Thursday 9 May 2024

To Witness The Dismal Alternative

I have argued for years and years that EU membership subjected us, and would again, to the legislative will of any and everyone who could find their way onto the Council of Ministers and into the European Parliament; there is a similar problem with NATO, and if anything that is even worse because it is directly about wars. The great Professor Thomas Fazi writes:

With the EU elections less than a month away, one can only imagine the cognitive dissonance that the pro-EU, anti-Brexit crowd must be experiencing. In a curious twist of fate, the EU is turning into everything Remainers feared Brexit would bring to the UK.

For years they’ve been painting Brussels as a beacon of progressivism, peace and democracy, as opposed to the far-Right, racist and economically suicidal project of Brexit. Yet, ironically, it is the European Parliament, not the British one, that is about to swing firmly to the Right, as several European governments already have. Meanwhile, in just over six months, Britain will almost certainly vote Labour back into power — making it one of the few countries in Europe to have a centre-left government.

Across the Irish Sea, by contrast, an anti-immigration backlash has spiralled into country-wide unrest, while several EU governments — and even Ursula von der Leyen’s European People’s Party — are contemplating Rwanda-style asylum deportation deals. Meanwhile, the EU is aggressively cracking down on free speech, both online and offline. Over the past few weeks alone, the police have intervened to break up peaceful assemblies on at least two occasions — a pro-Palestine conference in Berlin and the NatCon conference in Brussels.

On the economic front, Germany, the most important economy in the EU, is mired in stagnation, and facing outright deindustrialisation, along with several other EU countries — all while the EU announces the return of harsh austerity measures. Angry farmers have been laying siege to the bloc’s capitals for months. As for the EU’s “peace project”, all European governments are now on a war footing, while Macron is leading the charge to send Nato troops into Ukraine, lurching Europe closer to an all-out war with Russia.

All this clashes with the Remainers’ rainbow-tinted view of the European Union. But their vision was always predicated on a fantasy: everything that is happening across the Channel is not a betrayal of “EU values”, as they are probably telling themselves — it is an inevitable consequence of the EU’s architecture itself.

Even though Remainers have always tended to view the EU as a bastion of social and workers’ rights, the reality is that the Rightward drift across the EU has its roots in the Brussels-driven assault on the post-war European social and economic model following the 2008 financial crisis. High unemployment rates, stagnant wages and austerity measures implemented in response to the crash exacerbated existing inequalities, fuelling resentment towards the political establishment.

To make things worse, the EU attempted to prevent any democratic backlash to these policies by restricting the scope of democratic decision-making by democratically elected governments, focusing instead on quasi-automatic technocratic rules imposed by undemocratic bodies. The European Union effectively became a sovereign power with the authority to impose budgetary rules and structural reforms on member states — not exactly what you’d expect from the “bastion of democracy” often portrayed by Remainers.

This, however, only exacerbated the disillusion of many Europeans with both mainstream political parties and the EU institutions themselves, which were perceived as beholden to global financial interests and disconnected from the needs of ordinary citizens. Meanwhile, the EU’s handling of the refugee crisis, which peaked in 2015, further galvanised anti-immigrant sentiments and fuelled the rise of Right-wing populist parties across the continent. The influx of migrants, primarily from war-torn regions in the Middle East and North Africa, strained resources, fuelled social tensions and demonstrated once more the failure of the EU’s top-down approach to policymaking — exemplified in this case by the idea of relocation quotas, which several countries refused to comply with.

Today, immigration has once again moved to the forefront of the political debate. The EU’s border agency, Frontex, detected over 350,000 irregular border crossings into the EU last year — the highest total recorded since 2016. EU countries recorded more than 1 million new asylum requests, a 20% increase compared to 2022 — on top of the almost six million refugees taken in from Ukraine since the start of the war. It shouldn’t come as a surprise, then, to learn that seven out of 10 Europeans believe their country is taking in too many immigrants — and that governments, faced with the prospect of serious social unrest, are running for cover.

On Monday, representatives of several European governments met in Denmark to discuss various types of “durable solutions” to immigration, including plans to relocate asylum seekers to third countries, reminiscent of the UK’s government’s Rwanda scheme. Even more astonishingly, von der Leyen herself admitted in a recent presidential debate of being in favour of third-country migration deals with places such as Tunisia and Egypt, even though this would not be possible under the EU’s recently approved Migration Pact. Ironic, considering that just a year ago several EU governments and senior EU officials were castigating the British government for proposing the exact same policy.

But then consistency has never been a valuable currency in Brussels. On Sunday, it was revealed that von der Leyen is also recrafting her image as a grandmother with “traditional, conservative family values”, in the hope of whitewashing her reputation as a champion of the EU’s green-rainbow agenda. “#ProudGrandma” read her hashtag — though this is likely little more than PR. After all, even as the EU establishment pays lip service to the concerns of ordinary Europeans, to try to contain the popular backlash against its various policy failures, it is also doing what it does best: attempting to subvert democracy.

Today, this doesn’t come primarily in the form of economic governance tools, which are already in place, but rather in the form of narrative control. Over the past few months, EU authorities have been peddling their own “Russiagate” hoax, claiming that that Russia bribed European politicians to spread disinformation and interfere in the upcoming elections. Russia “is using dodgy outlets pretending to be media [and] using money to buy covert influence”, said European Commission Vice President Věra Jourová. “We uncovered a pro-Russian network that was developing an operation to spread Russian influence and undermine security across Europe”, claimed Petr Fiala, the Czech prime minister. However, following an investigation, the head of the Czech intelligence agency admitted that his agency had no information about any bribery scheme.

Even von der Leyen conceded that there is no proof of a Russian bribery network. But don’t expect this to deter the EU from doing exactly what it accuses Russia of doing: interfering in the upcoming elections. On Monday, EU Parliament President Metsola met with 50 pan-European NGOs to thank them for pushing “EU values” ahead of the elections. This followed an announcement that the EU has signed Partnership Agreements with more than 500 NGOs — many at national level — all tasked with promoting EU values ahead of the forthcoming elections. It is, in other words, an explicit attempt to control the official narrative, by designating any communications that don’t conform to the official narrative as “disinformation”.

All of which is to say that, as challenging as Britain’s economic and political challenges may be, the EU’s dysfunctional and increasingly authoritarian nature are evidence of the fact that the UK made the right choice in decoupling from a failing bloc. As much as the British political class failed to address many of the concerns embodied in the Brexit referendum, that vote nonetheless provided a democratic outlet for many of the tensions that are now building up across the EU — and potentially opened up the country to the possibility of democratic national renewal. And if that isn’t justification enough, we need only look to the EU to witness the dismal alternative.


  1. Fazi is outstanding.

  2. "Europe" was an article of Thatcherite faith at the time, opposing it was "loony left". The right will be like that again as their boys take over the EU, if that makes the centre born again Eurosceptics it will be just as fickle. Only we have always been against the whole thing and always will be, you, Fazi, Galloway, Scargill, the RMT, the Morning Star, Counterfire, us, nobody else. Same goes for Greenery (Thatcher was a fanatic for that), identity politics, gender self-identification. Only we are reliable.

    1. Exactly.

      Cameron's referendum was never supposed to have been held. It was to have been the first thing to go in the second Coalition Agreement. The day before the 2015 Election, you could get seven to one on a Conservative overall majority.

  3. We now have a Foreign Secretary who resigned as Prime Minister rather than implement the referendum result. To think we could once have had a Cabinet with Kelvin Hopkins, Ian Lavery and Richard Burgon in it, all under Tony Benn's Vicar on Earth.

    1. Instead, our attention must now be on how to stop reaccession, but even more on how to resist once it had happened. Here we go again. As always.