Universities UK And Scientists For EU, Selling Out Democracy And Academic Freedom In The Grubby Pursuit Of Cash

Universities for Europe

Pro-EU academic umbrella organisations like Scientists for EU and Universities for Europe are actively peddling myths and propaganda rather than dealing in ideas, in a heinous betrayal of their supposed professional ethics

The LSE’s BrexitVote blog is carrying a great rebuttal to the endless, whining, selfish demands from Scientists for EU and others that the British people should reject Brexit because leaving the EU might hinder some money from flowing unimpeded into the pockets of various grubby special interests.

Christopher Bickerton and Lee Jones, both university lecturers, write:

When scientists wail that their ‘lab would fall apart’ outside the EU, they reflect the lamentable, Not-In-My-Back-Yard attitude of many academics to the forthcoming referendum. Any critical argument about the EU, and indeed any political argument whatsoever, seems to fall by the wayside, deemed irrelevant by those thinking only of their present research activities. The referendum is not about anyone’s lab; it is about democracy. The consequences of EU membership or exit are so vast and wide-ranging that this is the most significant political decision that will occur in our lifetimes. It is too important to reduce to pounds and pence. We all have our own interests, but sometimes we should aim to look a bit further than that.

If you don’t like the immigration regime as it applies to students and academic staff, then campaign to change it. If you think that UK science is under-funded, making us overly reliant on EU money, then demand that government funds universities properly. If this idea that popular demands should translate into government policy seems unrealistic, it simply signifies how degraded our democracy has become after decades of EU membership.

If you want to stay in the EU, then campaign for it – honestly. Don’t hide behind dodgy statistics and present what is really a cultural and political preference as a matter of economic and scientific necessity.

Read the whole thing.

How refreshing – and how long overdue – it is to see this fightback occurring within academia. Too often, the people in our country who are supposed to be the most adept at thinking, the best equipped to understand abstract concepts and possessed of the best knowledge of history have in practice spurned all of these gifts and sung uncritical hymns of praise to the European Union, and looked at the most fundamental question to face our country in decades as a parsimonious question about how much money will flow into their coffers in the event of a Leave or Remain vote.

The dismal lack of vision or serious thought behind Scientists for EU and Universities for Europe is laid bare in the campaign poster shown at the top of this article, which trumpets the benefits to the British economy of European students studying here. Great. But are they seriously suggesting that these students would no longer come to Britain if we were to leave the political construct of the EU? Would all European students currently here be summarily deported, dragged from their halls of residence in the middle of the night by Home Office SWAT teams? Of course not. But those who claim to speak for scientists and universities are not above falsely implying that European students would automatically disappear from our shores in the event of Brexit.

We can rule out the idea that Universities for Europe are misinformed, and labouring under the misapprehension that something so apocalyptic might really occur – these are supposedly bright people, after all. So that leaves us with the rather distasteful truth – that they are actively lying and seeking to scare and deceive the British people, in order to defend what they see as a lucrative revenue stream of EU funding. In other words, not only have British universities abandoned the pursuit of truth, they are now enthusiastically peddling misinformation and propaganda. I hope they can sleep at night.

Of course, it is not only the academic establishment at fault for slavishly joining in the EU praise chorus – the same can be said of the entire Remain campaign from David Cameron and the government on downward. Neither feel comfortable talking about the big issues of democracy, accountability and national self-determination, which is why they constantly bring the focus back to tedious and unprovable economic arguments about pounds saved or GDP growth at risk.

Neither academia nor government can talk about Britain’s gradual absorption into a European political union in warm and enthusiastic terms, because to do so would be too immediately repellent to voters. And so unable to make the real positive case for the EU and for European federal union, instead we see this endless parade of risibly apocalyptic warnings about Brexit.

Which is a shame, because it would actually be quite nice to know whether our political and intellectual leaders believe that the top-down supra-national government of Europe is a good objective, or whether they are merely going along with it because of perceived short term social and financial advantage.

And if nothing else comes from this abysmally fought EU referendum, it would be nice to know whether our pro-European betters in Westminster and the academy are more stupid or greedy. Right now it seems quite finely balanced.

 

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On Brexit, Nigel Lawson Should Stick To Being A History Professor

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When it comes to the history of the EU, Nigel Lawson actually has his facts straight. It’s a shame he also feels the need to weigh in on the political and economic aspects of Brexit

When he isn’t single-handedly torpedoeing the thinking Brexiteer’s case for leaving the European Union with fatuous and cavalier pronouncements on the economic aspect – or wrongly whipping up fears that Brexit would mean border controls with Ireland – Nigel Lawson can sing quite a nice tune on the issue of democracy and the unabashedly federalist imperative of the EU.

From Lawson’s OpEd in yesterday’s Telegraph:

On the European mainland it has always been well understood that the whole purpose of European integration was political, and that economic integration was simply a means to a political end.

In Britain, and perhaps also in the US, that has been much less well understood, particularly within the business community, who sometimes find it hard to grasp that politics can trump economics.

The fact that the objective has always been political does not mean that it is in any way disreputable. Indeed, the most compelling original objective was highly commendable.

It was, bluntly, to eliminate the threat to Europe and the wider world from a recrudescence of German militarism, by placing the German tiger in a European cage.

Whether or not membership of the EU has had much to do with it, that objective has been achieved: there is no longer a threat from German militarism.

But in the background there has always been another political objective behind European economic integration, one which is now firmly in the foreground.

That is the creation of a federal European superstate, a United States of Europe. Despite the resonance of the phrase, not one of the conditions that contributed to making a success of the United States of America exists in the case of the EU.

But that is what the EU is all about. That is its sole raison d’être.

This is a condensed and fairly accurate restatement of the EU’s underlying purpose, more fully laid out in “The Great Deception” by Dr. Richard North and Christopher Booker – though this essential book makes the additional important point about just how much of the EU’s evolution has taken place by stealth, cloaked in deliberate secrecy.

Anyone still labouring under the illusion (or burying their heads in their sand to convince themselves) that the EU is nothing but a happy-go-lucky club of countries coming together voluntarily to “cooperate” and solve common difficulties together should read “The Great Deception” and let the scales fall from their eyes. For all his other faults, Lawson does at least have a firmer grasp of history than most starry-eyed EU apologists.

Does this OpEd make up for everything else that Lawson has unfortunately done to retard the case for Brexit? No. But it does show quite starkly the positive case for Brexit which the main Leave campaign is throwing away by refusing to commit to an anxiety-soothing EEA-based exit plan and then, once the public’s understandable economic concerns are neutralised, letting the case for democracy speak for itself.

 

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If The Remain Campaign Succeed In Cheating Their Way To Victory, Their Joy Will Be Short Lived

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There will be no kissing and making up on 24 June

Much like this blog, Pete North is angry at the conduct of this referendum campaign by the arrayed forces of Remain, and sees little point in hiding the fact:

We’ve had decades of their rule, decades of their orthodoxy and no means to challenge their political dominance. We’ve been watching and waiting for years. Watching as successive governments have ceded ever more power, ever more control and have insulated themselves from the wishes of the public. Well, now we’ve got our referendum. And now we see just how deeply the game is rigged.

So we’re angry to say the least. Angry at what has been done to us, done in our name, and angry that once again democracy is being trampled on to preserve the orthodoxy. And we do not take kindly to being lied to.

There’s an old saying that politics is between you, me and the swamp. Minorities on either side, playing games for the votes in the middle. But unlike classic politics, this is not a left vs right dispute. There are only those above the line and those below the line. Those who have the power and those who do not. In this estimation, the establishment holds all of the cards. It has always known a challenge to its legitimacy would one day come which is why it set out to bribe institutions in advance.

We Brexiteers on the other hand have what we have. An angry rabble with keyboards. And let’s face it, none of us are ever going on the front cover of Vogue. We’re a bunch of griping, moaning angry people who seem to hate just about everyone in politics and everything they do. We’re not helped by a pretty shoddy Leave campaign either, with some fairly odious spokesmen.

We are irredeemably spit. We all hate each other. I despise the Toryboys and I loathe Ukip. I hate all political tribalism. I’m not a joiner of clans. But there’s one thing that unites us all. All of us can articulate a better definition of democracy than any of those would would have us remain in the EU – and though we can’t seem to agree on coherent Brexit plan, we all know what democracy is, why we should have it and crucially why the EU is the absolute opposite of it.

And that’s why this referendum really settles nothing. The Remainers will play their little games, steal the referendum and carry on as before; feathering their own nests and consolidating their power. But we’re not going anywhere. We’re not giving up. And we are taking names. Us Brexiteers hold deep grudges. We are in it for the duration.

We will remember Cameron the fraud. We will remember Hague and Corbyn as turncoats. We will remember the frauds like Boris Johnson who used the cause for their own advancement. We will remember the parasites who had their fingers in the till. We will remember all those hacks and policy wonks who twisted the truth. We will not forget what was done here. And unlike 1975 – we have a full record of who said what. The internet never forgets.

And North’s blood-chilling conclusion:

In fact, we are going to be pure poison. If you thought the SNP were sore losers, you ain’t seen nothing. A remain vote will ensure domestic politics remains permanently toxic. While these part timers waft into to the Brexit debate with their tedious rhetoric about Brexiteers being little englanders and xenophobes, and venting their empty rhetoric of cooperation and internationalism, we have been here from the beginning. Will be here at the end.

You can stifle an idea, but you can’t kill one. Especially not that seemingly antiquated notion that the people should be able to refuse their government. The EU may be powerful but it is not stronger than the desire for democracy. And if it takes another generation to get what we want then that is what we will do. There is only one way this fight ends – Britain leaving the European Union. We will either do it amicably and by the book – or we will do it some other way. The general public may well go back into their political slumber, but we Brexiteers will be back – and in between, we are going to cause merry hell.

I should say that I agree with nearly everything in Pete’s piece – as always, his diagnosis of the flaws of the EU is spot-on, and his objections rooted not in shameless partisan positioning (like nearly every Remain supporter on the Left) but in a deep love and respect for democracy.

I can’t say that I look forward to the idea of being “pure poison”, or causing merry hell. But increasingly, I cannot see an alternative if, as is still likely, the Remain camp prevails on the back of a campaign based on sowing fear, uncertainty and doubt.

There are some political issues where I don’t get my way – in fact, as a libertarian / conservatarian living in Britain, it is pretty near all of them – where I am still happy to play the game according to the rules. I think personal taxes are too high, for example, as a result of decades of fiscal drag and Gordon Brown’s only partially-repealed spiteful hike. But I’m not going to take my toys and go home in protest, refusing to engage and participate in the democratic process because we don’t have a flatter tax system.

Likewise with the size of the state. This blog believes that government does far too much for far too many people – including many who are already self-sufficient and do not need government largesse, as well as many who could know self sufficiency if only they had the right short-term help and weren’t indefinitely coddled by the welfare state. But it is not the relatively unambitious and half-finished work of implementing Universal Credit which has enraged me against this supposedly conservative government.

On all manner of issues I’m happy to play for incremental progress, accept the victories as well as the losses for my side, and then move on to the next battle. But this is different. The European Union question is different.

The EU referendum is not about whether we want politics to be a little bit more left wing or a bit more right wing. It is not about tweaking tax policy, industrial policy, reforming benefits, or social issues. It is so much more fundamental than that, because whether or not Britain votes to remain in the EU says in a single gesture what kind of country we are, and what kind of country we want to be.

And the same thing applies at the personal level. I have never had a problem socialising and being friends with people from all across the political spectrum. Most of my social circle probably leans significantly to the Left, if anything, and while it leads to the occasional lively conversation there is always a full measure of respect. But – and I don’t take any great joy in writing this – I do not think I will be able to help thinking less of people who vote for Britain to remain in the EU.

Now, that doesn’t go for every Remain supporter. If I knew that someone is voting Remain because they truly believe in the European project, that they admit that political union is being brought about by stealth but that the ends justify the means, that they “feel” more European than British and want to forge a new combined European state, then I would profoundly disagree with them but I could respect that position. It is a positive (although distasteful to me) vision of Europe, and it is an honest one. I know several people who do take that position, and I am at my happiest when I am debating with them because I don’t feel like part of my soul is dying while I do it.

My problem is with those who either see supporting the European Union as some kind of necessary virtue-signalling act to be accepted in their social circle (oh, aren’t UKIP simply awful, darling?), and those who abrogate any notion of acting as an engaged and enlightened citizens with a responsibility to this country and to democracy, and so vote based solely on their wallets or other narrow personal interests. I will struggle to look upon such people in quite the same way after this referendum.

Maybe that is easy for me to say – I do not have a lot materially at stake in this referendum, financially or otherwise. My job is not dependent on EU funding, and the immediate interests of my family are not threatened by Brexit. All of these are mitigating factors – if my own salary and job security were directly or even indirectly contingent on staying in the EU, I concede that it would take a superhuman effort to overcome the instinct toward confirmation bias which would encourage me to seek out other facts and opinions supporting the Remain case.

But human beings are emotional creatures and the fact cannot be denied: I have a lot invested in this campaign, in terms of this blog and my other campaigning activities on the side. With such an early referendum and with the government doing everything short of stuffing ballot boxes with fake votes to assure a Remain vote, I remain pessimistic about our chances, though I fight to win. But if we lose, the behaviour and motivations of many of those agitating for Remain is such that I will be very angry for a very long time. And I will not be the only one.

(None of this should be taken as a Rebecca Roache-style, “unfriend all my Tory acquaintances on Facebook in a fit of moral grandstanding, virtue-signalling post-election leftist pique” piece of melodrama. But there will be a degree of real disappointment, if for no other reason than it will confirm that those who vote Remain and I clearly see the world in a profoundly, irreconcilably different way).

Britain should be ready for the wave of anger that is likely to break over our heads on 24 June. In the event of a Leave vote, expect a lot of short term hysterics from the virtue-signallers and special interests, most of which will die down once it becomes evident that Britain will be exiting to an EEA/EFTA holding position and maintaining single market access. But in the event of a Remain vote, given the underhanded way that the government has been fighting the referendum campaign, expect the SNP on steroids – a long, guerilla campaign of attrition directed against anyone and everyone who betrayed the Brexit cause.

Chris Deerin painted a vivid and I believe accurate prediction of the future in a piece for CapX last year, comparing the likely fallout from the EU referendum to the aftermath of the 2014 Scottish independence referendum:

I have been bemused and fascinated by the number of English people telling me in recent weeks that “it won’t be like Scotland” – that this will be a more sedate affair, will inspire less passion, do less long-term damage. Well, perhaps. But, as we Scots say, ah hae ma doots.

What was most extraordinary about last year’s independence vote was the turnout: 84.5 per cent, the largest since the introduction of universal suffrage in the UK in 1918. Many of those voting were people who had never before even considered entering a polling station. What happened? There was certainly a long, noisy, impassioned campaign. There was global interest beyond anything we’d experienced before, but beyond this were two key factors that I believe drove this historic level of engagement.

The first was timing – the referendum came along after a decade in which every significant British institution had suffered either a scandal, a crisis of confidence or a loss of purpose, from Westminster to the media to the City to the military. The ties that bind had never been looser, respect for the status quo never lower.

Second, people were asked an existential question: who are you? This is not nothing. You will want to answer. You will want to answer on behalf of yourself and your family and your nation. Especially when you realise that the answer really matters – no safe seats to consider, no popular or unpopular incumbent MPs, no First Past The Post system ensuring only a few marginals get all the attention. Every individual counts. This is the big one, for keeps. So: in or out?

Deerin concludes:

Ultimately, we are about to ask the people of Britain an existential question: who are you? They will know that their voice counts this time, and that the consequences of the decision will be enormous and era-defining. They will think about themselves, their family and their country. They will get angry with the other side. Some very harsh words will be exchanged. Tempers will be lost and relationships fractured. And afterwards, whatever the outcome, the losers will be very sore, for a long time.

Not like Scotland? Don’t say you weren’t warned.

Like I say, I have no great desire to spend the next year walking around angry, holding nearly the entire political class in derision and many of my fellow citizens in open contempt. It does not warm my heart, in the same way that many left wing activists clearly revel in their anger and the righteousness of their cause, bleating about socialism and hating the Evil Tories.

But to my mind, there is a right way to vote in this referendum and a clearly, unambiguously wrong way to vote, and it is not hard to tell the difference between the two. The right way strikes a blow for democracy, self-determination and the normalcy of independence enjoyed by every single major country in the world outside Europe, while the wrong way would be to reward people who do not dare to advance their own positive argument for European political union, and so instead spend the bulk of their time pecking over the foibles, inconsistencies and other low-hanging fruit offered up by the hapless official Leave campaign.

In the event of defeat, then, the only question open to disappointed Brexiteers will be whether or not they use that anger and channel it toward some positive action to further the eurosceptic cause. This blog will do just that. Semi-Partisan Politics is in this for the long haul. Because as Pete North rightly says, you can stifle an idea like Brexit, but you cannot kill it.

I continue to fight this referendum campaign to win. But if we are fated to lose, I will not be going anywhere. If my generation is not to be the generation which restores democracy and self-governance to the United Kingdom then we can at least ensure that the flame of liberty is kept alive until it is time to try again – assuming that the doomed project does not implode under the weight of its own internal contradictions and the relentless pressure of global events, making the Brexit debate redundant.

And in the meantime, I and many others will make life as painfully difficult and unfulfilling as we can for all those in public life – particularly those in the Conservative Party – who come down on the wrong side of this referendum. That much I can promise.

 

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Yanis Varoufakis: The Remain Campaign’s Best Spokesman For Brexit

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Think that the EU is a hopelessly outdated, cumbersome, anti-democratic tyranny of the technocrats and unaccountable elites? So does Yanis Varoufakis. But he would very much like for you to vote Remain.

If you were searching for a passionate, eloquent case against the EU and the increasingly discredited idea of European political union from a non-Briton, you could do little better than the first 80% of Yanis Varoufakis’ latest Op-Ed in the Guardian.

In his article, Varoufakis uses anecdotes from his brief and tumultuous period as Greek finance minister to give the reader an illuminating and deeply unpleasant close-up view of exactly what it is like for a national government minister to face off against the EU’s leaders and technocrats in defence of their sovereign national interest (spoiler alert: advocating for national interest, like sovereignty, is verboten).

If you stop reading the Op-Ed before the final six paragraphs, you would come away thinking that this is a man who has stared into the cold, dead eyes of supranational European governance, seen its soul and come away understanding just how misguided and dangerous is the anachronistic, mid-century experiment known as the EU.

But then Varoufakis executes one of the sharpest journalistic handbrake turns you will ever see, wilfully ignoring his own bitter experience at the hands of supranational governance for the “common good”, and somehow arriving at the conclusion that everything will be better if we simply double down on our commitment to European political union.

His response upon being burned by the flame of unaccountable, supranationalist technocracy is apparently not to recoil his hand, but rather to go marching briskly on into the inferno.

Thus Varoufakis goes from this, when describing the nature of his negotiations with the Eurogroup (and German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble in particular) at the height of the Greek Euro crisis in 2015:

An alliance of states, which is what the EU is, can of course come to mutually beneficial arrangements, such as a defensive military alliance against a common aggressor, coordination between police forces, open borders, an agreement to common industry standards, or the creation of a free-trade zone. But it can never legitimately strike down or overrule the sovereignty of one of its member states on the basis of the limited power it has been granted by the sovereign states that have agreed to participate in the alliance. There is no collective European sovereignty from which Brussels could draw the legitimate political authority to do so.

One may retort that the European Union’s democratic credentials are beyond reproach. The European Council comprises heads of governments, while Ecofin and the Eurogroup are the councils of finance ministers (of the whole EU and of the eurozone respectively). All these representatives are, of course, democratically elected. Moreover, there is the European parliament, elected by the citizens of the member states, which has the power to send proposed legislation back to the Brussels bureaucracy. But these arguments demonstrate how badly European appreciation of the founding principles of liberal democracy has been degraded. The critical error of such a defence is once more to confuse political authority with power.

A parliament is sovereign, even if its country is not particularly powerful, when it can dismiss the executive for having failed to fulfil the tasks assigned to it within the constraints of whatever power the executive and the parliament possess. Nothing like this exists in the EU today.

For while the members of the European Council and the Eurogroup of finance ministers are elected politicians, answerable, theoretically, to their respective national parliaments, the Council and the Eurogroup are themselves not answerable to any parliament, nor indeed to any voting citizens whatsoever.

Moreover, the Eurogroup, where most of Europe’s important economic decisions are taken, is a body that does not even exist in European law, that keeps no minutes of its procedures and insists its deliberations are confidential – that is, not to be shared with the citizens of Europe. It operates on the basis – in the words of Thucydides – that “strong do as they please while the weak suffer what they must”. It is a set-up designed to preclude any sovereignty derived from the people of Europe.

While opposing Schäuble’s logic on Greece in the Eurogroup and elsewhere, at the back of my mind there were two thoughts. First, as the finance minister of a bankrupt state, whose citizens demanded an end to a great depression that had been caused by a denial of our bankruptcy – the imposition of new unpayable loans, so payments could be made on old unpayable loans – I had a political and moral duty to say no to more “extend-and-pretend” loan agreements. My second thought was the lesson of Sophocles’s Antigone, who taught us that good women and men have a duty to contradict rules lacking political and moral legitimacy.

Political authority is the cement that keeps legislation together, and the sovereignty of the body politic that engenders the legislation is its foundation. Saying no to Schäuble and the troika was an essential defence of our right to sovereignty. Not just as Greeks but as Europeans.

To this, in his pivot towards advocating a Remain vote:

Our European Union is disintegrating. Should we accelerate the disintegration of a failed confederacy? If one insists that even small countries can retain their sovereignty, as I have done, does this mean Brexit is the obvious course? My answer is an emphatic “No!”

Here is why: if Britain and Greece were not already in the EU, they should most certainly stay out. But, once inside, it is crucial to consider the consequences of a decision to leave. Whether we like it or not, the European Union is our environment – and it has become a terribly unstable environment, which will disintegrate even if a small, depressed country like Greece leaves, let alone a major economy like Britain. Should the Greeks or the Brits care about the disintegration of an infuriating EU? Yes, of course we should care. And we should care very much because the disintegration of this frustrating alliance will create a vortex that will consume us all – a postmodern replay of the 1930s.

It is a major error to assume, whether you are a remain or a leave supporter, that the EU is something constant “out there” that you may or may not want to be part of. The EU’s very existence depends on Britain staying in. Greece and Britain are facing the same three options. The first two are represented aptly by the two warring factions within the Tory party: deference to Brussels and exit. They are equally calamitous options. Both lead to the same dystopian future: a Europe fit only for those who flourish in times of a great Depression – the xenophobes, the ultra-nationalists, the enemies of democratic sovereignty. The third option is the only one worth going for: staying in the EU to form a cross-border alliance of democrats, which Europeans failed to manage in the 1930s, but which our generation must now attempt to prevent history repeating itself.

This is precisely what some of us are working towards in creating DiEM25 – the Democracy in Europe Movement, with a view to conjuring up a democratic surge across Europe, a common European identity, an authentic European sovereignty, an internationalist bulwark against both submission to Brussels and hyper-nationalist reaction.

Is this not utopian? Of course it is! But not more so than the notion that the current EU can survive its anti-democratic hubris, and the gross incompetence fuelled by its unaccountability. Or the idea that British or Greek democracy can be revived in the bosom of a nation-state whose sovereignty will never be restored within a single market controlled by Brussels.

Just like in the early 1930s, Britain and Greece cannot escape Europe by building a mental or legislative wall behind which to hide. Either we band together to democratise – or we suffer the consequences of a pan-European nightmare that no border can keep out.

In other words, the European Union as it is presently constituted and governed is a colossal, anti-democratic behemoth, but trying to leave this decaying mid-century relic to embrace the kind of inter-governmental and multilateral cooperation which befits a modern, confident Britain in a globalised world would “create a vortex that will consume us all”. Britain is stuck with the decision it made in 1975.

This is the Sajid Javid school of thought – the heart feels eurosceptic and yearns for Brexit, but the head worries that the world is too dangerous and uncertain right now for us to risk a small outbreak of democratic sovereignty by voting Leave. Incidentally, it is also the same mental cowardice that would have seen the thirteen American colonies never declare their independence from an overbearing, undemocratic British Crown with which they increasingly felt little affinity.

Or is it?

Much like the battered spouse convinces themselves that they are the ones at fault, or that their abusive partner can change, Yanis Varoufakis seems to have convinced himself that with enough “grassroots support” a pan-European democratic movement (his own DiEM25) can spring up and accomplish the following lofty goals at the drop of a hat:

  1. Willing a true European demos and sense of European identity into being, and
  2. Wresting the true levers of power within the EU away from political and economic elites, and vesting them in the newly-invigorated common European institutions created in Step 1

But it is pure wishful thinking. The EU’s architects (those who bought into the original vision of a process leading to a single European state) and current beneficiaries (political elites who enjoy the lack of full accountability to their own electorates) will not take such a brazen power grab lying down. Varoufakis, if he recalls, was finance minister of Greece until the powers that be froze him out, forcing his resignation.

And were they to succeed, DiEM25 would only be yet another entirely elitist group seeking to impose their own top-down vision of supranational governance on the peoples of Europe. Two of its founder members (Noam Chomsky and JK Galbraith) are Americans who have no damn right to decide how we choose to govern ourselves in the first place.

(Look beyond the flashy website and the picture of a smiling Caroline Lucas and read the manifesto, and you’ll see that the talk of democracy is just a window dressing for the same integrationist dogma, only bolted on to a bunch of miserablist, left-wing nonsense)

Apparently Varoufakis’ idea of an alternative to the current hegemony of the Brussels elite is to replace them with a new academic elite instead – to cram the European Union’s institutions with tweed-jacketed professors in place of sharp-suited lobbyists and bureaucrats.

One can understand why Yanis Varoufakis might want to agitate for a mini-revolution within the European Union to displace his many recently-acquired enemies and install more people like him (cerebral, academic types) in their place.

One can even admire his chutzpah for trying to engineer such a coup in broad daylight, and his shamelessness at exploiting the very real suffering of his Greek compatriots in an attempt to bring about another elitist vision of European political union (which will fail ordinary citizens just as the current model fails Europe’s citizens).

But what Varoufakis utterly fails to do – having devoted the majority of his Guardian Op-Ed to correctly explaining why the EU is a democratic black hole – is advance the slightest argument as to why Britain should aid and abet him in his grubby scheming by voting to remain in the European Union this June.

 

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Forget Migrant Benefits In The EU Debate; What About The S-Word?

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The EU debate is about so much more than relatively petty questions about migrant benefits and immigration. But few from the official “Leave” campaigns are willing to broaden the debate

It is rare for this blog to find itself in agreement with Labour grandee Alan Johnson, chairman of the “Labour In For Britain” campaign group.

But Johnson is absolutely correct in his criticism – expressed on the Andrew Marr show today – that the EU debate has been narrowed down to an insultingly simplistic degree.

LabourList reports:

Johnson, who is leading Labour’s campaign to stay in the EU, appeared on The Andrew Marr show this morning to make the case for Britain to stay in the EU. He pointed out that issues like climate change can only be solved by countries working together, and that the EU was an essential “political union”.

He slammed the Prime Minister for narrowing the debate, saying there has been a lot of focus on Cameron’s attempt to ban migrants who are in work from receiving benefits until they have been employed in the UK for four years. Cameron is thought to have abandoned these plans in favour of imposing new limits on benefit payments to out-of-work migrants instead of those people in jobs. Johnson said this focus had distracted from other important issues.

Forget the orchestrated shenanigans over David Cameron’s supposed tussle with other EU leaders over migrant benefits – this is a ridiculous sideshow obsessed over by a credulous media, as my Conservatives for Liberty colleague and editor Ben Kelly wearily points out.

But Alan Johnson’s broader criticism is devastatingly accurate. From the outset, particularly on the “Leave” side, the Westminster campaign has been incredibly myopic and unimaginative.

We should expect no better from the prime minister – David Cameron is an avowed europhile, has stated numerous times that his preference is for Britain to remain a member of the EU, and has been unable to force the words “campaign for Brexit” from his lips even as a remote hypothetical. And thus it is no surprise that Cameron went in to the renegotiation with no set demands (contrary to the media narrative) but simply with a begging letter to Donald Tusk pointing out areas for discussion.

And those areas do nothing to assuage the concerns of the thinking eurosceptic or Brexiteer. Because the real problem with our continued membership of the European Union is not immigration, welfare, fiscal policy, social policy or the euro. The real problem is the little-mentioned S-word: sovereignty. Because this one word encapsulates all of the many ways in which the EU infringes upon our democracy.

It’s not about Schengen, or the single market – Britain is already outside the former and a full member of the latter. That’s why when David Cameron comes back brandishing something called “associate membership” we should be immediately suspicious, because it will essentially be a formalisation of the status quo, with all of the existing drawbacks of Britain’s EU membership hardwired into a future new treaty, with a few extra problems sprinkled on top as a garnish.

The fundamental issue of sovereignty will go unanswered, because David Cameron is not even raising it as part of his sham renegotiation, and while the overly credulous may believe that a toothless and unenforceable exemption from “ever closer union” is some kind of great victory, it ignores the fact that our union with Europe is already far too close. The EU remains an explicitly political union (as Alan Johnson happily states in his Andrew Marr interview) and Britain remains firmly part of it.

Neither Leave.EU nor Vote Leave hammer the sovereignty aspect, having decided that scare stories about what the EU will do to “our NHS” (genuflect) and other public services will do more to win over the bovine masses. But sovereignty is the key.

Is Britain to be a real democracy, accountable to its own citizens once again? If so, then we need to recognise – and repeat endlessly – that national democracy and the European Union are fundamentally incompatible.

As the preamble to the Bertelsmann Stiftung report “A Fundamental Law of the European Union” (soon heading our way via the Five Presidents Report) explicitly states:

This proposal for a Fundamental Law of the European Union is a comprehensive revision of the Treaty of Lisbon (2007). Replacing the existing treaties, it takes a major step towards a federal union. It turns the European Commission into a democratic constitutional government, keeping to the method built by Jean Monnet in which the Commission drafts laws which are then enacted jointly by the Council, representing the states, and the European Parliament, representing the citizens. All the reforms proposed are aimed at strengthening the capacity of the EU to act.

It’s right there in black and white – a major step towards a federal union. The EU will drive a wedge between nation states and their citizens by enshrining and expanding the model whereby national governments sign off on laws and policies initiated by the EU Commission, while the people will have redress only through the European Parliament, thus (hope the federalists) gradually legitimising the Brussels and Strasbourg parliament.

But you’ll hear none of this from the major “Leave” campaigns, and certainly from nobody within the Conservative Party. The only real exception at present is the small but growing group of campaigners and bloggers coalescing around Dr. Richard North’s site eureferendum.com, who do a good job holding the media to account and pointing out lazy thinking and writing (sometimes including this blog) which unwittingly aids David Cameron’s agenda.

At least the Left and the “Remain” camps are able to appreciate that the EU referendum is a fundamental question of who we want to be as a country, and where we believe democracy and decision making should rightly sit. They have their particular vision – abhorrent to me, but clear and unambiguous – that the UK is a weak and ineffectual country incapable of robustly defending our own national interests, and that the fifth largest economy, formidable military power and cultural beacon that is the United Kingdom can only survive by dissolving our political identity into the European Union. And they will be repeating this message from now until referendum day.

The “Leave” campaigns have no similar clear vision. They believe that the referendum can be won by reducing the great questions of democracy and Britain’s place in the world to a tedious, nitpicking discussion over how many migrants can be kept out of Britain, or how much money saved by renegotiating the terms of our surrender. Alan Johnson’s view is utterly wrong, but at least he has the confidence to state his case.

When will the Leave campaigns appreciate that the referendum cannot be won if people believe that leaving the EU is a leap into the unknown, or when the only ones talking passionately about Britain’s place in the world are the europhiles?

When will the Leave campaigns stop their myopic obsession with issues like migrant benefits, an arbitrary issue picked by our devoutly pro-EU prime minister, which are only designed to distract our attention from the ultimate deal – associate membership – which will ultimately be presented?

And when will the Leave campaigns get over their overriding fear of the S-word?

David Cameron - Donald Tusk - EU Renegotiation - European Union - Brexit

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