Is Greece not another compelling reason to vote for Brexit on 23rd June?

Europe scared of the ballot box.jpgProponents of Brexit implore British voters to reclaim their democracy by voting to ‘leave’ the EU. On the day he announced his support for Brexit, Boris Johnson, London’s Mayor, based his announcement on the (correct, in my view) judgment that the EU lacks “proper democratic controls”.

Last July the European Union completed a brutal coup d’état against the freshly elected Greek government, imposing upon it another huge, unsustainable ‘bailout’ loan that would, with mathematical precision, prolong Greece’s six-year-long Great Depression.

If there was ever any doubt that the EU’s institutions are deeply contemptuous of democratic process, and unabashed about their readiness to ride roughshod over rationality and over the will of a sovereign European people, the events of July 2015 dispelled it.

In this light, it is natural and right to ask two questions in the run up to the 23rd June UK referendum:

  • Was the treatment of Greece last summer not another piece of decisive evidence that the EU is governed in an authoritarian, irrational and anti-democratic manner?
  • Should voters across the UK (especially after the way Greece was treated last summer) not vote in favour of LEAVE as an important step in reclaiming their Parliament’s sovereignty and their democracy?

My answer to the first question is a decisive YES and to the second an unequivocal NO!

There are two reasons why the accumulating evidence of the EU’s irrationality and authoritarianism does not strengthen the argument in favour of LEAVE.

First reason: Sovereignty cannot be reclaimed while remaining in Europe’s Single Market

Brexit’s supporters argue that Britain is better off outside of the straitjacket of the EU’s legislative process while remaining within the Single Market. This is an objective at odds with the aspiration to reclaim the British Parliament’s sovereignty.

The Single Market is not the same as a free trade area lacking tariffs and quotas. It also involves three crucial elements: Common industry standards, common labour protection rules, and common environmental protection rules. Additionally, it requires a common legislative process to produce the legislation in support of these three common elements, an executive to implement them and a judiciary to try cases when these common rules are violated. In short, a Single Market requires all three of Montesquieu’s powers (legislative, executive and judicial) that make up a common sovereignty and a single jurisdiction.

Put differently, EU critics are correct to say that, under the present arrangements (prior to any Brexit), Britain’s government (and, indirectly, the Houses of Parliament) maintains a frustratingly tenuous influence over the EU’s decisions that determine much of Britain’s economic and social life. This is, indeed, highly imperfect and inconsistent (as Brexit’s supporters argue) with full sovereignty of the House of Commons.

However, as long as Britain remains in the Single Market, Brexit will remove even this tenuous influence. Voting to LEAVE the EU (but to stay in the Single Market) is the equivalent of submitting fully to an utterly alien (Brussels-based) jurisdiction that ignores Britain’s Parliament, government and judiciary.

In conclusion, Britain should leave the EU only if ready to exit also the Single Market as well, with a credible plan to re-configure its economy on the basis of some autarkic model that is almost impossible to imagine. No notion is more fanciful than the idea that British democratic sovereignty can be reclaimed through Brexit while Britain stays in the Single Market.

It is in this sense that, to reclaim its democracy, Britain should vote to STAY in the EU in order to confront the EU institutions from within. The operative words here being: ‘confront’ and ‘within’.

Our Greek government attempted to do this in the spring of 2015 – to confront from within the EU’s inane policies and its contempt for democratic process. By July 2015 we were crushed by bank closures and monetary asphyxiation. British democrats, like democrats everywhere, were incensed. But this should not lead them to the lazy conclusion that Brexit is the answer.

Second reason: Brexit will make the EU’s fragmentation faster and surer, begetting a post-modern 1930s from which the UK will not escape even if out of the EU

As an outside observer of the developing Brexit debate, I am often struck by a false assumption made by both sides of the Brexit debate: the assumption that the EU is an ‘exogenous given’.

Both sides of the debate argue as if the EU is ‘constant’, ‘out there’, on the Channel’s other side, and that its solidity and constancy is independent of what British voters choose on 23rd June.

Both sides of the debate couch their claims on the basis of whether this ‘exogenous’ EU is something the British public should or should not want the UK to be part of.

Neither side seems aware of (or willing to allude to) the fact that the EU is disintegrating as we speak. That, under the weight of its own hubris, the EU is falling apart, with new divisions, new economic divergence, and new centrifugal forces tearing the Union apart. Indeed, neither side acknowledges the obvious fact that a vote to LEAVE the EU will speed up the EU’s disintegration. And neither side offers any analysis of what such disintegration will mean for Britain.

My view is that Brexit will, inexorably, cause ruptures in the EU that will lead to the Union’s effective dismantling. Will this serve the purposes of Brexit’s supporters? Will Britain be better of after the EU collapses? I do not believe it will. While undoubtedly many EU critics will get some satisfaction watching the EU’s unloved institutions collapse, they (along with the rest of us) will soon be consumed by the frightful vortex of the EU’s sinking vessel.

To begin with, a new fault line will develop along the river Rhine and across the Alps, separating:

(i) a new Deutsch Mark zone (that will include Germany, the Netherlands, part of Belgium, Austria, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, the Baltics and Finland) mired in deep deflation – as a result of the fast appreciating new Deutsch Mark

from

(ii) a stagflationary Latin (dis-) Union (spanning France, Spain, Portugal and Italy) where currency(ies) devalue precipitously, spearheading runaway inflation with high unemployment.

Simultaneously, a second fault line will divide Eastern from Western Europe, with ultra-nationalism, toxic social conservatism and a beggar-thy-neighbour migration & economic policy mind-set taking hold in the East and making its way West-ward (boosting the chance of politicians like Marine Le Pen).

From an economic point of view, these developments will deprive Britain of a large share of its export markets, push the City of London into a deleveraging mode not seen since 2008 and, worse still, reinforce the already negative global developments in the US and the emerging markets (as the EU represents the world’s largest economic bloc) that will impose nasty secondary effects upon the UK.

From a political point of view, these same developments will create a European hinterland inimical to the values that British democrats cherish and hostile to a democratic Britain.

In summary, British voters should not err into thinking that their 23rd June decision will leave the EU more or less ‘constant’. Their vote to LEAVE will devastate the ‘environment’ within which a newly ‘emancipated’ UK must work and live.

Conclusion

Those of us who detest the EU’s way of doing things have a moral and political duty to (a) jettison the illusion that Brexit will have positive consequences and (b) stick together (across national borders) to fight shoulder-to-shoulder in order to democratise the EU through an almighty confrontation with its current, inane, authoritarian rulers.

Last year, we tried to do this in Greece. Our Greek government stood up to the combined might of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund to demand common sense changes to their modus vivendi. We were crushed in a manner that made the stomach of every democrat churn. But this is no reason not to try again, especially given that the alternative (i.e. the EU’s disintegration, which will be sped up by Brexit) will only produce a post-modern 1930s. This is why many of us, from across Europe and including Britain, have come together to form the Democracy in Europe Movement – DiEM25.

Returning to the lessons Greece has for British voters facing the 23rd June choice, it is important to remember this: Britain is not Greece! Britain is a powerful country uniquely capable, due to its long democratic tradition (that is respected by both sides of Britain’s politics), to confront the EU’s anti-democratic decision-making processes.

To do this, on 23rd June the British public must shun the lazy choice of LEAVE. They must vote STAY and work, from 24th June onwards, towards electing a government that can bring about the changes the EU must undergo on behalf of its peoples.

Britain needs a government that no longer sees the EU as a necessary evil from which to extract short-term, pecuniary benefits (while eschewing all the ‘bits’ that London does not like).

Britain deserves a government that stops attending the various Brussels decision-making outfits like a university friend of mine who used to go to parties only so as to have something to bitch about the following morning.

Britain needs to join the rest of us on the other side of the Channel in the only fight that is worth having: the struggle to democratise the European Union.

8 thoughts on “Is Greece not another compelling reason to vote for Brexit on 23rd June?

  1. “I never imagined that we would ever again in an industrialised country have a depression deeper than the United States experienced in the 1930s and that’s what’s happened in Greece.”

    • Euro Depression Is ‘Deliberate’ EU Choice, Says Mervyn King (Telegraph)

    Europe’s deep economic malaise is the result of “deliberate” policy choices made by EU elites, according to the former governor of the Bank of England. Lord Mervyn King continued his scathing assault on Europe’s economic and monetary union, having predicted the beleaguered currency zone will need to be dismantled to free its weakest members from unremitting austerity and record levels of unemployment. Speaking at the launch of his new book, Lord King said he could never have envisaged an economic collapse of the depths of the 1930s returning to Europe’s shores in the modern age. But the fate of Greece since 2009 – which has suffered a contraction eclipsing the US depression in the inter-war years – was an “appalling” example of economic policy failure, he told an audience at the London School of Economics.

    “In the euro area, the countries in the periphery have nothing at all to offset austerity. They are simply being asked to cut total spending without any form of demand to compensate. I think that is a serious problem. “I never imagined that we would ever again in an industrialised country have a depression deeper than the United States experienced in the 1930s and that’s what’s happened in Greece. “It is appalling and it has happened almost as a deliberate act of policy which makes it even worse”. Lord King – who spent a decade fighting the worst financial crisis in history at the Bank of England – has said the weakest eurozone members face little choice but to return to their national currencies as “the only way to plot a route back to economic growth and full employment”.

    “The long-term benefits outweigh the short-term costs,” he writes in The End of Alchemy. The former Bank governor has said popular disillusion with EU economic policies are likely to lead to disintegration of the single currency rather than a move towards “completing” monetary union. Two of the eurozone’s debtor nations – Ireland and Spain – are currently locked in electoral stalemate after their pro-bail-out governments failed to win the backing of voters. But the European Commission has defended itself against claims that punishing austerity measures have made incumbent European regimes unelectable, arguing that Brussels’ economic policy represents a “virtuous triangle” of austerity, structural reforms and investment.

    Read more …
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/business/2016/03/01/europes-depression-is-deliberate-eu-choice-says-former-bank-of-e/

  2. Jolly piece of European nationalism. On your first point, UK does not specifically intend to stay in the Common market. They just want to stay in a free trade world, which is garanteed in a large part by WTO rules. Being outside EU will not impair their trade so much.
    On your second point, the reader has difficulties following you: first you explained convincingly, in many books and papers, that the euro was a gold standard, condemning its users to deflation. Now that eurozone breakup is menacing, you argue that it would have a stagflationnist effect on south european members, as if euro itself is not the culprit of their going bankrupt. Next time you’ll explain that euro is a garantee for economies to thrive?
    I can only understand your opinion by admitting that you becam a supporter of European soverainism: better for greeks to suffer utterly stupid economic policies, and for Brittons to keep the feeling that they are ruled by Brussels, than seeing the europower crumble.
    Of course, after eurozone dismantling the different members will have to counter deflationist or stagflationist currencies. But they will be able to adopt each one the adequate policy mix, with adequate fiscal, industrial and monetary policies.

  3. We have run the experiment for a generation now, and it is clear: there can be no political sovereignty without economic sovereignty. Controlling the creation and distribution of money is really that important, and nothing else can make up for that. How, exactly, would you democratize the EU when Brussels, or really, the ECB, controls the creation of money and flow of debts to itself? It’s clear by now that the flailing banks (e.g. Deutsche Bank) are desperate for only one thing: collecting on their debts, whether through repayment (impossible for reasons you describe so well), or collateral possession (left to later is how the populace will be able to pay to use these newly privatized assets when they have declining or no incomes!).
    And if Cameron and others like him have not wrestled the undemocratic beast into submission by now, what will allow them to do it now, when the banks in charge are more desperate than ever?
    Some new institution would need to be created that would match monetary flow to potential output for each country, and who is going to create that? Who is even going to want to try, other than the people of those countries themselves, who, under the current system, have no power, as you’ve seen first hand. You say Britain has more power than Greece, but that ignores the reality that Britain too, is a creditor and has conflicted interest (in both senses of the word) in this matter. The bigger countries of the EU are all in more-or-less the same conflicted state, with of course, the biggest one, Germany, being the most squarely in the “gimme-the-money” condition, at all costs to the people of the EU.
    You worry about conflict in the EU, about the EU being torn apart, but it already being torn apart, and the mass migration of war refugees – and to be fair, much of that is caused by policies on THIS side of the pond – is not a trivial thing merely being exploited by right-leaning reactionaries like Ms. Le Pen or Golden Dawn. Border controls may in fact be necessary, which will lead to the end of Schengen, even without member dropout from the EU. Certainly, even the “rich” (rich from who??) countries like Germany cannot take in indefinite amounts of poorly integrateable migrants. The question then becomes: does the EU come apart in an orderly manner or in a disorderly, chaotic manner? The latter has more potential for conflict than the former.

  4. The knives are out. This is precisely what you get when you bring amateurs to power and you associate yourself with clueless people. This is very unbecoming of Tsipras:

  5. Well Yani, we agree on the conclusion, Britain ought to stay in. This is primarily for the benefit of workers as explained here http://wp.me/p5zzQG-mG

    Perhaps you could use your new position of influence with Corbyn to convince him to put some effort into the campaign, unless he fancies fighting 2020 in a post Brexit apocalypse for the left.

  6. Does UK really have to exchange its sovereignty, Jurisdiction and independence for some rules in labor, environment and industry? Although the 216 EUCO meeting conclusions (easily downloadable from Europa) has some exemptions in favor of Britain that will be included in subsequent treaties’ reform.
    But will UK just stay and watch the EU countries being brought into slavery by Germany? Not limited only to economics but in various sectors including foreign (aka german policies)?
    Can UK really stay in a EU that has a badly designed and dangerous euro currency that threatens all EU?
    Will a YES justify the British efforts to contain Germany’s power (even military ones as during last century)?
    Should any logical Briton say yes to stay in such a madness?

  7. Just because Greeks are nothing more than Syriza chicken, it does not mean that Britons will ever become or deserve to become some effing german slaves. You can never compare free people with those born into a byzantine roman slavery complex and forever condemned to be depended on some power structure other than their own earned freedom like the ancestors who fought in the battle of Marathon for the right of self-determination:

    • True.
      Why should Britain trade in the few non-EU freedoms it still retains?
      Why should it subsume itself into the EU nightmare?
      Yanis makes no sense here.

      Meanwhile Yanis warns us about the fascist threat from brainless oligarch-funded street thugs like Golden Dawn and Pergida, when the real fascism is here already – though not yet at full throttle – in the EU itself. Which is at the service of oligarchs [corporations].

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