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The Brexit was Inevitable

It was a rude awakening last Friday for many a EU supporter. Not many would have expected the British to vote to leave the European Union. The evening before, I had gone to bed to the voices of many a politician expecting the brits to “act reasonably” or “come to their senses”. I propose that the British populace has acted entirely reasonably and that in fact, the Brexit is the inevitable conclusion of 25 years of failed politics in the EU. What we have seen is a slap in the face of an arrogant, undemocratic “Europe of corporations”.

The failure starts with the fact that the EU is mostly a project of the powerful elites and of business. I have not heard of incensed hordes storming the streets demanding that their bananas be standardized. Don’t get me wrong, it makes eminent sense to have many things regulated at the european level and I would think that many people in the EU welcome the fact that they can buy Italian tomatoes or german cars. But the fact remains that much of the “ever closer union” has not been driven by popular demand, but by business interests and by the aspirations of career politicians.

Which brings me to the second point, that capital owners have profited much more from the EU than workers. Have a look at this graph:

It show shows the evolution of inflation-adjusted wages in Germany. Remember, Germany is the “export world champion” and the economic motor of the EU. Yet a worker earns the same as 20 years ago. So when an average person asks herself “what’s in it for me”, the answer is often “no much”. At the same time, internationals flock to tax havens like Luxemburg where they end up paying less than one percent tax on profits (LuxLeaks). Did the EU come down hard on Luxemburg? Were sanctions imposed and laws change to prevent this? Nope, in fact, the person largely responsible for this scandal, Jean Claude Juncker, is to this day the president of the European Commission. Is it not reasonable that a worker in Germany feels swindled? The right of free movement inside the EU has exposed workers in the richer countries of the EU to competition of lower-income workers, particularly from the eastern European countries, but no balancing force has been put in place in the way of a common minimum wage or common tax standards.

Unlike in Switzerland, the citizens of the EU have had very little say in the evolution of the union. Both the Maastricht and the Lisbon treaties have been put to a popular vote in only very few countries. When the outcome of a referendum was not the right one, it was simply repeated until the correct result emerged. The only direct influence the people have is in electing the European parliament. The Lisbon treaty should have strengthened it, however, you only have to look at its members to know it is essentially powerless (you won’t recognize the names). No politician in their right minds would prefer the European parliament over seat in the national one.

So in the end the only only influence afforded to the British people was to reject or accept the EU in the state it is today. There was no “I’d like to stay, but make the rich pay decent taxes” box to tick. They have weighed the pros and cons and in the mind of 52% of the brits the drawbacks have outweighed the advantages. When I listen to the politicians and pundits in the EU in the aftermath of the Brexit, the prevalent opinion seems to be that the British voted “emotionally”, which really just is an euphemism for “they are stupid and wrong”. I fear that the elite in their power bubble will learn nothing from this and in the end, the project of European union will fail in it’s current incarnation.

In the long run, European union is inevitable. Our means of travel and communication bring us ever closer together. English is, ironically, rising to be the lingua franca of Europe. You only have to travel to the US, for example, to see how ridiculously alike we all are. However, in order for a European union to succeed, it must be much more democratic and much more in the interest of the majority of the people. It must not only be a union of the peoples but also and foremost a union of the people. It must grow from the bottom and not be imposed from the top.

The future is bright. I’ll go get my shades.