those woes would magically disappear.
I’m no EU cheerleader. As Greece discovered last year, it reinforces a continent-wide neoliberal consensus by forcefully imposing free market policies. Since the Leave campaign is spearheaded by the right-wing likes of Farage and Duncan Smith, however, voting out would hardly solve that problem. More importantly, leaving could cause huge losses in trade and national security. Call me cautious, heck, call me unpatriotic, but there’s no guarantee that Britain in 2016 is powerful enough to warrant special treatment from a spurned EU. And without special treatment, there’s no guarantee that the gains will outweigh the sacrifices.
When Boris Johnson concedes that leaving will cause at least temporary instability and job losses, it is the talk of someone who doesn’t really need politics. Two or three rocky years will have little effect on him. After already bearing the brunt of the financial crash though, the average Joe - grappling with austerity, insecure work and shredded public services - is hardly in a position to gamble on uncertainties.
Is the EU perfect? Far from it. But flawed enough to risk leaving? No. If we’re to tackle the issues having the biggest negative impact on our day-to-day lives, it’s time to stop focusing solely on Brussels. Our gravest concerns lie much closer to home.
An Uninspiring Choice and a raw deal either way
I am currently undecided on whether to vote Remain or Leave. I have always been sympathetic to the idealism of the European Union and I still think it is a noble one. As the great-grandson of a World War One veteran who suffered from PTSD, we can take for granted that we live in a Europe of relative peace - which the EU symbolises - in contrast to the horror and carnage of conflict on the continent only decades ago.
The EU also serves as a diplomatic venue for non-EU nations and it could be globally regressive for us to undermine this. True, war rages in the Ukraine, but I fear that burgeoning neo-fascist and neo-Nazi movements across the continent would feel validated by the blow to democratic European solidarity caused by us leaving.
One of the core reasons I may vote is Remain is the EU’s upholding of human rights. European human rights law applies in non-EU Europe as well, but leaving the EU could facilitate the erosion of human rights in the UK, which the right-wing of the Tory Party and beyond is so keen on. I have the same concerns about the environmental, conservation and workers’ rights laws the EU helps enforce.
However, like others on the left, I have been steered towards the Leave cause by the EU’s role in imposing austerity and privatisation on the continent, as happened in Greece. The appalling impact of such policies is an attack on human rights, not a defence of them. It makes the dream of a Social Europe seem shattered and unsalvageable.
To be brutally honest, I find myself disengaged from the entire referendum because I feel equally queasy about both options, and depressed rather than inspired by what seems like a raw deal either way.
what do we replace it with when it's gone?
From the point of view of a lefty and a socialist, my opinions of the EU have, and always will, be complicated. However, I find that I am best able to describe them by one concise message, which is similar to many people's views of our monarchy: I may be ideologically opposed to it, but what do we replace it with when it's gone? Of course, I am horrified by the undemocratic principles of the EU, as everyone knows, it is very hard to hold the EU accountable for their misdemeanours, and it is not enough to simply chalk down all of the 'warts' of the EU to Angela Merkel digging in her heels. Equally troubling is the EU's treatment of Greece and Portugal when the two countries voted democratically their opposition to economic austerity.
However, regardless of the way in which these countries, particularly Greece, have been treated by Merkel and her EU gang, it is telling that our prime minister stayed far away from these deals, offering no real support or opposition to either side. These events strongly represents Westminster's attitudes to the EU; a whole lot of talking, without anybody having very much to say. But I have been swayed by the fact that both Greece and Portugal still want to remain part of the EU, and to battle against it from within. I want us to stay in the EU for all the great things that it still offers, while continuing to berate it from the inside to ensure that it doesn't continue to damage its members democratic practises and principles. These, of course, are privileges extended only to remaining members of the EU.
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