Euro-Phobia, Justified or Not?
What comes first to mind when you say “European Union”? From the definition of the economic concept to the perception of a zero-average Gaussian variable system, we could introduce the notion of “Brexit”, a probability given by a system that does not understand its implications. “To be or not to be Brexit”, this is the question that is taking over the commons; but this is not a local phenomenon, for all its specificities, because its implications have their subtle roots hidden in the subconscious of the whole world. It is a bit like the apple that fell from Newton’s hand, and the “law” was his, when humanity had always been anchored to the face of the world.
For centuries, humanity has survived, but we have yet to learn an answer to the question of whether it has evolved. Possibly, if we think in quantitative terms; before 1964 there were only atoms, and then Murray Gell-Mann defined the notion of quark. Economically speaking, it is the same thing: a good theory is good in quantitative terms until the quality of its significance comes in. As such, the economy evolved from an equation to a system, and Brexit evolved from being a variable to being a certainty.
A “subliminal” message for a subliminal power?
Brexit – an experience lived by everyone – is not just the EU or the United Kingdom, but a set of values and an idea shared by the whole world: peace, prosperity, compromise, development, deception. How can all of these be reconciled? When it comes to the values promoted in the EU, we observe several stages in which we have tried to generate a common and heterogeneous resonance of European legislation, legislation that exceeds the economic dimension and also focuses on common values, citizens’ liberties, the promotion of social protection or other basic principles. Thus, a cultural identity was formed, common to all Member States of the European Union, subjected to far deeper and perhaps even subtler threats, but at the same time a community with rich and promising substrates. Starting from this idea, radical formulas that deviate from European ideology have been emerging and becoming more vocal.
At the EU level, there has always been a skeptical note about political integration, but also a strong critique of it that has evolved in parallel with the attempt to insert EU values. Therefore, the benefits that the Union has brought as a political entity and the purpose of creating such structures were the targets of skepticism and harsh criticism, and are still to this day. Euroscepticism would be defined in this case as critical manifestations against European integration and as the attempts to dismantle the democratic legitimacy of the European Union. It is important to recognize that Euroscepticism can be assigned positive aspects such as raising awareness, public interest and capacity for analysis, and the fact that the political elite is reminded that it requires popular consent. In this context, skepticism, coupled with doubts or dissatisfaction with the European project, has gained many labels, such as those of Euro-pessimism, Euro-phobia, Euro-criticism etc. However, like Euroscepticism, these concepts are not very easy to define or attribute to a clear position on a spectrum of social or political phenomena.
It seems, moreover, that an important factor underlying Euroscepticism is the subject of identity, and community. However, we can see that the Eurosceptic phenomenon is the most pronounced in the developed countries. In this respect, Hawkins (2012, p.562) makes the following statement: “The clearest anti-EU sentiment is in the British press”. Thus, the idea of subordinating and adapting national policies, culture, and British identity to a bureaucratic and insufficient European “state”, in terms of necessity, has become an important part of the analysis in Eurosceptic newspapers. The slowing of the integration process and the opposition to the EU have raised many questions about the Union’s ability to manage the integration process or the direction the EU should take. These developments have contributed primarily to the gradual loss of support from EU citizens and with significant political implications, which have worsened as a result of the global financial and economic crisis compounded by migration.
The evolution of Brexit
Although, over time, Great Britain has been an important player in the European scene, influencing to a significant extent the Union’s political decisions and directions. It has also shown itself, time and time again, to be extremely skeptical of the premises and initiatives of deeper integration, while emitting vehement criticisms of certain actions and steps taken at the level of the European Union. The UK’s contribution to the European budget came as early as 1974 when the Labor Party led by Harold Wilson proposed the renegotiation of the EU Accession Treaty, at that time still called the European Economic Community (EEC), adding some preferential clauses to UK trade relations, but also to the budget. This request to reduce the contribution to the EEC budget was only accepted five years later under Thatcher’s mandate. The skepticism and mistrust of a deepening process of integration speak in itself of a discrepancy between European beliefs and values and a strong nationalist spirit, often driven to by the lack of information and the malleability of the informational environment. The negotiations succeeded, with the Member States unanimously agreeing with the requests of the UK, hoping that this would be a temporary stumble in the European integration process, and that convergence to the common goal would continue. The pro-European support shown by the 1975 vote by which the British decided to remain in the CEE and as part of the Common Market was a real impetus for the “European project”, a project that would guarantee peace and prosperity, both among Member States, as well as in relations with third countries. On June 23rd, 2016, that is, 41 years later, the British decided to leave the European Union following a massive Eurosceptic campaign, that touched all of the sensitive nodes in the pride of a sovereign nation. It was not for the first time that the United Kingdom had been critical of the EU and had publicly declared its dissatisfaction with the direction the EU was taking; nevertheless, it was for the first time that Europhobia was a final and irreversible declaration and the Parliament’s decision could not ignore the expression of popular opinion in this case.
The 2016 referendum thus challenged the concept of “European project” as idealistic, turning our attention to the importance of national identity, of uniform development in all its regions and impressing the need for the European Union to recalculate its strategy and rethink its action plan. There are two important questions – will the European Union grow on the world stage or is the EU an economic failure disguised as a promise of harmony? Balancing these two questions, we could also ask a much more focused question on the subject: is Brexit in fact a bad thing? And if so, for whom?
Another piece of the “why”
Underlying tensions have always been simmering under the surface, but the migration crises have brought these to the fore in the European countries, in specific ways. The need for a common non-European migration policy is more and more stringent in the context of an increasingly diversified Europe, with increasing needs and imbalances in the economic and social environment. Starting from the early existence of the European Union, migration has been growing with the joining of new Member States, but also as a result of economic development, becoming not only an effect of the changing economic and social environment, but also a cause of many internal conflicts in countries with a high number of immigrants. This issue was compounded by the waves of non-European migration, whereas prior waves had been limited in scope by the low size and low fertility of the culturally compatible new EU MS. Consequently, an important issue that was raised before Brexit was the large number of immigrants settled in the UK and the population’s dissatisfaction with competition for jobs, lowering wages and the and declining quality of life as a result of the migration phenomenon, which was confined to the EU MS for the referendum debate. A brief analysis explains, in part, the Eurosceptic position of the British policy on labor mobility within the European Union, but also of the population, which emerged from numerous surveys on opinions regarding the immigrant wave that has entered in the UK in recent years. Being a highly debated political subject and having contradictory and sometimes violent reactions, immigration has gained a strong nuance in the series of issues that the Union is focusing on solving in the context of lengthy debates. A common point between the UK and the EU on a wide range of topics, but especially migration, was too far away to be realistic given the speed of developments. Disagreements and antagonistic positions in the political sphere have left these issues still open and vulnerable to political posturing and self-defeating rashness and extremism.
To what extent should the UK continue to contribute to the European budget in the future if it wishes to have access to the single market, to the customs union or to benefit from other EU initiatives?
Where to? And why should we go there?
A game that is often played without us or without our knowledge, this long-lasting prosperity, sustained and masked by the political and economic levers of high interests, has shown that a good intention does not often necessarily have a good result and that a favorable result is not always generated by the best intentions. At this point, the world is mired in the moral hazards of trying to get its best “prosperity”, the best “free will”, peace obtained through violence and the violence of trying to be neutral; but how can one be neutral? Abstention is a policy choice in itself. We talk about our values and prosperity, as if the notion of “value” were a mold stamped identically on every nation. The reintegration and reinstatement of the various stakeholders in the overall picture of what the European project means is extremely important now. at this point, political values, and especially the principles of a national or regional identity, could bring to the foreground the inefficiencies and the shortcomings of the megalomaniac bureaucracy and the need for a distinct approach to everything we have seen so far. Brexit has shown us in this case why we need an overall understanding of the European Union, everything it proposes, benefits and incompatibilities, but also where the EU project has failed and where it needs to be improved.
So, what can we learn from all of this, from Gell-Mann’s quarks, from Brexit, from all the points reached so far? Is it enough? Should we be content with the answers we get or ask for explanations, find solutions? Is this mania of ever deeper centralization on a wider scale justified or is it actually imposed on us, wrapped in a package without clear prescriptions of the idea of freedom? In every direction we would deliberate, the effects of this European planning are becoming clearer, radical formulas that deviate from the European ideology appearing and becoming more vocal by the day, and the only voice that really deserves to be heard, in my opinion, is the one who demands equity, and not equality. The sharing of ideas and beliefs are too full of subtle “capitalism” and should be done in terms agreeable to what the European project should actually be. It remains to be seen, however, whether an agreement will be reached on the means and mechanisms that may allow the continuing progress of the European project.
- Brexit Central, https://brexitcentral.com/margaret-thatchers-prophetic-bruges-speech-thirty-years-ago-today-sparked-debate-led-brexit/, Accessed in October 2018.
- Constantin, D.L., Vasile, V., Preda, D. and Nicolescu, L. (2004), “Fenomenul migraționist din perspectiva aderării României la Uniunea Europeană”, European Institute of Romania, Bucharest.
- Geddes, A. (2013), “Britain and the European Union”, Red Globe Press, The European Union series.
- Hawkins, B. (2018), “Deconstructing Brexit: Eurosceptic Discourse and the Ideational Context of the United Kingdom’s Exit from the European Union”, Paper presented at the ECPR General Conference, Hamburg, pp. 6-10.
- OECD Economic (2016), “The economic consequences of Brexit: A taxing decision”, No. 16.