I hate it for its dithering, ineffective, negligent and callous approach to security and humanitarianism in its own backyard.
We saw it during the disintegration of Yugoslavia in the 1990s, when fascism reared its head and brought war to Europe on a scale not seen since the 1940s. Indeed in Kosovo in 1999, I saw with my own eyes the devastating effect that this had. Far from the European Union realising that this, the threat of war in Europe, was precisely the moment for which it was born, it, and the international community generally, sat on its disinterested arse and did next to nothing to prevent or end one of the great evils of the twentieth century.
And we see it again today, when millions of refugees – yes, for that is what they are – are striving to reach safety and security in Europe, after terrifyingly brutal wars in the Middle East, such as that in Syria, have left those (un)lucky enough to still be alive to face this living hell with no option but to flee. And flee to what? Barbed wire, fields of mud, and watery graves. The European Union has built walls, put up barriers, turned a blind eye, and acted entirely against the ethos behind its creation. Some member states have responded heroically, but most, including this evil United Kingdom in which we are sadly still a part, have not.
So I don’t want to be a part of a European Union that cannot, will not, save lives and bring peace.
That is linked to a second reason I hate the European Union. When cooperation and understanding should have led to our peoples sharing more and more, the EU looks all the more impotent and hapless as its governments – pretty much unanimously of the right and far right – are digging in to jingoistic and patriotic bunkers and allowing the attitudes, language and mindsets of the 1930s to re-emerge. Anti-immigration and anti-minority parties are to the fore; gone are principles of international solidarity (even among parties of the left). Religious, ethnic, linguistic and tribal hatred is coming back once more as we re-learn to hate the foreigner, hate the minority, hate the “other”.
So I don’t want to be a part of a European Union that contains and accepts such nasty political movements.
Thirdly, I hate the European Union for its unstoppable march towards a hyper-globalisation, a corporatocracy where big money reigns supreme over our governments as well as our people. Looming over the horizon is the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – a nightmarish threat to our personal, civil and economic freedoms, in which the powers of big corporations will trump our courts, our public services and our civil liberties all in the name of moneymaking.
So I don’t want to be a part of a European Union that sounds like something from a David Icke conspiracy theory.
Fourthly, I hate the European Union for its economic mismanagement and bullying behaviour towards countries in the eurozone. An international organisation created to avoid the economic collapse of the wartime era has failed to prevent the current international economic crisis from affecting Europe; and the disgraceful, punitive punishments put upon governments and people in countries like Ireland and Greece demonstrates that it is abstract economics, rather than the lives and prosperity of our poorest citizens, that is the priority.
So I don’t want to be a part of a European Union where ordinary people are not protected against poverty.
Fifthly, and finally, I hate the European Union for its inefficiency. The fact that it moves the parliament, for instance, between Brussels and Strasbourg for no reason other than French pride, is a ludicrous waste of money. Yes I accept the EU is less bureaucratic and less expensive than many administrations, and with the UK’s House of Lords and hereditary monarchy we’re hardly a beacon of pure democracy ourselves. But for the EU to spend millions on maintaining twenty-four official and working languages is absurd. I’ll spare you a rant about Esperanto here, and merely refer you to Wikipedia’s outline of a 2005 report on Europe and its languages by Francois Grin.
So I don’t want to be a part of a European Union that is wasting public money for no sound reason other than national governments’ vanity and pride.
So those are five reasons as to why I hate the European Union, and I’ve only just got started. I am sure there are more.
But I don’t just hate the European Union itself.
More than that, much more than that, I hate the arguments being put forward by those advocating that, in next Thursday’s referendum on the United Kingdom’s membership of the EU, we should vote to stay.
They are arguing that with Brexit, jobs will be lost. Expenditure will be cut. Immigration will, ironically, be uncontrollable. Borders will have to be erected. The economy will shrink. This, all this, from a UK government delivering all those things to us already, who have no right to instil such fear.
And it’s not even as if this UK government even believes any of its scare stories. When David Cameron went into his negotiations on behalf of the UK, he secured concessions on four irrelevant technicalities that nobody cared about, let alone understood, and this, apparently was enough for him to recommend and campaign for a vote to stay.
Which is to say that had, on the other hand, he failed in his negotiations, he would have recommended we withdraw (because otherwise, why have a referendum on an issue that would be a no-brainer?). What about those cuts in jobs, expenditure and economic strength, eh Dave?
He, and all the other “Remain” Tories are telling us vicious lies. Of course the UK could survive outside the EU. If it forces us to rely less on exports and imports and more on trading and manufacturing locally, is such a model so bad? It may be contrary to the logic of globalisation, but what’s wrong with reshaping our economy to make it more insulated against outside influences? And after all, Norway, Switzerland and many other European nations survive happily outside the EU. As one of the biggest economies in the world, it is beyond imbecilic to suggest that our European neighbours would not want to trade with the UK and make it easy on themselves to do so.
And the arguments from the so-called left, the UK Labour Party, in favour of remaining in the EU, are no better. A party founded on the principle of international solidarity is not standing up for the principles of free movement, is not calling for the unity of Western and Central Europe’s once-warring nations, but has – just recently – begun arguing that, on the contrary, the days of free movement might justifiably be numbered.
This, of course, is not a surprise. This is the UK Labour Party that brought a hideous, odious, ugly, steaming pile of racism to the table during the independence referendum (see here and here for starters). And this is the Labour Party whose English urban working class roots has so malleably become the bedrock of UKIP and the BNP before them, so abandoned have they felt by mainstream political thought.
A Labour Party who accepts that there are “legitimate concerns” about immigration in the UK is a party that has abandoned its core beliefs in international solidarity, in humanitarianism, and in diversity; and has become a dangerous, hollow zombie that cannot be trusted to act in the interests of common people.
(And yes, as a quick tangent, it is unquestionably, undoubtedly, completely racist to complain about immigration, except in the one and only context of broader concerns about overpopulation. Worried about pressures on school places, housing, hospitals and other public services? Fine, you might be entitled to be worried – but you should be as concerned about the local population producing more and more babies as you should about immigration. Want to cut immigration? Fine. But that should be hand in hand with a desire to see state-controlled birth rates. Otherwise, you’re saying immigrants are worse than the indigenous population, and that is unarguably racist.
And no, you can’t make a distinction between the two. You think immigrants cost a lot in terms of teaching them English and integration them into society? Maybe. But compare that with the price of turning a baby into an educated, healthy, civically engaged, culturally attuned adult ready for an economically productive life, and I’ll take immigrants – proven to be more educated and less of a drain on public expenditure than a typical Brit – any day on purely cost grounds.
And you’ll never hear the Labour Party have anything like the courage to tell its grassroots that immigration is (a) an unquestionable economic benefit to us and (b) something which is, according to Labour values, a moral good and social necessity.)
And that’s why I won’t trust Labour’s garbled, weak and racist message about why we should remain in the European Union.
And yet… and yet…
There’s something in me that tells me I can’t vote Leave when those asking me to have such appalling reasoning. While I’m open to persuasion about precisely how much the UK pays as part of the EU, the Leave campaign seem ignorant to the fact that, as one of the richest countries in the European Union, of course we should be paying to be in! The richest should pay more, the poorer should pay least. That’s how things should work in politics, and that’s how economic development will, in the long term, come to the EU’s poorest members.
And the focus on immigration, presenting foreigners as undesirables to be kept out at all costs, is a horrible way to play politics and I want nothing to do with it.
Most importantly of all, despite all the terrible things about the European Union, there are some things that are for me bright beams of light amongst all the shadows.
The EU’s freedom of movement for people, goods and services is, while not implemented perfectly, a wonderful thing. That I can trade with, move to, go on holiday to, any part of the EU with no logistical barrier, is what Europe should be all about – movement, understanding and interaction.
Indeed, if I had my way, I’d go further down the road of ensuring our cooperation and collaboration. If it was down to me, the UK would join the euro and Schengen tomorrow (I’d also have us drive on the right and use kilometres, but that’s an argument for another day…). You can’t have freedom with exceptions or opt-outs. You can’t say that we’re going to cooperate, and then start listing the times when we will not.
There is just too much uniting us historically, culturally and more, for us to allow the divisions to create hate between us once more. Europe is a fantastic and diverse continent, but a small and bustling one. We’re going to need to work together on the economic and environmental challenges of the day and the future, and member governments need those structures to keep locked into each others’ thinking.
It’s not a perfect system, and boy does the EU need reform. But the price is too high not to fight for that, and the alternative – which we’re getting all too scary hints of in Europe’s divisions – is unthinkable.
Yes I hate the European Union. But I love the idea of a European Union. It may be a dreadfully long journey to achieve the sort of European Union I’d like to see, but being in the one we’ve got is an infinitely better starting point than having just left it.