Monday, 9 May 2016
The EU's dogmatism is dangerous for Europe
When the PM says Brexit may mean war he is cheapening the debate. As it happens, I think war is already on the way, I don't think we can avoid it, and I don't think Britain being part of the EU will prevent it. Quite the reverse.
I don't see Turkey as a happy country. I see it turning ever more oppressive until there is either a civil war or an even more authoritarian regime. Either way it is going to see an upsurge of refugees headed for Greece and subsequently up to Europe. Possibly Syrians, possibly Kurds. That won't end well.
Meanwhile I see Greece eventually being quarantined from the Eurozone. It will be treated as an economic leper colony and will be hung out to dry to deal with the refugee problems. Nobody will lift a finger and Germany has spent its political capital taking on the refugees they already have.
I also don't see Poland as a healthy country. We could see civil strife there too. By rushing into the EU pressing ahead with massive economic and social reforms a lot of people have been disenfranchised and pushed out. Going from one power bloc to another they have never really had the chance at self-determination - and consequently nothing has been resolved by democratic means. As much as their regulatory order has been imposed on them, so has their social order, when clearly not everybody is ready for what we might call liberal Western values.
I also see the Balkan states looking elsewhere. They will sign agreements with the EU but to them, they will be mere ink on a page. When economic assistance doesn't come, they will look toward Russia. Serbia already has. As to Ukraine, who knows? The idea that peace is underpinned by the EU is a europhile fantasy. When war comes, the EU will be powerless to stop it, just as Yugoslavia was powerless to prevent the breakup.
Moreover, because the EU will insist on a common unified position, they will find a consensus impossible to reach. I can't see Germany wanting to be involved militarily in Eastern Europe - nor do I see them being especially welcome. And so it's easy to guess what the response will be - delay, procrastination and self-deception.
There will be summits, which will set up multiple working groups which devolve into silos. To report in 18 months. That is the EU's idea of urgent action. They will fiddle as Rome burns and everywhere else along with it. I don't know exactly what will start it all off, but I do know Britain's membership of the EU will be irrelevant. It will fall to Britain to act under a NATO banner. Because it always does.
But this is why Britain needs to leave the EU. If we look beyond the parochialism of the Brexit debate and the empty rhetoric of europhiles, we see a Europe that is hugely fragmented. We're not the only member state with a vibrant eurosceptic movement. If the EU has a mandate at all it is wafer thin, and it most certainly does not have a mandate to press ahead with its holy grail of federalism.
What Europe needs now more than ever is a multilateral platform for communication and cooperation, but one that exists to facilitate better relations and stimulate mutual assistance rather than pressing an alienating agenda upon members. Unless the EU can break away from its dogmatic idealism we will see it break up entirely. And that really will mean war.
What we need is a reformed EU. And by reformed, I don't mean the tedious tinkering of David Cameron. It needs a total reform of its institutions and a fundamental shift in its philosophy. Unless it can ditch the dead-end supranationalism it can only fall to pieces.
But this is not going to happen unless the UK leaves the EU. The only thing that will prompt such reform is an existential shock to the system. Brexit will galvanise other anti-EU movements within the EU. It will prompt an urgent Europe wide discussion on the future of the EU. One which is at least a decade late.
The EU has only ever had one consideration: the advancement of its own supranationalist agenda. The EU chooses to remain wedded to the symbolism of the European Union at all costs, even the destruction of the Union itself. It will not step out of its comatose fantasy to face the facts in which it is now deeply immersed.
Europe is changing. Allegiances are shifting, populations are moving and borders are being redrawn. On on the global level the EU is struggling for relevance as it is replaced and superseded by global accords and conventions. We need to ask if there is any longer room for the federalist idea and whether its inherent inflexibility and hostility to reform means there is any longer a place for it.
The idea of a European superstate is one that remains largely in tatters. The Euro is as far as it can ever go. Enlargement is less about adding new members as it is putting neighbours on a leash. As an entity it is fighting for survival. As long as it remains wedded to supranationalism - depriving members of democracy, and freedom to pursue their own trade interests, everybody is stuck in a stalemate. That's not going to address the fractious issues within Europe, nor will the pretence of unity. If anything, we are storing up greater problems for the future.
If we stay in the EU it will be seen as a mandate for business as usual at a time when it is hated more than ever. We will see a perpetuation of the same mentality where nothing is ever done until crisis becomes emergency - until member states are forced to take unilateral action. And when that happens, in order to preserve the delusion, nothing will be done. That's why there are walls in Eastern Europe and that is why they will stay.
For too long we have indulged the EU in its narcissistic fantasies, but we are approaching crunch point where we need real action. That is not going to come from the EU. While we perpetuate the myth that the EU underpins peace we will find ourselves unprepared and poorly equipped for war.
To my mind the most dangerous delusion of all is that we are safe so long as we continue to delegate our foreign policy to the EU and dismantle our capacity to wield soft and hard power. It is a hubristic denialism to pretend things can carry on as normal and to say that the EU can and will reform to meet the challenges of the new century is the worst kind of self-deception because it ignores forty years of evidence.
If Britain does not show leadership by leaving the EU we will leave the post-war settlement in tact - a solution designed in haste by old men scarred by events of the last century. We cannot afford to be held hostage to the ideas of those men when the world is a totally different place and wildly different from the one they ever imagined.
The notion that Europe could avoid war by turning their backs on democracy was an intellectually bankrupt idea then and it is equally so now. That we have avoided war for seventy years is not because of the EU. It is because that order was underpinned by cold war battle lines. Now we see those lines are fluid, and the old order has gone.
Now the threats are more fluid, closer to home and harder to predict. The best response to that is more democracy, not less. Nations unable to innovate and design their own responses to stresses are nations that will tear themselves apart. It's no coincidence that Scotland is flexing for independence. And if the UK is struggling to hold together, take a look at the ethnic battle lines in Eastern and Southern Europe. If you still think the EU can hold that together then I have a bridge to sell you.