Whichever way UK people vote tomorrow, the appalling nature of the campaign to leave or remain in the EU is a cautionary reminder of the depths to which populist politics sinks political debate. The murder of Labour MP Jo Cox was an atrocious act of violence against someone who should have been listened to, not silenced. The designation of two official campaign groups, both led by conservative party politicians was an absurd distortion to the notion of free and open debate. The tactic of centering the campaigns around the notion of migration, neatly avoided discussing the major issues of British EU membership, the creation of a central core of decision making around the Eurozone countries and the democratic deficit. Worse still, the campaigns ignored the fact that the European Union is only one of a number of European groupings that Britain belongs to and withdrawal from the EU would have no effect on its membership of other organisations, such as the Council of Europe.
In all, its a mess.
If Britain votes to stay, Europe will have to address the awkward reality of an increasingly disfunctional British presence outside the Eurozone.
If Britain votes to leave, Europe will have to address the awkward reality that its credibility may be so seriously damaged that nationalist groupings from across the continent will become destructive, rather than merely disruptive.
The task of establishing a credible progressive politics within the EU behemoth is going to become more and more pressing, and I suspect more difficult to achieve. It certainly isn’t going to be a goal achieved by the traditional process of position papers, lobbying and government initiatives once we consider the kinds of folk who are likely to be arriving to take their places in the European Council of Ministers over the coming couple of years with decisions made by qualified majority voting.