Immediately prior to and in the period since Brexit, the merits or otherwise of the European Union have been examined and re-examined by pundits and public alike. From regulation to immigration, sovereignty to collective bargaining, all aspects of social and political life in which ‘Europe’ has a hand have been given the full strip-search treatment. And of course, as with any prolonged examination, one can find vastly different results depending on what poll you study or which member of the esteemed commentariat happens to be on the television at any given moment.
The strong feeling elicited by these institutions that collectively constitute the European Union is, unfortunately, precisely what allows for such divergence in expert opinion on the matter. Emotion by nature compromises the objectivity of any analysis, as can be seen by the continued survival of Christianity despite overwhelming objective evidence against all its myths and theories. That’s not to say that the EU question is necessarily as one-sided, or that one side is particularly more deluded than the other, but it is a debate of the same nature whose emotional pull is a repellent to rationality.
The greatest issue of the European question that can be found in abundance in Britain, but also to an extent in the Visegrad nations, is one of conflation. The duplicity of politicians in discussing the European Union has been especially acute in Britain since the 1970s, as Europhile commentators attempted to attribute everything short of discovering fire to these marvellous European institutions, whilst their Eurosceptic counterparts used Europe as a scapegoat to deflect from the incompetence of themselves and their colleagues. In the East, politicians are much more open with their double-standards; Viktor Orban will gleefully engage in a PR campaign with the slogan “Stop Brussels”, but will adopt an entirely more solemn and respectful tone when stood before a European committee debating that’s whether to withdraw funding from his country.
The same can be seen in Poland, where a Pew Research study last year found well in excess of 70% of the Polish public support continued membership, yet recently another study found that Poland has one of the lowest levels of trust in the European Commission. This highlights the crux of the problem; conflation! What we really dislike – and this can be said of any unpopular institution – is those running said institution, not necessarily the institution in itself.
After all, the European Union is representative of an ideal, namely that of uniting the once warring nations of Europe behind the common goals of peace and freedom. This is a rather generic idea, and certainly not the sole domain of the bourgeois liberals. Oswald Mosley, for instance, advocated European integration in the post-war period on a scale that not even Juncker, Tusk et al have realised, and he was a notorious fascist! In fact, the notion of European unity is something that has been predominantly propagated by nationalists, whereas leftists tend to fetishize the East and historically favoured an expansion of the Eurasian USSR – the predominant opposition to Britain joining the EEC in the early 70’s came not from conservatives, but staunch leftists. Liberals, as ever, are notable only by their inertia and utter lack of principle on the matter.
Where the partisan problems of the European Union originate is fairly obvious, then; with the people who control the institutions thereof. The Commission, the Parliament and the Supreme Court have all been usurped by bourgeois careerists who never quite grew out of their student protest days. It is their presence in Europe’s institutions that has enabled the EU to command the support of liberals everywhere, and it is they who have conflated notions of European unity and liberalism. This in turn has led to an entire generation making similar conflations, and institutions being associated with those who hold office at any given time, rather than the ideals they represent.
Whilst Britain’s politicians are only too willing to play to such conflations, the representatives on the East at least acknowledge this fact. In Austria, for instance, where a nationalist party is now a strong player in a coalition government, there is absolutely no doubt of the nation’s commitment to European unity. Similarly, in Hungary, which has perhaps the most nationalistic government in the developed world, there is no appetite whatsoever for leaving the bloc. This is because the political class in these countries is a little more honest about things; they appreciate the ideals behind European integration, and recognise the enormous financial assistance they receive as a result, but equally they’re open about aspects of the European Union they sincerely dislike.
This may be an unpopular opinion on the right, especially in British politics, but the general premise of European integration and co-operation is not inherently negative. In fact, it’s a mystery as to why any conscientious European would argue otherwise. Isolationism simply will not suffice in the modern world because, to parrot President Obama of all people, we are moving towards global power blocs. It’s utter delusion to think that we can face the threats of the 21st century alone, especially when one considers the extent to which the Chinese and the Russians have an expansionist interest in traditionally European spheres of influence.
In trade, too, we cannot compete with the rising economies of the east such as China or India, nor can we match the economic power of the United States or South America should we decide to go it alone. Our achievements of the past, regardless of how great, will not be a determining factor for future prosperity; the empire is gone, and it isn’t coming back, so to turn away from our closest friends and allies on the continent is a folly.
That said, Britain’s vote to leave the European was definitely the correct course of action. We must strive not for isolationism, for we as individual nations are not capable of surviving unhindered in the modern world, but instead we must seek a new Europe of co-operation and allegiance. To this end, we can look to our friends in the East, who also seek a new arrangement. In Austria, too, we can see the beginnings of a new approach to pro-European governance, thanks to the People’s Party’s shift to the right and the nationalist Freedom Party’s participation in government. Perhaps Brexit can contribute to the building of a new European order, which can only be realised through the tearing down of the old.
Crucially, we must cease to conflate Europeanism and the gerontocracy that presently has the audacity to declare itself Europe’s leaders. They do not represent the ideals of European unity, nor do they have an exclusive claim to governance on a supranational level. Their liberal perversion of European values is not an embodiment of the institutions themselves, which can be considered nowadays enemy occupied territory. To reduce the ideals of Europeanism to the actions of a few liberal usurpers is to do a great disservice to the ideals themselves.