Friday, 31 August 2018

The EU isn't collapsing... but Europe is.

The EU is many things to many people. Some think it is a pillar of the twentieth century peace architecture. It isn't and it never was. It was always parasitical and using the mood and post-war political momentum to advance an idea of a united Europe. The problem, however, is that it was a bad idea for the simple reason that there is no particular desire for a politically united Europe and one could only ever come into being through the collusion of political elites.

Over the decades our political elites have built both the EU and the WTO with only one purpose in mind. To eliminate national sovereignty and to prevent political change. That's why it's a crap idea. You cannot prevent political change and, more to the point, it is human nature to desire change.

The reason Brexit is happening ultimately boils down to one singular factor. Societal boredom. It wouldn't matter if the EU was perfect. Humans need to innovate, experiment and evolve. Everything changes, nothing last forever and to all things there is a time. The EU was the brainchild of anonymous officials in the previous generation and its survival depends on the the officials of today having absolute power over us. Every generation needs its own idea yet my generation is expected to maintain the ideas and the constructs of the last.

Being that the EU is a sophisticated and influential construct it has withstood a number of body blows and will likely survive more. It withstood the financial crash of 2008 and it will withstand Brexit. There are those on my side of the argument whop would have us believe that the EU is collapsing but I think this is wishful thinking. For as long as the EU is useful to the power-brokers in Europe it will continue to exist. Institutionally it is safe as houses.

We Brexiters, however, continually point out to those who like to abuse language, that the EU is not Europe. And while the EU perseveres, Europe is gradually imploding. Poland is not a country at ease with itself and for all that remainers wail that the UK is undergoing a swing to the far right, the UK doesn't even know the meaning of far right when contrasted with Poland, Hungary and Austria. The UK manifestation of "far right" is a handful of grunters holding banners in Newcastle on a wet Saturday morning.

The thing about being "far right" is that it actually requires a lot of energy and commitment and for reasons I do not fully understand, Brits are just not that politically committed. Perhaps it is the weather? It is part of our residual self image from World War Two that we are generally disapproving of racialist movements. More likely, though, we are simply politically lazy, which is both an asset and a liability.

From a distance we have viewed the EU as a utilitarian relationship where even now the main arguments for remaining are almost entirely economic arguments. Very few actually buy into the EU big idea and those who do are in some way employed by the EU machine. For mainland Europe, however, economic and political union seems far more logical since crossing borders for a great many is mundane daily routine rather than a novelty.

The problem, however, is that the EU is very much a commitment of mainstream politics and the EU does little to address the concerns of ordinary people and in many respects the EU exacerbates the local problems, be it immigration or liberalisation of markets. The EU likes to claim credit for successes but blame member states for the fallout, whereas member states do the opposite. This is not sustainable.

With geopolitical pressures from every direction and resurgence of old grievances, the EU can only really put out brushfires but is unable to offer a Europe-wide remedy. This is the problem with having such a diverse demos. Brotherhood and unity did not work on the scale of Yugoslavia so it is somewhat demented to believe it can work on a continental scale. Consequently while the political classes are ever more convergent, this cannot be said of European peoples. Government is going one way and the public is going the other.

Being that the UK is not invested in the single currency and holds a number of opt outs it stands to reason that the least interested would be the first to depart. An island nation has no need of microscopic levels of integration. Ireland is only an enthusiast because subservience to Brussels is a safeguard against London rule. On recent form I can't say I blame them. Many in Scotland want a divorce and the only surprise here is that we haven't seen a credible Yorkshire independence movement.

Something is happening that we cannot yet explain. The reaction to hyperglobalisation seems to be a demand for hyperlocalisation where the EU's subsidiarity principle is not sufficient in that under such a system the people themselves are not sovereign. The bureaucrats are the ones deciding who gets to decide what. As an idea that was never going to succeed.

Whenever I make the argument for more local and regional autonomy people often scoff that I want to return to the Heptarchy of yore. As it happens, I don't think that is a bad idea. The UK has a common language, culture and heritage but we do need a model that recognises that the regions are distinct with politics vastly differing from London. Our power pyramid needs to be inverted EU membership is incompatible because the real power resides with EU institutions. For as long as we are members the people cannot be sovereign.

Many predict the demise of the EU. I don't think they are right. Like the Commonwealth I think it will fade into obscurity as Europe leaves it behind. Its institutions will remain for as long as they serve a function but unlike the Commonwealth we won't even have a quasi-Olympics held in its name. It will simply linger as a redundant enterprise until a new idea puts it out of its misery.

All the mainstream political political energies of the next decade will go into shoring up the worn out European ideal but gradually they will cease to be the mainstream and democratic movements throughout Europe, though cast as populist, will take Europe in a new direction. What that looks like is anyone's guess but the writing is on the wall. The peoples of Europe are moving on, evolving and real politics is reawakening. The EU was always capable of withstanding the financial crash, and it can withstand Brexit. It cannot, though, withstand democracy - not least because the EU is designed to prevent it. That was never going to be tolerated.     

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