Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Europe must evolve or die

I want to say a little about the geopolitical ramifications of Brexit. Mrs Merkel has certainly caused a stir in saying that the US and the UK are no longer partners the EU can rely on. A cleverer chap than me on Twitter noted that her words are a Rorschach inkblot test. "From your reaction I can tell who you are".

There can be no doubt that while nothing substantive has changed, the signals are all there that point to a new order in the West. Some have it that it's a disaster for the Western alliance. I don't think so. I think this is healthy.

When we see pictures of our leaders parading together on the world stage we are looking at a conceit. The pretence of European unity. The European Union in geopolitical terms is a flag waving exercise where our political elites pretend that the divisions within Europe do not exist. The modern conceit being that if we ignore the issues they will somehow go away.

When people talk of the post war settlement what they are actually talking about is the post-war conceit. It is this that prevents any kind of realignment and as with markets, the longer the distortion stays in place, the bigger and more volatile the the correction.

For a time this has served us well. That time though has past. We are not adapting to the new global order and we are not evolving quickly enough to meet the challenges of the new century. Bound by its own dogma the European polity dos not know how to address the ever growing fractures. It is marked by procrastination and self-deception.

It would now appear that this democratic correction is upon us. What it looks like yet we do not know. It would be safe to assume that the West will remain allies but the days of the US strategic hegemony over Europe are over and that Europe, Germany in particular must, be the architect of its own destiny.

Foreign policy pundits have it that the man reason for the UKs membership of the EU was to stop it ever realising its own ambitions - to prevent federalisation and a European army - but Eurosceptic concern in the UK largely has it that this is a self-fulfilling prophecy and if it is to happen then the UK must not be part of it. I concur. Defence cooperation is one thing but the transference of UK forces to a European command is intolerable. From Libya we can see that EU imperialism will naturally lead to the same mistakes America has made - mistakes we have already been a party to and are in no hurry to repeat.

Now that we are leaving the EU, as much as the UK is free to reinvent itself, Europe may now do likewise. This blog has remarked that there is every practical necessity for greater economic and political integration on the mainland and if the EU is to survive then it must reform. I take the view that the UK's continued membership was the obstacle to that reform.

There are, however, caveats. A new European superpower is one that will have to face up to global and regional threats. It's attitudes to Russia are incompatible with the political developments within the Visegrad states who still value and respect their cultural and historical ties with Russia. Moreover we are seeing a rejection of EU moral and cultural imperialism in Hungary and Poland and I don't see the eastern bloc or the Balkans remaining inside the EU sphere of influence.

More than likely we will see a Visegrad alliance along the lines of Efta but including Russia in some way. As the EU becomes more federalised it will need to design a status that reflects the inherent internal contradictions. Though there may be a desire not to admit this reality and preserve European Unity at any cost, if there is no reform then Britain will not be the last member to depart. Hungary or Poland seem like the obvious candidates for departure.

Your guess, though, is as good as mine. These are developments for the next twenty years. All we know is that the EU cannot survive in its current form and the next decade is make or break for the EU. Shit or get off the pot. The reality is that the UK is not the only country to be fractured by globalisation and the binaryism of the cold war is no longer there. There is no clear cut east-west demarcation and despite the EUs efforts to create one, it will not be reflected among its peoples.

Effectively this shift in geopolitical tides is the catalyst for the EU to resolve its schizophrenia. There will need to be a realignment of interests and choices will have to be made. What comes out the other side will be a Europe closer to how things are rather than how we pretend they are. Ultimately the pretence of European Unity could never last. Those who argue that we are demolishing the post-war settlement are effectively saying that maintaining this conceit is the overriding factor to all other considerations, including the democratic will. Personally I can't see how that ends well.

If we are indeed seeing the end of the post-war settlement then that is a sign that the people have moved on when the institutions of Europe have not. Questions are being asked but the ECHR and we know that the Geneva Convention is no longer fit for purpose. The systems of governance are ill-equipped for the challenges of permanent mass migration and if European nations wish to retain their culture, identity and heritage then they must act now.

In a lot of ways British politics is microcosm of what is happening across Europe. Our politics is twenty years or more behind the curve. As this blog has pointed out, the Eurosceptic movement in the UK is still making the same arguments it was in 1992. In our response to terrorism we are still working from twenty year old narratives and political theories we were talking about in 2003. All the while we have seen hyperglobalisation of technologies and massive shifts in wealth elsewhere in the world. We are not even close to intellectually equipped to tackle the issues of the new era and our institutions are faltering. If that is true of the UK then it goes double for Europe.

Far from being the regressive force turning inward the UK is really just an early adopter. The first to wake from a seventy year slumber. Brexit was the wake up call for Britain and Europe. This is why I see die hard remainers as woefully naive in that they are seeking to put the genie back in the bottle, chasing a status quo that died the day of the referendum. We could by some connivance find a way to remain a member of the EU but the fissures can no longer be the elephant in the room.

As it happens, the writing has been on the wall for some time. President Trump has merely brought it all into the open. The US was a reluctant backer to the EU inspired action in Libya just as Germany has been reluctant to take a role in allied efforts in the middle east.

Given that Syria and development in migration have a direct and profound effect on Germany it is high time that the Germans show some leadership, casting aside their ghosts. Its very survival depends on shedding its guilt and if it does not act then it is unlikely Eastern Europe will want to be dragged down with it. Hence their hostility to taking refugees. It stands to reason that Europe should take a lead in tackling the issues directly affecting Europe when US attention has turned to address threats in the Pacific.

Some have it that the UK has now made itself an irrelevance by leaving the EU, but as a non-Euro member it is already detached and has no real desire to rule Europe. Just as the USA is asking what it owes Europe, Britain is re-evaluating its own status where as a free agent it can be broker of global initiatives not directly concerned with Europe's southern frontiers. One might even say it's a reversion to the norm. For as long as the is an English Channel, the UK has options that Europe does not. It's up to us to explore what those options are.

You are always going to get kicking and screaming from denizens of the old order, fearful of change, terrified of the realities unleashed by facing down our many conceits, but to all things there is a time and the time for the European Union as we have known it has past. The next generation cannot be bound by the shackles of the last. A new era needs a new order. Every culture needs to mutate to survive - and now we are grasping that nettle. Let it happen. It's long overdue.

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