November 22, 2017
Guest post by Juliet Lodge, Professor Emerita Univ. of Leeds UK, founding Jean Monnet Professor of European Integration, and senior research analyst at Saher UK
Lest we forget – integration is about people: Brexit will fail
Watching the UK implode is one thing. Not calling out autocracy, lies, deceit and the denial of EU citizens’ history, rights and democracy in a 45 year old member state is quite another.
So it is pertinent for citizens to ponder why the UK government is insufficiently challenged by EU governments? They have been its partners since 1973. Together they have reformed the EU over the years.
If another member state’s official opposition failed to defend and protect its state’s democratic values and credentials sufficiently, it would face opprobrium from all sides. Not challenging the biggest lie of all (that integration is unpickable) is foolhardy. No matter how often it is recited, that lie cannot wipe-out the past of millions of people who grew up as EU citizens.
Should the EU turn the other way when a rapacious, petulant bunch of MPs from an older member state which once laid claim to be the mother of parliaments throw a tantrum? The EU28 chastises other member governments’ erosion of respect for democracy and the rule of law. Article 7 TEU is intended to cover a serious breach of EU values by a member state.
Why allow peevish bigots to distort and damage EU values and citizens everywhere? Brexit destroys not just the UK but disrespects the bloody wars that inspired integration. Its snipes at EU values and belittles those Europeans who fought to construct a better future for war weary people. But Brexiters fail to understand how vulnerable to failure political fantasies are that seek to destroy family connections and links between people: brexiters are blind to the lessons of Berlin and Belfast.
Why tacitly acquiesce to the UK government’s highly questionable claim to legitimacy based on a bot-driven, fake-news dominated referendum that peddled lies? Why allow citizens to be thrown to the lions?
Who gains from the great pretence that Europe isn’t about people: people whose lives are intertwined. People who form the cement which allows governments to take new initiatives together for the common good.
How can the EU best address the plight of all EU citizens (Brits included, of course) in the UK and wider EU? Those citizens helped to build the EU over the years, contributing to the success of its research programmes, innovating and initiating educational Jean Monnet and Erasmus schemes, shaping Europol, anti-crime and terrorism policies, crisis and disaster responses, internal and external security policies, EU legislation and institutions. These people helped make the EU what it is today, respecting the EU Commission as the guardian of the treaties, co-creating and supporting the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, making the Single Market a reality, imperfect though it may be. They helped form, extend and strengthen the European Parliament’s and EU courts’ remits, EU agencies, Euratom and EU values and political practices.
The EU has behaved with integrity and openly presented well-prepared Brexit papers while the UK has cowered, scowled and flapped about.
Brexit is a logical fallacy. European integration binds, as it was and is intended to. It seeks to encourage each generation to do better together, re-envision democracy, courageously confront challenges, and build a better future appropriate to the times it faces for the common good. It can, and must, always do better.
How can we live up to Guy Verhofstadt’s ambition? Should we allow political inertia and shallowness pervert the EU’s commitment to respect the rule of law? What are the consequences for all of shrugging as a brexit-bent minority government – seen by many as duplicitous, politically illiterate, economically moronic, clueless about history and morally moribund – shafts its own EU citizens?
Monnet exhorted each generation to re-imagine Europe together for the common good. What sensible reason could there be for not attacking and preventing the corrosion of the enviable achievement that is the EU? Don’t EU citizens (of whom there are some 65 million British nationals) deserve the EU’s protection when their own MPs fail them?
Generations of citizens will rue and could be tarnished by brexit’s spiteful act of betrayal of our values unless we give voice to the underlying truth and challenges of integration. People sustain openness, peace, freedom and hope together. People overcome division. People will destroy the vacuous lie that is brexit.
With weeks until the new year, it is clear that Brexit will fail. EU politicians must boldly re-envision a future EU, one fit for citizens and one fit for the purpose of constructing a better future for all.