Tuesday, 13 September 2016

A comment of mine in the FT

David Allen Green wrote an interesting article in the FT where he expressed surprise at the lack of a view in Brussels about how the EU should deal with Brexit.  For me, it wasn't a surprise.  Here is my comment and some of the follow-up:

David, I wonder if your search for answers was doomed from the start.  They have not begun to think about the issues in any meaningful way in Europe.
Of all the major states of Europe, the UK is still the one country that has both a legal and a political system based on confrontation and contesting arguments.  In both our law and our politics, the side with the best story is the one that wins - even if all that is being told is fiction. With our first past the post system, even one vote confers a democratic mandate. 
This concept of democracy has blighted our understanding of the European project and the way decisions are made in Europe.  If you start from a premise that power is shared and that decisions are made by agreement and hard-won consensus then it is easy to see why no one as yet has a firm view on what Brexit might mean in Europe - the process of consensus building has not begun.  
The UK's trajectory has been away from the Union from the moment we joined in 1972.  We find it hard to conceive of a democracy apart from our own, or of a concept of a unified state that is not like the UK or the USA where the locus of power lies in the centre.   Indeed, the citizens of the UK or, to be more precise, England, would be happier if we formalised our current position as the 51st state of the USA.  We may believe that the Referendum was a clear decision that our politicians must follow no matter what the outcome.  It wasn't.  In Europe, their negotiating position is what all the member states are willing to accept.  What individuals might think is of interest but of no significance to the outcome.
@ProfBob  Would you call the Eurozone, e.g.,  a "unified state" without a central power locus?
(fair comment btw, though as a unionist Scot, I would not make your "correction" for England. Some English people just don't have enough awareness of the RoUK.)
@ciwp1 @ProfBob  That's a good question and I think the answer is no and that, again, is our problem in understanding the Euro and how a common currency could work without a controlling centre of political power.  The Eurozone is dominated economically by France and Germany and they will be powerful voices in any debate but I do not see any direction of travel towards what we might think of as a federal state.  
On Scotland - having studied there and hoping in the near future to return to live,  I am always surprised by the strength of its cultural links to the continent.  Perhaps in the UK we should think of emulating the EU model where England cannot simply overrule Scotland, Wales, and NI by force of Parliamentary arithmetic.
@ProfBob An excellent analysis.  I'm always struck by how British Eurosceptics, so critical of the 'democratic deficit' in the EU, are generally so supportive of the status quo in the UK, including fptp, House of Lords and lack of a devolved government.

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