Sunday, 24 January 2016

The Chicken Licken europhiles can't let go of the past

This week has seen a mix of views from Norway with some Norwegian MPs saying "Norway is proof it can work on your own. We rejected EU membership and we’ve never looked back". Others say different. Consequently, what we can count on throughout is a game of Top Trumps as to which Norwegians we should believe - with the BBC invoking the words of any Europhile Norwegian they can find. You pays your money, you takes your choice.

The broader argument is that the Norway option does not free us from EU hegemony. Some have it that while EU law in theory is not supreme, in practice it is. Indeed, if we look at the Norwegian No campaign, their view of the EEA agreement is less than rosy, saying that it has "proved to have a far broader scope and more serious consequences than described by the government when the agreement was approved by the national assembly".

Much like the UK situation we see a political establishment far more keen on membership than its peoples - who, incidentally, voted decisively against EU membership. It could be said that the EEA agreement was a move to put Norway into the hands of the EU without a mandate.

This is not to say that Norway has no influence or veto, but the means by which Norway influences decision making is far from transparent, and its role is not widely understood. There are legal instruments within the EEA agreement that require full consultation and there is veto mechanism, the mere threat of which is nearly always sufficient to secure agreement before legislation goes anywhere near a vote. It isn't ideal and the arrangement seems to suggest that much is tilted in the EUs favour.

This is grounds enough for some Eurosceptics to reject the Norway Option, but the immediate problem is that the alternatives are worse, far more difficult to achieve politically and carry a good deal more risk. Europhiles on the other hand have it that because there is no optimal EU alternative on the table that we should simply resign ourselves to the hegemony of the EU and be done with it. In for a penny, in for a pound.

But such on both counts is to lose sight of what we are seeking to accomplish. As we noted this week, there has been a massive revolution in global governance since the EEA agreement, where the lines of accountability are far from clear. The globalisation of regulation and the establishment of a hierarchy on global standards has largely sidelined the EU, making it a taker of law rather than a maker of it. 

As it fights to stay relevant it uses its collective might to assert itself on the global stage not to secure a better trading environment, rather it seeks to dominate and dictate - and in the process destroying multilateralism and crushing the innovations that only diversity can deliver. 

Given the pace of globalisation, what we need is a system that recognises every voice, rather than a supranational entity that stifles member states for expediency and convenience. Looking at the global matrix of rule making that sits above the EU, we see a vast network of interrelating institutions and organisations, each vulnerable to corruption and corporate lobbying, with very little media attention and virtually no public scrutiny. It is there where we need to be fully engaged and shaping the rule-making.

To say that "Europe" needs reform is to miss the bigger picture in that these anonymous arms of governance, the IMO, UNECE and ISO are in serious need of politicisation and democratisation. It is there were we should seek deeper reforms and increase participation and representation at all levels. When looking at the scale of it the "big EU debate" looks rather quaint. 

This of course is not going to happen without a major shift in the balance of power, exposing more disagreements at this level. In this, Brexit is a means to weaken the EU hegemony, strengthening Efta and lending our weight to Norway so to revise the EEA agreement. 

We fully recognise that the EEA/Efta option is sub-optimal - but the point is that there is a long road to travel in order to arrive at something that works - and we will have to accept a number of compromises in order to start off this process of reform, which is a reform of global governance as well as a reform of European continental politics.

This is far bigger than just deciding if we want to be part of an archaic and obsolete inward looking little "club". We are not looking to preserve the old order - we are looking to let go of the past and start evolving to meet the challenges of this new global technological age.

Brexit is bigger in scope and more necessary than ever so that we have a full voice in shaping the world rather than being subordinate to the EUs fight for relevance. In this we are coming to the defence of democracy, for Britain and Efta members, being the safety switch on EU dominance. 

The truth is, it is the Europhiles who are fighting to turn the clocks back and seek to deny the last two decades of global progress. It is they who fear change, it is they who cannot let go of the past. It is given away by the nature of the Remain campaign which is nothing but threats and dire warnings of disaster. Chicken Lickens promising the sky will fall in if we dare to embrace reality. 

The point of Brexit is to admit that the the grand federalist pipedream is over. It's time to admit that it is no longer fit for purpose and does not match the realities of the modern age. It is time to embark upon a new journey. It is a long journey, fraught with complexities and a degree of risk - but also a great many opportunities for prosperity, influence and democracy in ways the old order simply cannot deliver. Brexit is an opportunity to rise to the challenge and we should not let the niggling problematising of Europhiles deter us from doing what what is both urgent and necessary. 

The internet creates the global marketplace, the problems of migration are global, the environmental challenges are likewise. In this we need every voice to be heard and everybody participating in a community of equals. For that we need a revised system of governance and massive reform of the institutions.

The treaties that form the basis of the UN are from a time few are alive to remember - and even the EU was forged at a time before my birth. We cannot be governed by the ghosts of the past. Now is the time to let go of our euro-delusions and get to grips with the world as it is, rather than the one our elites imagined in the previous century.

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