A Question of Principle, Practical politics and Prosperity.
‘Not in the room’
As Angela Merkel says she backs the UK remaining in the EU, perhaps someone should remind her that Britain is already ‘not in the room’ when it come to major decisions, which are all determined by criteria linked to managing the ‘Euro’. Far from being a European Single Currency as once proposed, the Euro is now one of eleven and should be treated as such, alongside the forint, the zloty, or even the Swiss franc which is used in parts of Germany and Italy. The pretence that economic policy is about ‘managing a currency’ can then be replaced by the genuine concerns of political economy – promoting personal wellbeing, cultural development, state services, productive industries, agriculture and successful enterprise.
The case for Britain to leave the EU can be analysed from dozens of perspectives, industry by industry, social policy by policy, programme by programe, the scaremongering and wishful thinking of ‘geopolitics’, or the case by case consideration of nations, social groups and individuals. Each of these multitude of cases falls into one or more of the following categories.
Principle: The overarching case against the EU facing all its members is the lack of democratic legitimacy in its functions and the democratic deficits in its structure. This is as bad for the people of every member state, not just the British.
The illusion of internationalism and collaborative government is just that, a fata morgana, and a distraction from the very real inadequacies of stitching up deals between partners whose right to represent the people they claim to represent are thin at best and in too many cases within the EU Commission non-existent.
Each successive move towards greater unity has brought a ever increasing degree of amorphous pooling, to soften the focus of projects and initiatives to the detriment of targeted areas of need, or preference.
Practical politics: Oddly, political leaders in a dozen countries who might be expected to have clear cut incisive political programmes, distinctive in their facility to address national and regional concerns and to embody the particular perceptions of political efficacy garnered over centuries of independent national government appear at best to be drifting with the current of policy consensus, (Merkel) to be indecisive in their own backyards while still commanding residual respect within the EU, (Hollande) or at worst seemingly sidelined both in their own national and the wider international contexts (who are the policy makers of countries once knowns as PIGS?).
At odds with this whole structure are the emergence of far right Eastern European regimes, which seem bent on twisting their structures of government into knots of intolerance. While Donald Tusk has emerged from Poland as a voice of centre right conservativism, his legitimacy as a representative of Polish thinking has been completely eroded by the far right regime now running the country.
Is it in Britain’s interests to drift along with the EU’s increasingly unfocussed policies? Most probably not, but even an argument to continue working within the EU framework looks increasingly thin if Britain remains effectively excluded from the decision making processes of economic policy.
For Britain, there is very little point being subject to policy defined to match the interests of the Eurozone, however superficially attractive the notion of participating in a trading block may seem. The UK has even less interest in succumbing to the economic banality of Austrian School economic theory from the nineteenth century which is the most banal platform of do nothing compromise available to politicians devoid of analytical competence and conceptually focussed interventions.
Prosperity: By the standards of the 1950′s the EU is prosperous. By the standards of Soviet Socialism, the Eastern European members of the EU are prosperous. Even by comparison with the USA, prosperity across Europe as a whole has continued to increase since the 1970′s, whereas incomes for many North Americans have stagnated in real terms.
Whether any of this prosperity is contingent on the workings of the EU rather than the broader dynamics of technical change and global structure of all major corporations is an open question. Since the beginning of the industrial revolution almost three hundred years ago, there have never been such comprehensive commonly adopted platforms of technology, digital communications, design, manufacturing, biotech and genetics, or finance. The EU has promoted important areas of collaboration, but it is difficult to decide whether much of this is contingent on the EU’s role, or mere coincidence. Whether a broader degree of prosperity could be achieved if the EU were competent to address the issues of traded corruption is equally hypothetical.
It is difficult to imagine that non-membership of the EU would in any sense threaten any particular countries participation in the global system of commerce, industry, finance and trade. That is as true of Spain, as it is of the UK an Ireland.
The UK has a great deal to gain by distancing itself from the hierarchies of Brussels, not least the ability to appoint talented people to posts with genuine decision making potential within the UK at every level.