This isn’t leaving – this is arriving into a whole new era
The humanist, futurist, European case for Brexit.
The Leave campaign is negative. It is anti-immigration, anti-modernity, anti-Europe. Throughout the EU referendum debate, this has been the deadening refrain of the Remain campaign. Despite the fearmongering on both sides, despite the fact that post-Brexit economic catastrophe has been talked up at least as much as EU migrants clogging up NHS waiting lists, Brexiteers are still seen as having the premium on pessimism.
The official Leave campaign has done little to help matters. The dodgy figures emblazoned on battle buses, the appeals to the image of a besieged, overridden island – trampled on by Brussels and bled dry by European peoples on the move – have all too often given ammunition to the critics of leaving. But, more profoundly, the Leave campaign has failed to move beyond being simply anti-EU. It has failed to articulate what it is for.
Neither Remain nor Leave is required to offer a roadmap for the future, a manifesto for life after we vote In or Out. Talk of Australian-style points systems, Tory leadership battles or the future of workers’ rights after 23 June are, to borrow a favourite phrase from this campaign, for the birds. This is not an election; it’s far more important than that. This is a referendum on that most fundamental principle: democracy. And it is for the sake of democracy that spiked wants British voters to reject the EU.
The EU exists to limit democracy, preferring backroom deals over public contestation, directives over debate. But it is not an imposition from without: it is the creation of our own national elites – the starkest manifestation of a fear and loathing of the masses that is as common in London, Paris and Berlin as it is in Brussels. The EU liberates leaders from their electorates, allowing them to make decisions in spite of us, and shrug their shoulders afterwards.
This referendum is not about Britain’s deal with Brussels – it is about the chasm between politicians and publics that cuts across Europe. A Brexit would not only be a blow for freedom at home, and wind in the sails of the Eurosceptic masses abroad; it would also be an affirmation of a truly European principle. From English rebellions to German revolutions, French commune experiments to Greek struggles against military dictatorship, for 300 years or more the key European value and the thread that has bound the people of this continent together, has been democracy. If modern European history could be summed up in one line, it would be people saying: ‘Give us more control.’
This is what European elites seek to undermine. The EU as we know it was born in 1992, in the wake of the reunification of Germany, fed by the fear of what Europe’s largest national demos, a country with a dark history now reunited as a free people, might do if left unfettered. Today, that same fear pervades. That Greece, the birthplace of democracy, has, in recent years, been so brutalised by EU-imposed austerity serves as a grim reminder of how, in the name of Europe, the EU has desiccated Europe’s most defining ideal.
A vote to Leave, we’re told, would be inward-looking, Little Englander, xenophobic. spiked rejects this view. The EU isn’t a wellspring of European-wide solidarity and cooperation – it’s a hiding place for our elites, an alliance of technocrats huddled together in fear of the masses. Real internationalism means believing in all peoples’ capacity for self-determination, for the freedom to carve out their lives as they see fit. A vote to Leave is a vote of confidence in all European publics, not just our own.
A Brexit would not be the solution to the dearth of democracy in Britain, let alone across Europe. But it would be a start. It would clarify the problem of democracy and allow us to begin peeling away the anti-democratic forces that still temper our political passions, from unaccountable quangos to unelected upper chambers to medieval monarchies. And it would be a break with the deadening, technocratic status quo that stifles new ideas for fear of an uncertain future.
spiked wants a more open and outward-looking Europe. For us that means more trade and cooperation; liberal immigration – both for those within Fortress Europe and without; and a return of intellectual risk-taking and political daring, so that we might rejuvenate democratic debate and steer humanity into a more prosperous, freer future. But democracy comes first. What a post-Brexit Britain will look like is up to us, the demos. And that’s what makes the opportunity we are being presented with on Thursday so radical, so exhilarating, so European.
Tom Slater is deputy editor at spiked. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Slater_
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