The Tragedy of the EU Referendum

As someone who would describe themselves as a Eurosceptic, I do find this current debacle over the EU rather pathetic and tragic. The campaigns have made it all about reclaiming sovereignty, bringing back powers and so on. Yet from where I’m standing, looking at the webs of regulations and entry barriers in the economy, and the continuing political centralisation at all levels, I’m stood here wondering what leaving the EU would actually change about that.

The EU itself is a corporatist bloc, as evidenced by the levels of agricultural subsidies (much of which goes to large agribusiness interests) and the negotiations that regularly occur between business lobbyists and EU commissioners and parliamentarians (as in the case of TTIP). There are also implicit forms of corporatism, such as the levels of infrastructure spending that benefit business interests as it subsidises transportation costs, and the encouragement by the ECB and other monetary bodies to use the Euro as tool of speculation, trading and investment for banks and investment firms (effectively copying the American strategy used by the Federal Reserve after the breakup of the Bretton Woods system). However, such corporatism also exists at the national level in the UK. Recent lobbying scandals and the increasing aptitude of government regulatory agencies and quangos to get caught up in regulatory capture and a revolving door show us that government, detached from real methods of accountability, is always in the hands of multiple vested interests.

The rhetoric of a lot of the leave campaigns doesn’t even seem to tackle this problem at all though. Quite a few them actually back maintaining EU agricultural subsidies and regional development funds. Why? All we see is money funnelled into land speculation and uneconomic farming practices with the former, and with the latter, why not just decentralise this money down to local authorities, or better yet allow for the development of negotiated coordination bodies at the neighbourhood, county and city levels who can decide how this money is spent with the input of taxpayers and their delegates. The leave campaigns just seem to be saying we’ll regain sovereignty over vested interests.

The same goes for the regulatory apparatuses put in place by the EU, which have disemployment and entry barrier effects. Recently Norman Lamont on an episode of the Daily Politics said negotiating a free trade agreement with the EU shouldn’t be particularly difficult as we already have large regulatory compatibility. What is being said then is that the regulations that exist won’t be repealed or ignored, thus maintaining corporate control of our economy via subsidised economies of scale and entry barriers to small and micro-businesses through health and safety regulations, employment law and things like the Working Time directive.

In terms of political centralisation, the leave campaigns have made a big deal of parliamentary sovereignty and bringing back law to the UK. But let’s be honest, we’ll still have the primacy of statutory law over common law, and the maintenance of a large, corrupt political class. Again all this is doing is moving the goalposts from one centralised polity to a smaller one.

Frankly this just shows the farce of the EU debate, as its being detached from wider questions of globalisation and the instability of neoliberal capitalism. I’d rather take the direction of the Greek populace, who when faced with EU authoritarianism, decided to start counter-economic institutions that maintained money locally and allowed for the creation of truly democratic institutions from the ground up. In effect telling the EU and Greek government to fuck off. That’s the direction I’d like to take. And to the libertarian Eurosceptics and Eurosceptics in general I have one question. Do you really think anything will fundamentally change if we simply vote to leave? Because from where I’m looking, it doesn’t appear so.

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