The Curious Case of the European Union
“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” What future remains for the EU?
For too long, Euro-scepticism has been dominated by well-intentioned campaigns about economic independence or the concept of sovereignty. These campaigns have been entirely legitimate, and indeed have been proved right.
However, the time has come for a renewed push at generating “mainstream Euro-scepticism” – as outlined by the excellent George Eustice recently.
Over the course of the last decade, we have witnessed what many predicted all along; economic integration led inevitably to political integration. There is no doubt that this was the objective of the ardent pro-European brigade, and the relationship between European economics and European politics can be seen at every level of the operation.
Farmers who accepted EU subsidies now find themselves going out of business because they can’t keep up with the EU’s agri-regulation, and universities who enrolled in EU programmes are now being fined for not showing their appreciation for the super-state by flying its flag on campuses.
If we accept that economic integration led to political integration, can we follow that logic and conclude that economic disintegration will lead to political disintegration? In reality, this logic will not be swallowed by those in Brussels who have made a living, indeed a way of life, out of bulldozing borders, identity, independence and other horrors that the people of Europe must be protected from. The future of the EU is unlikely to remain in the hands of a few Euro-enthusiasts, and will increasingly be determined by the voices and votes of the oft-ignored European people.
The EU shows signs of Progeria syndrome, going from infant, to grumpy teen, to mid-life crisis with quite remarkable speed. Having spent the last decade enshrining its power in tedious and impenetrable law, the EU’s federalist tentacles are now so long that they risk strangling themselves. It is at this point in the EU’s life that Euro-sceptics have an opportunity, and remarkably this opportunity is largely one of the EU’s own making.
As treaties were signed in foreign countries and anonymous suits posed in front of the yellow stars, Euro-scepticism struggled to bridge the gap between the European reality and mainstream UK public opinion. Now, having got what it wanted in the courts and Parliaments across Europe, the project is flexing its muscles in areas of life previously untouched by the legal frameworks and back-room political deals that have enabled it so far.
Maybe we should think of the EU as a collector (kleptomaniac) who spent decades gathering hundreds of toys and models in their original packaging, who now decides that the time has come to tear them open and have a go. Nobody seemed to notice when everything was in its box, ordered and regimented, but now the packaging has been ripped off and the collector is having some fun. The EU logo should be emblazoned on sports kits, the flag of the Motherland must fly far and wide, convicted prisoners must have the same rights as tax-paying citizens and everybody, everybody, has a host of “human rights” just waiting to be explored and exploited.
Yes, this opportunity for mainstream, pragmatic Euro-scepticism is a direct result of the EU’s blind stampede towards total control. But as the economic foundations of the entire project begin to collapse into the oceans around it, the European public is increasingly questioning the right of the now devalued political entity to dictate ever more ludicrous laws in the name of social and political integration. If the pub is on fire, no amount of drinks promotions will get customers back through the door.
Through economic ineptitude and breathtaking political arrogance, the EU is sowing the seeds of its own demise, or perhaps ushering in it's own 'Benjamin Button' era. The British public favour withdrawal and the Left-wing regimes of Europe that enthusiastically supported the project are fast disappearing – to be replaced by more rational, thoughtful right-of-centre governments.
The people of Germany ask in disbelief, as if they have just woken up, why they have to work longer in order to give the Greeks a soft retirement. Political classes scoff at the demand for increased funding of the EU and, when given the chance, the people routinely say “NO” to Europe’s demands.
Out of this mess, a new breed of Euro-sceptics have emerged. Young, thoughtful and engaged, they don’t fit the left-wing stereotype of pseudo-racist Tory right-wingers who have a pound sign on one lapel and a Union Flag on the other.
Much of the hard work has been done for them, by the EU’s relentless power-grabs and economic implosions. The opportunity now is to harness public support for a new relationship with Brussels, and to turn it into political will. If this is done, future generations will be spared the question, “Why didn’t anybody stop this rot?”
Christian May is a political consultant with Media Intelligence Partners Ltd, where he specialises in foreign affairs and international consultancy. He writes for The Commentator in a personal capacity.
Read more on: Christian May, european union, will the euro last, will the european union survive, the curious case of benjamin button, eurosceptic, euro-scepticism, progeria, will europe become one country, how is europe defined, is herman von rompuy, herman von rompuy, and catherine ashton
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