Following Brexit, an interesting area of agreement has emerged between members of the two contending teams, by which I really mean between Brexiteer me and Daniel Korski, who recently penned a Politico piece entitled Why we lost the Brexit vote. We. His team lost. His discussion of why his team lost strikes me as well worth reading.
Korski was for the EU, and for Britain being in the EU. He describes it as:
— an extraordinary project of continental peacemaking and economic liberalization —
However, those dashes at the beginning and the end of that quote are because that is a parenthetically pre-emptive addition to a long passage in which Korski tells us many of things that have been wrong with the EU, especially recently. The EU …:
… has become increasingly distant from voters. It has struggled with the contradictions laid bare by the euro crisis and come up against the limits of its attraction, in Turkey and on its border with Russia. The resulting impression is of a Continent lurching from crisis to crisis. …
There is much more in a similar vein. Read it all, if you are the sort that relishes unflattering descriptions of the EU. The …:
… the impression of the EU across the Continent was of an enterprise no longer delivering for Europeans. …
The word “impression” occurs twice during this peroration, and again in one of the subheadings that Korski, or someone, has added. But it all reads like a lot worse than just an impression.
Korski also bitterly describes the truly terrible press that the EU kept on getting in Britain, and indeed it did. But he echoes many of these denunciations himself. His EUro-enthusiasm comes over as very lukewarm, which is the accusation that Korski himself makes against his old boss, David Cameron. Cameron, says Korski, failed to put, during the referendum campaign, any positive case for the EU to the British people.
Korski rightly traces Cameron’s lacklustre performance in the referendum campaign back to the decades of deceptions that the British people had been subjected to by Britain’s EUrophiles, who instead of urging us to love the EU, the way we had formerly loved Britain and its various global appendages and offshoots and adventures, instead denied that the EU was what it clearly was, or that the EU was ever intended to be what it was clearly intended to be from its inception: namely the United States of Europe. The EU was founded to abolish the separate nations of the old Europe, and replace them with one big USE. Everyone knew this. Yet Britain’s EUrophiles spent half a century denying it, and consequently failing even to try to explain why the actual EU as it really was might be a good idea, worth actually getting excited and enthusiastic about. The EU, for Britain, never got past being a “deal”, but because it never was a mere deal, this deal was always a lie.
It is therefore not surprising that, come the Brexit referendum, the EUrophiles were unable to allude to any positive British feelings of EUro-patriotism or EUro-enthusiasm, for such feelings simply did not exist in Britain on the required scale. To most of us, such sentiments were most offputting. Instead the EUrophiles could only focus on negatives. If you vote against the EU, then (a) you will be pushing the British economy off a cliff, and (b) you’re all a bunch of racists.
The more I ponder the referendum result, the less surprised I become about the size of the Brexit vote, and the more baffled I am that so many voted against Brexit. What the hell were they thinking? I hope, although I promise nothing, to do other posts here in the future that supply some actual answers to what is here merely a rhetorical question. See postings like this one for some clues about what my explanation will be.
In amongst Korski’s focus on the Brexit referendum and on why his team lost it, there is to be seen a larger, EUrope-wide question, concerning the very survival as a serious project of the EU itself. Korski does not merely denounce the leaders of EUrope for pissing off us Brits, with their arrogant meddling in minutiae and their blatant political manipulations. He accuses them of having pissed off the whole of EUrope.
Tomorrow evening, my last Friday of the month speaker at my home will be Antoine Clarke. In addition to being an occasional contributor here, Antoine is bilingual in English and French, this latter fact making him an excellent person to tell me and my guests about “The Consequences of Brexit for the rest of the European Union”.
The question that I will be putting most keenly to Antoine will concern how seriously the case for the reality of EUrope has been put to the rest of the EUropeans. I know, because I live here, that it had never been seriously put to the British. Only translated rumours of EUro-bosses telling it all as it actually was told us what was really going. But I had always assumed that, in EUrope, it had always been different. There at least, there was widespread popular understanding of the true nature and true purpose of the EU, and widespread belief that this purpose was noble and worthy. Wasn’t there? Now, I am starting to suspect that all those linguistically divided peoples have been quite extensively lied to as well, in much the same way that we in Britain were, each by their own little gangs of local EUro-enthusiasts. That’s what I’ll particularly be asking Antoine about.
I think that my question bears directly upon what will be the EUropean impact of Brexit. In one world, Brexit will be a bunch of rather tiresome people who never believed in EUrope anyway finally doing what they should have been doing all along, namely being out of it, leaving EUrope to the people who are serious about it. Put like that, Brexit becomes an exercise in house-cleaning, and EUrope will be all the stronger for it. Maybe that is how things will turn out.
But what if the feelings of the British electorate are widely shared by EUropeans generally? What if the EUro-enthusiasts have been lying to all the other mere people also? In that world, Brexit becomes something far more portentous, namely EUrope losing the future. So much of politics is about momentum, about things that are far more important than merely desirable, namely about things that are inevitable, whether people merely want them or not. Until Brexit, EUrope, for all its faults, faults many of which Korski describes so eloquently, was The Future, that we all had to learn to live with. (More about that from me in this earlier posting.) How people merely voted wasn’t going to matter. And then suddenly, us pesky Brits had a vote which – the horror – actually changed the direction of things. An alternative inevitability, a new version of The Future rose up like a monster out of a lake, namely: not just Brexit, but the principle that anyone could, and in due course, one by one or perhaps even in a concerted rush to the door, would … Exit. In that world, as quite a few have already argued, Brexit has the same feel about it as the fall of the Berlin Wall and the subsequent collapse of Soviet Communism. As that latter event illustrates, what might then happen in Europe is anyone’s bet.
My own bet is something in between those two scenarios. EUrope will continue in being, but as a force in the world it will fade. Germany, France and the rest of them will continue to be Germany, France and the rest of them. (Too much momentum.) But, what do I know? I’m looking forward to Antoine’s talk. Email me (top left here) if you want to know more about that.