One month to go, then. Until the biggest democratic decision for the people of Britain in 40 years. How’s your research going into the deeper spreadsheets of how Europe works?
I’ll be honest, I’m a bit dismayed. And not only that I face the prospect of being seen in any way whatsover to agree with David Cameron and George Osborne. Eesh. I feel clammy. And like I can’t account for an hour of my life. And what’s this funny new scar on the back of my neck.
But I’m a little more dismayed at just how disengaged fine folk are about the issue of the EU referendum. Should Britain help to collapse the EU by leaving or not? It’s huge, isn’t it? Yet most of us are at best befuddled by the muddiness of the so-called debate and probably just not that bothered about it. So anyway, thanks again to all politicians concerned who’ve so successfully disenfranchised us all from the workings of our own interests. Like, cheers.
Thing is. Do we get the politicos we deserve?
Not sure about that. I don’t think any of the people I know being slowly pancaked by the grinding Austerity steam roller deserve a jot of it. But it is a good question, how to get us all more effectively engaged with making a difference – and with this particular issue that will radically change our relationship with some of our closest allies.
I feel conflicted on Brexit. Not on the word; the abject clunky crapness of the journo shorthand there is very obviously a symptom of how seriously we are supposed to take this subject. Brexit. Sounds like a dog biscuit laxative.
But on the issue of leaving the EU, I do feel pulled in two directions. For, the European Union in its current form represents the establishment. An establishment that is beaurocratically opaque and still resolutely backs an entire economic system that is unfit for purpose – the financialisation of bloody everything, and the fabrication of Austerity to prop it up. An establishment that may sign off on a trade deal (TTIP) which has an obvious biproduct of hideous legal leverage for big corporations over more social concerns and rights. That beats the poor and the dispossessed and the uncompliant across the anvil of austerity’s lie to the tune of, in the end, millions of people’s misery. Write that down, comrade.
But it’s also a zone built on unprecedented tollerance and liberal values between nations. As Ben Brown of the Huff Post neatly puts it: “the EU has been a powerful force in normalising multiculturalism.” No kidding. The continent that gave us industrial fascist genocide knows a thing or two about the cost of racism. Most of the ‘laws’ Brussels ‘imposes’ on us are agreements. Things we agree to. In partnership. Because we believe in those principles. At least for now. Though I am sure there are many more socialist directives about pay and working conditions and parental leave and employer responsibility that a fair few in Westminster wouldn’t mind quietly not agreeing to any more.
And don’t think that cross-border movement is insignificant in how opened up people’s minds have been across the last couple of generations. Cheap flights and easy business and shared rights is what makes life for millions rather better than it was, and these are all made possible by Europe existing in deeper co-operation and a more cultural solidarity than simply agreeing not to shoot each other.
Every single European state has more clout because it is in a co-operative. And we Brits kid ourselves to imagine that doesn’t include us at all. The Empire is gone, mate. The future is shared. And I am depressed at the idea of moving around Europe no longer as a native but as an ‘outsider’. Sure, I get the irony of my monolinguism here. I didn’t say I wasn’t a charming bag of contradictions.
Plus, weirdly for a country that has spanked sunshine holiday paradise Greece into bankrupt fielty, Germany is helping to lead the way on renewable energy, racking up over 90% of it’s power needs from solar and wind. A sock in the eye for an entire world order of arse-facing oil giants. Not what your fracking mates in the Out camp would like one bit.
So, y’know. Modern Europe faces changes and needs many, it does. And Britain is in a fair position to deal just fine with life outside the EU in the longer term, of course it is. As if Britain is coming to the end of a stretch inside and doesn’t know if it can function in an economy not based on cigarettes and butt favours.
But. I think there is a headline principle that is higher than these current concerns, and certainly than lazy grumbles about imminent hoards of benefits scroungers and terrorists. And above even the significant ball-ache of trying to find a better trade deal and position in the world than we currently have.
It’s an outlook I committed to a vlather, here:
The European project could be described as the most significant liberal political endeavour in history. Much as some Outers might say it’s the biggest attempt at a stealth Federal State in history. It wasn’t created as such; something as big as this project was bound to veer in different directions over time, and need challenging periodically. Now is certainly one of those times. And in no small part because we are living in unprecedented times in the history of economics. But the principle of a peaceful multi-state zone that shares far more than it contests between its member states, and that challenges itself to defend certain liberties everywhere is an idea to lead humanity.
Writing off that in a huff, simply because we don’t know how to engage, isn’t good enough in my book. Let’s take democracy back to the gates of Brussels, and take the Eurocrats to school, side by side with our neighbours. Let’s build trust, not shaft it. Leaving isn’t facing the right way. For at least one of us.
This, in my head, isn’t about Britain. Or Europe. It’s about humanity. And THAT future has to be about pulling together, not apart. That’s something I would like to take pride in.