Winning Back The People

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Five days after the narrow vote for Brexit, the alternatives seem to be: General Election, palace revolution, or both. Outraged globalizers, champagne Leftists, the bourgeois bohème, the young: all are frothing with demands for a second referendum. This last, in the unlikely event it took place, would be felt as a direct insult by the millions of Brexiteers who have just voted to leave the European Union. It would confirm their worst fears, if confirmation were needed, that they are the objects of contempt in the minds of their betters. No; it would be preferable for Parliament to deliver the same insult, but in its own more sophisticated way, by taking any one of the legal paths open to it. A do-nothing-dominated Westminster could simply ignore the referendum result, or cost the exchequer millions by calling an irrelevant General Election. Either way, the jilted Brexiteers would be left fuming and impotent; their only recourse the spray-can and the remaining blank walls. A General Election, for which all major parties would campaign to stay inside the European Union, would leave the incandescent Brexiteers with nobody to vote for except UKIP. The turn-out for such an election would be hard to predict: high on one assumption, low-to-vanishing on another.

The post-referendum hangover, which can only get worse, should attract the attention of Scottish independence radicals, who might now be thinking twice about their xenophobic dreams of life without the Sassenachs. Strange that ‘xenophobia’ is always seen through a window, never a mirror.

The post-referendum hangover should attract the attention of Scottish independence radicals, who might now be thinking twice about their xenophobic dreams…

All the pious talk about respecting the result of the EU-referendum, bringing the casualties of globalization back into the economic fold, redoubling efforts to explain the monetary value of identity-loss to the plebs who feel it most, placing the loss of industry and livelihoods in the context of the greater good of the City, swearing yet again that “nobody will be left behind”: all this is of course the most atrocious humbug. The combination of global market forces and unilaterally disarmed European nations, is an illustration of social Darwinism in action. As is well known, Mr. Darwin states that, if you’re limping in the jungle, then you’re already dead. Nature is wasteful. There is also a cultural Darwinism at play in Western Europe, whereby the work of millenia is being overturned in a few generations by exotic peoples, whose demands, in the age of Human Rights, easily extinguish the reasonable and polite requests of their hosts.

As usual, it is hard to find the least divergence between the world-views of Le Figaro and The Europeans. This piece from Le Figaro’s Managing Editor illustrates the point.

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Crédits photo : Le Figaro

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Le Figaro | Alexis Brézet
Winning back the people
2016-06-26

For the Managing Editor of Le Figaro, Brexit demonstrates that Europe must be reconstructed, change its governance, politics, and philosophy. And rely on its people.


Messieurs les Anglais, why wait? — pull out now! The day after a majority of the British people’s elective divorce, it would seem that European leaders – France in the van – had nothing more urgent in mind than to hound these separatists from the common home, these scumbag harbingers of scandal. The very same, who for weeks had sworn eternal love for the British, now turn around to slam the door on them! As well as being singularly small-minded, this punitive attitude, intended to caution others across the Union who might dream of imitating the English, is not obviously up to the job. The grave crisis into which Europe has fallen will not be resolved by invective and reprisals.

Of course, we can curse England and the English. Of course, we can deplore this misuse of democracy that consists in entrusting the future of a continent to an insular nation, composed, we tell ourselves with disdain, of xenophobic serfs and old codgers. We can denounce, with BHL [Bernard-Henri Lévy, writer and philosopher — Ed.], “a victory for sovereignty of the most rancid kind, of the stupidest nationalism, the victory of musty old England”. But this doesn’t change the fact that, consulted about Europe, the people said “No”.

Once again! It’s becoming a habit. Before the English, there were the Danes (in 1992 and 2000). And the Irish (in 2001 and 2008). And the Swedes (in 2003). And the French (in 2005). And the Dutch (also in 2005). And the Greeks (in 2015)… Which raises the question: after so many rebuffs that are often loftily ignored, even in France, how can European leaders still be surprised when the ‘impossible’ happens?

But these heads of state and government in grand disarray, who are suddenly jostling at the Union’s bedside, — have they really taken the measure of the drama that’s unfolding?

Europe is not sick with Brexit. Nor is she sick with egoism or xenophobia. She is being killed by the disaffection of her people. She lacks the will to look truth in the face.

The truth is that this broken-down juggernaut — which however emits a stream of directives, resolutions, legal rulings, standards and sanctions — doesn’t know how to speak to the hearts of Europeans.

The truth is that the propensity of Europe to sink its fingers into every pie — the shape of cucumbers, the making of cheese, the size of number-plates — irritates its citizens. And that the sovereign contempt of European institutions for their workaday difficulties exasperates them even more.

The truth is that Europeans would without doubt be ready to pardon Europe for being invasive in small matters, if only it were effective in matters of great moment. But quite the opposite has been amply demonstrated by its floundering around with the debt crisis, and its paralysis in the face of mass migration.

The truth is that the ills that underlie the British vote — uncontrolled immigration, persistent unemployment, collapse of the middle class, feeling of cultural dispossession, anxiety over loss of identity — strike more or less at the whole of Europe, and that many other countries, including France, would very likely have given the same answer to the same question.

Europeans would without doubt be ready to pardon Europe for being invasive in small matters, if only it were effective in matters of great moment.

Europe is not the root of all evil, far from it. But she has not known how to demonstrate in what way she has been able to protect Europeans from the multiplication of new perils. Worse, she has given them the impression that her actions have tended to aggravate them. (Not always false: examples are the question of temporary workers, of the secretly negotiated transatlantic treaty, of the continually interrupted negotiations with Turkey.)

When the people of the Union, in the great hurly-burly of globalization, have never been so demanding of protection, this Europe of free circulation without limits or borders, so feebly aware of its mission and values that it has come to deny its own origins,— disturbs more than it reassures. Inevitably then, the people return to the only haven worthy of the name: that of the nation.

In the end, the truth, which we shall have to take the decision to face eventually, is that the dream of Jean Monnet of a “one-way ticket to the United States of Europe” has had its day: enlargement without rhyme or reason has killed it. Conceived as a super-state, endowed with extraordinary powers and a super-administration, it was a condition of integrated Europe’s functioning that the people consent indefinitely to its “mild and open despotism”, as Jacques Delors, in a moment of candour, once confessed. But the people have no love of despotism, be it mild or open. This time, the old worn-out argument that the less it moves the further it has to go, will no longer work. Brexit has at least the virtue of having obliged Europeans to reinvent everything.

A new treaty could only be ratified by a referendum: people can’t be made happy in spite of themselves.

The temptation will be great — it is already at work with François Hollande and Angela Merkel — to be contented with mere mending. A little fiscal coordination here, a little military cooperation there, a little bit of support for investment, an enthusiasm for border-guards, some measures for the refugees, not to forget, in the matter of identity, the proper monuments on the bank-notes, and hey presto, Bob’s your uncle! Because it has the merit of questioning no dogma, because it saves them the bother of writing (and ratifying) a new treaty, this minimal solution is clearly favoured by European leaders who, having elected to see nothing, have neither foreseen nor imagined anything. But who can believe that this is enough? Who can believe that the peoples of Europe will content themselves with this umpteenth stop-gap. Europe is for reconstruction, not patching-up.

Less federalism, less Commission, fewer directives, less holy tosh about multiculturalism, less free-exchange dogma, less arcane universalism. More ‘subsidiarity’, more Council, more democracy, more borders, more protection for our industries, more respect for identity. Europe must change everything: governance, politics, even philosophy. Clearly, this would involve a new treaty, which could be ratified by popular referendum in all countries where this is possible.

Risky? Perhaps. But Europe will not change without the intervention of its people: you can’t make people happy in spite of themselves. Difficult? Without any doubt. But a Europe silly enough to have thought itself a substitute for nations, will not survive in spite of them. When one takes the wrong road, it is necessary to know how to turn back, find the right path and forge ahead. After all, France has had five successive republics without ever abandoning its republican ideal. Europe can well change the Union without betraying what it is: an irreplaceable community of culture, history and destiny.