By Allen Wesson
In a holy crusade of telling you what’s best for you, the archetypal hard-line ‘Remainer’ has in fact become what it set out to destroy – a fount of nonsense, spouting stereotypes and further pushing divides between themselves and those who disagree.
As a moderate human being, I find the radicality of either viewpoint counterproductive. Because of this, and because there is a genuine argument to look critically at the EU, I would like to lay out some cons of the European Union and the reasons why it is fine to want to stay; on the caveat we take a long hard look at what we’ve helped create.
“You hate democracy!” the Brexiteer says, “You don’t understand democracy!” replies the Remainer, the two stuck in a constant bout of rhetoric. But neither of those things are relevant. “Does the EU like democracy?” seems to be a more valid question; and the answer isn’t quite what you may initially think. “But the European Parliament is one of the oldest institutions” says the Remainer. While true, the European Parliament’s original form, during the organisation’s early years as the European Coal and Steel Community, was more of an assembly of appointed officials. It was an embodiment of the technocracy the EU was built upon, the institutionalisation of a paternalistic ‘we know what’s best for you’ narrative that still sounds awfully familiar.
One seemingly never-ending debate is regarding the legislative powers considered ‘too important’ for individual nations to have access to – such as monetary policy for example. The approximate 2% Consumer Price Inflation (CPI) target in the UK very much has our national government involved, with seats on the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) being held by appointed officials from the elected government. However, the EU seems to have divorced monetary policy from the democratic process, having the European Central Bank (ECB) as a separate institution which runs parallel to the more democratic elements of the EU.
The point of all this specificity is to highlight the fact that these rather emotionally driven catchphrases do have grounds for exploration. To say I, as a Remainer, hate democracy is untrue, and to say an ever-changing institution hates democracy is also a little hyperbolic. But it does remain true that on the measure of democratic doctrine and practice, a technocracy with democracy built in at a later date is unlikely to match a system such as the American one, which was founded on democratic principles. I’m not saying that all areas of economic policy should be directly controlled by you or I; but if your values require democracy at all turns, the EU is not for you.
“We want to take back control!” says the now very flustered Brexiteer. His Remainer counterpart, also rather flustered, seems to be in disbelief, “Take control of what exactly?”. It is no secret that the European Union takes sovereignty away from national parliaments and delegates authority to the European supranational sphere. “But we have representatives in the European Parliament, most of them Eurosceptics, so what aren’t we controlling exactly?”. By this stage our Brexiteer was too angry and out of breath to continue – as the stereotype would have you believe – so I will take over in their place.
Although true by account of the European Court of Justice that a decision cannot be taken by the European Commission without first consulting the European Parliament, this opinion put forward by the Parliament is exactly that – an opinion. The appointed Commission does not need to consider the views given by Parliament. This means that no matter whether the decisions of the Parliament are listened to or not, there is no direct exercise of control over the EU by the average European citizen.
And even the European Citizens’ Initiative doesn’t exactly give any control to anyone – requiring one million people from at least seven different countries to collectively put forward grievances means that it’s unlikely every voice will be heard. Coordination is difficult to achieve, especially in a group made of disparate cultures and languages. I’m not saying that direct control over everything to do with our everyday lives should be reserved for you or I; but if you value total command of a nation’s destiny, the EU is not for you.
I could chair this debate between two stereotypical cartoon characters in my head all day, but as they are both now about as red faced as an embarrassed toddler, I fear an internal scrap in my brain is about to occur, so I’ll try to order my thoughts as best I can.
Brexit means Brexit, and not a lot else as far as we know. Short of a date and a few ambiguous Government documents we have literally nothing to build on, and so the void is filled with rhetoric, slogans and debate. Scottish comedian and avid Guardian political commentator Frankie Boyle has said that “British people have strong opinions based on nothing at all” and I fear this satirical account is becoming more and more accurate as time goes on. A solution might therefore be to try and base your strong opinion in factual evidence and to remain open to the opinions of others, not against the former and attacking the latter. You will find the radicality of your belief begin to falter, and that might be a step forward.