WORDS: Graham Robinson
The truth about our EU membership when stripped of the paranoia and hysteria is boring. That’s why nobody wants to hear it. Much better to shout about Nazis and corporate plots and straight bananas and rule by Brussels. I listened to the debate about the EU on podcast 43 and got depressed.
It’s obvious that the whole debate in the UK is going to be at this level. We’ve had 40 years of relentlessly anti-EU propaganda from the Murdoch press and the right wing of the Tory party, reinforced in the last few years by UKIP. Add to that the conspiracy theorists and the European fascist parties and a cacophony of noise drowns out any reasoned argument.
All I can hear is a load of bullhorn nationalism and half-truths. The only voices in favour are Lib Dems, the CBI and a bunch of people trading on fear of the unknown. What hope is there for anything better?
So here goes. I’ll give it a shot. But this isn’t about the economic case. I’ll leave that to others.
First off what exactly is wrong with the idea of a united Europe? Why is it so bad? I feel European. I like the idea of common laws and common institutions all over Europe. I like the idea of being able to spend Euros all over Europe. Changing money at every border used to drive me mental.
Are we ‘ruled by Brussels’? Everyone says we are, it must be true then mustn’t it? Except it’s not. We are a major player in a group of nations who try to find ways to agree on matters that affect us all. In the UK we don’t all agree on everything but we agree to let the majority have the say. It’s called democracy.
I suppose it could be called ‘rule by Westminster’ and maybe it should be because our democracy is so unrepresentative of our opinions. What we have in both the UK and the EU is a democratic deficit. We are ruled by politicians who are interested in power and who don’t want us to have any. This is true all over Europe, all over the world. But the rise of opposition voices all over Europe is encouraging.
If we as Europeans come together we CAN change things. It takes time and solidarity and it’s difficult. It’s much easier to say we’ll take our ball home and just focus on the UK. Or England. Or the North East. It’s easier but ultimately useless.
In a world ruled by global corporations, retreating into a vision of plucky Brits taking on the world is a hopelessly romantic pile of horseshit.
We need to make the EU more democratic, but every attempt to do that is vetoed by national politicians who can’t bear to see their powers diluted. They have left the European Parliament weak and toothless and kept all the power in their own hands. That’s why ‘rule from Brussels’ is such a fantasy. The EU is ruled by the council of ministers, a group of national politicians who have the real power. In a real EU it would be the European Parliament, voted for by us who would have the final say. But we’re all terrified of that. Why? It would make the EU a genuine democracy.
But no, that would be ‘rule by Brussels’ and we can’t have that now can we? We much prefer rule by pig fucking Eton Tories. That’s much more democratic.
I listened to the Nazi stuff with sadness. The impetus for the establishment of the EU was a catastrophe which nearly obliterated the whole continent in a ruin of bombs and militarism. Millions dead. Cities reduced to rubble. For the second time in one century. People desperately wanted to avoid a third one. Politicians from all sides, who wanted hope to triumph over fear and war, wanted the nations of Europe to come together and stop that lunacy forever. These were noble aims. The new leaders of France and Germany and Italy and the other countries ruined by war wanted it. The idea that it was a Nazi plot is beyond ludicrous, it’s unhinged.
The people named as the Nazis who ‘founded the EU’ let’s see who they really were. Walter Halstein said to be ‘a high up Nazi’ was in fact an academic before the war, was an officer in the army like hundreds of thousands of his fellow Germans, was captured in 1944 and spent the rest of the war in a US prisoner of war camp. In 1950 he joined the new German (not Nazi) government as a diplomat and believed strongly in European integration. Not because he was a Nazi bent on world domination, but because he had experienced first hand the horrors of a nationalistic war.
Walter Funk on the other hand was a thoroughly despicable Nazi known as the ‘Banker of Gold Teeth’ from his use of the melted down gold teeth of Holocaust victims to bolster the funds of the Reichsbank. In 1940 he wrote a paper about how he visualised the organization of Europe after the war. He naturally saw a German victory resulting in a single currency and a single trading bloc which would have equal clout on the world stage with the USA. This article has been picked up on by the conspiracy theorists as proof that the EU is a Nazi plot. It would be funny if it weren’t now being quoted as a reason for the UK to leave the EU.
If anyone can be seen as the father of the EU it’s Jean Monnet not the Nazis. And even he didn’t ‘write the European Constitution’. There is no European Constitution, just a set of treaties cobbled together over years. Now more than ever we need a European Constitution which would safeguard our rights. What we have now is a situation where a minority Tory government can do away with our human rights and there is no constitution to stop them. Is that better?
“One political institution controls the whole of Europe and national politicians have no power” – this was stated as fact. “The EU is just mega corporations moving labour around” – this was stated as fact. “Redcar went down because of the EU” – this was stated as fact.
What is the real situation? No political institution controls the whole of Europe, as a result our voice in the world is weak and getting weaker, our national politicians are trampled on by mega corporations, our industries sold off by our national politicians. Our only hope in the face of this onslaught is to come together and oppose the corporations and support Europe wide institutions, not hide under the duvet and pretend we’ll be OK.
The EU has had some successes even as weak as it is but, if we leave, it gets weaker. Together we stand, divided we fall. This is as true at a European level as it is at a national level. We should not retreat behind the white cliffs of Dover, we should build a better Europe by engaging, by campaigning, by getting in there and putting our strength together with other Europeans who want change.
I don’t want the only case put to our people to be that economically we’ll be a bit worse off. We are better than that. Europe has much to be proud of in the world, we are not just colonial slave owning bastards, we championed free speech, religious freedom, welfare systems, workers rights, Amnesty, Greenpeace, Medecin sans Frontieres, Beethoven, Shakespeare, the rule of law and so much more. Lets not turn our backs on all that and go back to being little Englanders.