The Road to Brexit

Without doubt, within this week’s debates concerning the EU, the Brexit referendum is the most hotly and widely debated issue, given also the atrocious murder of Labour MP Jo Cox. We should not be surprised by such event, Yiannis Baboulias writes on, for there is nothing exceptional about it: it is not a mystery that xenophobic, nationalistic narratives can end in violence, and the Leave campaign’s core message cannot help to be alarming in this sense. But British voters should not be fooled by Leave’s cynical immigration rhetoric, Peter Marshall claims on Conservativeshome. Indeed, despite troubles with respect to security, political influence, and democracy, leaving the EU would mean rejecting a unique position to actually solve such problems. Natalie Nougayrède, on the Guardian, shares this worry and adds that it must be recognized that the very existence of the EU has been a boost for democracy across the continent. Thus, it is important for those who care about democracy to remain and change the EU from within. Moreover, it may well be the case that the “taking back control” perspective supported by Leave would actually turn into isolation for the UK, Henning Meyer writes on Social Europe. Indeed, a post-Brexit world in which Britain is “in control” and all the other countries aim at trading and making political arrangements on Britain’s own terms seems very implausible, as Andrew Graham notes on the Guardian. However, the English desire for insularity and independence is something deeply rooted in British history and heritage, which is scattered with stories about fighting off Europe. This is why Peter Pomerantsev, on, invites the Remain front to find some way to show that the EU is in reality a means to strengthen nationhood and sovereignty and so win the referendum. This does not change the fact that the idea of Leaving is strong on many different levels. If Haras Rafiq, on Conservativehome, argues that Britain needs to distance itself from the inefficiencies of the EU and its negotiating tables (especially when it comes to important matters, like international intelligence), Michael Theodosiadis and Sofia Zisi on OpenDemocracy and Patrick Collinson on the Guardian make a radical Left case for Leave. From their point of view, the EU has not provided such a beneficial impact on working people’s wages and rents and, thus, voting to leave is necessary to defeat the centralized power of the EU and its anti-democratic political and economic institutions. However, it should not be forgotten that the EU referendum is not only a European issue, but also a truly national event. Indeed, as Henry Hill notes on Conservativehome, the results in Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland not only will have a direct impact on the results, but may also shape the future of the UK. Stephen Castle, on The New York Times, explains that voters in Scotland and Northern Ireland seem more inclined to Remain, whereas their English counterparts appear in favour of Leaving. The point is that a Brexit may, on one hand, renew Scottish pressure for independence and, on the other, trouble the process of integration between the North and South of Ireland, by for example restoring border controls. Worries about such possible consequences are expressed by Ian Jack on the Guardian, who reminds his readers that Scotland has always been more “European” than England, and Polly Lavin on OpenDemocracy, who points out the crucial role played by the EU in making cross-border co-operation in Ireland easier.

Dealing with the refugee and migrant crisis

Glenda Garelli and Martina Tazzioli, on OpenDemocracy, argue that military interventions like the EU’s “Operation Sophia” and the NATO intervention in the Aegean Sea constitute a threat for refugees: although managing the different fluxes of migrants is not easy, it is important to provide safe passages for those fleeing war, violence, and poverty. The paradox, explained by Javier Lopez on Social Europe, is that while public opinion is calling for “less Europe”, only through better integration the EU can solve the migration crisis by adapting to the reality of current large migratory movements.

It’s the EU economy, baby

Several worries concern the EU economy. Enrico Tortolano, on OpenDemocracy, claims that a social Europe was never part of the EU project, which has always been based on the ideas of “free trade” and “free movement”. So, the time for a different integration (or disintegration) has arrived. This is particularly important given also the fact that the European fiscal framework is inefficient. As it is shown by Bruegel, EU’s fiscal rules are counterproductive for the achievements of public debt sustainability and fiscal stabilisation. And it is still an open question whether Junker’s leadership style, which, as Peter Müller, Christoph Pauly, Christian Reiermann and Ralf Neukirch note on Der Spiegel, is more political compared to its predecessors, will be of help in this respect.

This Ideas Monitor is by Giulia Bistagnino and Carlo Burelli

Photo Credits CC: ceratosaurrr.

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