EU flawed future after Brexit

Sottotitolo: 
The British referendum outcome sanctions the detachment from a Union, which tends to erase national sovereignty, while giving all power to an oligarchy that is devoid of popular representation and democratically unaccountable.

After Brexit’s victory a number of commentators have attributed the referendum outcome as being due to the fact the UK has always been a reluctant EU member. Additionally, a confirmation of Britain's congenital aversion to mingling with the continent.

Yet, the history of relations between UK and EU tells a different story. Britain asked to join the European community in the early sixties, just a few years after the establishment of the EEC by the six founders: France, Germany, Italy and Benelux.

The application for membership remained unfilled over the next decade due to the opposition of France, lead by Charles de Gaulle, which was jealous of its dominant role within the Franco-German axis. The subsequent application for membership was finally accepted in the seventies, and the British people ratified the entry into the European community by a large majority.

Later, Margaret Thatcher opened a bitter dispute between the United Kingdom and the European Community on the issue of the Community budget, but the conclusion was reaffirmation of Britain’s commitment tot Europe.

Thus, the UK has not only participated, but in many ways has been at the forefront of European Union construction. However, this has never canceled an essentially distinctive element. For the UK, the European Union has never meant the cancellation of national sovereignty.

 In the UK’s view, countries come together to share elements of sovereignty in the management of issues of common interest: both from the point of view of internal economic relations as well as in the field of the relationships with the rest of the world; but without cancellation of their historical, political and social characteristics.

Today, the intriguing aspect is that this claim of sovereignty has become an element of negative and contemptuous judgment toward Britain, with critics forgetting that the defense of national sovereignty (albeit conditioned by membership in a shared community of States) has always been central in the historic stance of France, the nation at the origin of the European construction.

It is no coincidence that Jacques Delors, the noble father of the European Union as we know, was used to define the new European Union as a "Community of sovereign states.". And, not surprisingly, in 2005 a referendum rejected the proposed Treaty that aimed to promote a closer political integration of member states.

In short, Brexit must not be viewed as a product of a British historic and ideological aversion to building a European community of states. Instead, it reflects refusal by the world’s fifth economic power of subjection and suffocating control by Brussels’ authoritarian  bureaucracy', which is devoid of popular legitimacy and is democratically unaccountable. The Brussels bureaucracy is a technocratic power which, with the key support of  Germany, has imposed its flawed and devastating policies on Europe in an unsuccessful attempt to deal with the economic and social crisis – of which migration problem is one of the most troubling, but not the only one, consequence.

The European Union and its main development - the euro for the acceding countries – should have been an instrument for strengthening the community of European countries in facing the challenges of the old and the global powers. Paradoxically, the opposite happened. The only area of the developed world that remains caged in the crisis, eight years after its beginning, is the European Union.

The US unemployment has fallen from 10 percent at the height of the crisis to less than 5 percent today. In most EU countries and, particularly, into the euro zone, unemployment has reached historical highs.

Poverty and inequality have increased hugely. The working class has been penalized via marginalization of trade unions, the dissolution of collective bargaining and attack on the welfare state. The middle class has endured a steep decline of economic status and social identity. The current popular uprising in France against Holland’s neo-liberal labor reform, sponsored by the EU Commission, is striking evidence of the intensified aversion to neoconservative European so-called reformism.

The old mainstream parties. independent of their center-right or center-left origin, are no longer able to impose their political platforms. That means that the illness doesn’t depend on specific mistakes of different governments, but on subservience to the same failed European political paradigms. Within this framework the most impressive outcome is the collapse of the center-left parties. The latest example is the PSOE in Spain which in the June 24 election delivered its worst result of the post-Franco era.

At the same time, in France Francois Hollande is politically a dead man walking and in Italy Matteo Renzi, in the recent administrative election, has endured a searing defeat of the Democratic Party in Rome, as well as in Turin which has had a leftwing administration for decades.

What are the prospects now? Other countries will propose holding referendums on Europe’s policies. And, in the majority of cases, the result could be similar to the British one. Not surprisingly, according to Eurobarometer surveys of the European Commission, in Italy, once the most filo-European country within the European community, a stable majority of electors declares to be in favor of the exit from the euro (in this case, not from the European Union).

The British referendum tells us that the emperor has no clothes. One or more governments must win the battle for a  sharp dramatic reversal of the current self- destructive national and European politics. A difficult task, indeed; but unique opportunity to avoid the Union’s disintegration.

Antonio Lettieri

Editor of Insight and President of CISS - Center for International Social Studies (Roma). He was National Secretary of CGIL; Member of ILO Governing Body, Member of the OECD's Trade Union Advisory Council and Advisor of Labor Minister for European Affairs.(a.lettieri@insightweb.it)- http://antoniolettieriinsight.blogspot.it/