Dear friends in the EU, now what?
Brexit should serve as an alarm call for us all.
Brexit has been presented to us by our own media as a noble fight between friendly modern liberals against racist nationalists. It’s been very clear on which side we should stand.
Are over 50% of British citizens really racist nationalists? Of course not! Then why did they vote for Brexit? For a lot of different reasons, amongst which may be racism and nationalism. But surely Great Britain was a multicultural union of different countries long before the European Union.
In fact, British PM David Cameron has promoted Bremain with a number of nationalist promises and threats. In a live tv interview he warned taxes would be raised, pensions, healthcare and military spending would be cut, and trade would be damaged. These are all nationalist arguments.
Yet, prominent Brexit supporters have played a completely different game. John Cleese, for example, has repeatedly said he would not mind staying in a democratic EU ruled by its citizens instead of bureaucrats. He considered the attempted reforms a failure.
But surely it would have been better to stay in the EU and change it from within?
Funny you should mention it! We who do stay in the EU, we do have a chance to change it from within. So why don’t we?
Everyone acknowledges the basic problems with the European Union:
* lack of democracy
* lack of transparency
* abandonment of human rights ideals
* lack of global responsibility regarding e.g. refugees
* more and more power shifted from voters to lobbyists
* more and more power shifted from voters to big corporations
Yet these issues are not widely discussed in our news. They are not hot political topics. They are often not even mentioned in regard to Brexit.
One example of this is the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership treaty, or TTIP. It is negotiated in complete secrecy and with no democratic accountability. It would be a major step in shifting power from voters and parliaments to big corporations, even giving them power to prevent laws that might harm their short-term financial interests. The terms of the treaty are still not public, and we must rely on leaks made by activists.
TTIP is also widely supported by our major newspapers and media companies, by our mainstream politicians, by our trade unions and by the representatives of big corporations. But since the negotiatons and terms are secret, these players are supposed to have no idea what the current drafts of the treaty contain, or what the final document will be like. They must rely on assumptions, leaks made by their opponents, and increasingly, on lobbyists.
That is just one example. I believe a democratic, transparent, optimistic EU is possible. An EU that exists as a force for good for its citizens and the world outside it. But it is not the EU we have now.
Let’s make it a reality.
Mike Pohjola is a Finnish novelist, entrepeneur and activist.