Tuesday, 6 March 2018

The legacy of the EU is political atrophy

Yesterday I wrote a piece on how eurosceptics neglected to provide an intellectual foundation for Brexit and now that we are here we find their vague aspirations have been thwarted by the encroachment of globalisation. This was met with nods of approval from remainers.

ll the ideas of the Tory right simply do not stand up to scrutiny and day by day their flimsy "free trade" ideas crumble. Twenty five years have past since even their most modest of ambitions were achievable. They've been badly caught out.

But then we all have. There's been nothing less edifying to watch than remainer MPs scrambling to tell us we should stay in the customs union without even being able to define it. Collectively our polity kicks around terminology like a infant walks around in mummy's high heels.

Even those of us whose job it is to know these things still fumble with it. There is a vast bureaucratic machine made of hundreds of separate mechanisms and not only do we not know their function, we have even less idea of how they interact.

It was interesting listening to Barnier's adviser last night (Stefaan de Rynck) who seems to regard the single market legal entity as a thing of beauty. And in many ways it it is. It may look like a legal jumble but to the technocrat it's a frontline legal technology.

The success of the machine is how it has sidelined politics and to a large extent made it superfluous; redundant even. So when you have a system running in abstract of politics, irrespective of voting rituals we may have, it is not controlled or influenced by democratic inputs.

Worse still, the technocrats would rather it remained that way. Politics is messy and slow and to their mind nothing is served by having ignorant politicians poking around inside the machine. A view I have some sympathy with.

But if it's not driven by politics and politics has little input, what is our politics even for? And when it is not tasked with running the apparatus of governance it withers and retreats into its own dismal fixations of increasingly diminished significance.

And that is what we are left with now. A redundant polity ill-equipped to manage change, terrified of it and desperate to avoid taking any responsibility. Brexit is a rude interruption to their narrow tribal bickering.

So the cultural problem is twofold. This is why we can't blame everything on the EU. On the one hand we have eurocrats who don't want democratic input, and domestic politicians who have no interest in it and no aptitude for it.

So that collective slumber of the eurosceptics who took their eye off the ball is one shared by the entire political apparatus, the thinks tanks and the media, who focus on the narrow and immediate with no vision extending beyond the horizon of the next elections.

Consequently the system is left unscrutinised, unmonitored and taken for granted in the assumption that it is working for the greater good. It would seem, however, that slightly more than half of the population have a different opinion.

Successive generations of politicians have gradually ceded control to the point where the levers of power are not actually attached to anything. Everything is locked up in a system of directives, rulings and regulations, and beyond reform.

Here we find that reform is only theoretical. No one nation on the instruction of its peoples can act and even acting in collaboration the interests of the people have to be reconciled with incumbent commercial interests. Quotas, subsidies, tariffs etc.

And so with reform proving impossible our politicians get in the habit of of blaming the EU and gradually things start to degrade - lacking the vitality and ambition that healthy politics brings to governance systems.

We were told that Brexit would make us inward looking, yet we find trade; a core instrument of international relations, is shrouded in mystery in Westminster. We do not engage in the subject matter because it's outsourced to Brussels. We're on autopilot.

In respect of this it's a wonder anything works as well as it does. But then with a chain of accountability so clouded, and no political intelligence, there is a good chance we wouldn't even know if these systems were failing until the failure is critical.

That is indeed the danger of continued EU membership. When systems like this fail they fail hard and Brexit has wonderfully illuminated the stark fact that our politics is incapable of adequately responding.

It's not just the Brexiteers who went to sleep for the last two decades. We all did. As a nation we became self-absorbed and insular, dismantling our foreign office and consular services, culling our navy and pruning governance to feed our voracious appetite for entitlements.

Consequently what we are left with is political cannibalism, where authority is transferred to Brussels while our own politics strip mines what is left to hand out to its respective constituencies. That is how a vibrant nation quietly dies.

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