Everything Must Change

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From top: Taoiseach Enda Kenny and then French President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2012

It is time for us now to re-examine the EU project, to question its direction and to remind it of its founding purpose and to forego the lap-dog like personas our leaders assume when they go to Europe.

Anne Marie McNally writes:

What a week it has been. It was a mass exodus. Britain exited Europe. David Cameron exited office. The Labour shadow cabinet exited in their droves and we exited the Euros followed swiftly by Iceland forcing England to say goodbye to all things European for the second time in a week…the drama.

Online and off the debate has raged following the seismic Brexit result. Those on the leave side both here and in Great Britain declared it a ‘working-class revolt’ and pointed to people who had voted leave as a direct rejection of the undemocratic nature of the EU project and the effects of the austerity the institutions have imposed on working and middle-class communities across Britain and Ireland.

Those on the Remain side argued that Britain had made the single biggest mistake in its European history; that leave voters had now opened the door to anti-immigrant rhetoric (or worse) and had essentially facilitated both racism and recession to take hold across Great Britain.

Both sides of the argument are not without merit and the realities we now find ourselves in are entirely uncharted waters with neither side being entirely sure how to sail through what are undoubtedly choppy currents.

The arguments on the Remain side cannot be underestimated. There is no way of avoiding the reality that jobs have been and will continue to be lost, the economy has and will suffer and sterling has and will continue to weaken.

Many on the leave side will say ‘great, the financial big-wigs in the City will suffer’ and that’s true (we’ve already seen the million/billionaires having share wealth decimated) but it’s worth remembering that vast amounts of inclusion projects, community development projects and youth services are funded directly via EU initiatives. These will cease.

Vulnerable communities will notice their absence in a far greater way than Michael O’Leary will notice a few million gone from his personal stash.

In addition to the pulling of direct EU funding from community initiatives, UK Government funding is also likely to reduce as a result of economic hardship – either real or imagined because make no mistake, when there is a plausible excuse to cut such initiatives they do.

We’ve seen it here – our community sector suffered disproportionate cuts at the first sign of recession back in 2008 and it hasn’t recovered since.

Those on the margins of society and those suffering in working class communities are the ones who bear the brunt of these cuts. I worry about a nose being cut off to spite a face in the Brexit result.

On the flip side there are the arguments, the non-racist or ignorant ones, for Leave.

The reality that the EU has ceased to be a democratic project and that the notion of solidarity – one of the pillars upon which the EU was established – has long since been abandoned.

People have watched as unelected technocrats have assumed dictator-like positions of power and have sat on high issuing instructions for the whipping of the ‘little people’ in their kingdoms.

Citizens of every EU country watched as the Greek crisis unfolded, and whether you agreed with the Greek’s handling of their own economy or not – you had to be a least slightly concerned by the lengths the EU institutions were prepared to go to smash democracy into the ground in that country and if the citizens had to go with it then so be it, it seemed.

Likewise with the current refugee crisis – only the Trump supporters among us will look at images of families being water cannoned or lined up behind barbed fences or fished from the seas without feeling utterly aghast at the lack of human solidarity on display from the EU institutions who should be leading by example.

There is a massive disconnect between citizens and the EU and never has that been more clearly stated than in the Leave result.

It is time for us now to re-examine the EU project, to question its direction and to remind it of its founding purpose, to forgo the lap-dog like personas our leaders assume when they go to Europe and to begin challenging the undemocratic processes that have created a Game of Thrones style hierarchy of countries – us wildlings are getting angry and the self-appointed leaders will pay the price of that anger.

But I fear we may suffer huge hardship to our ranks before those on high hear the message.

Anne Marie McNally is a founding member of the Social Democrats. Follow Anne Marie on Twitter: @amomcnally

47 thoughts on “Everything Must Change

  1. JIMMY JAMES

    ” before those on high hear the message. ”

    They already hear, they just don’t give a Flyn’ F.

  2. Mike Oxlong

    People throw the word technocrat around like it’s some kind of slur these days……..Personally, I have no issue with someone in a position of power or authority having the requisite skill or experience for that position. It certainly beats an assembly of school teachers and publicans.

    1. classter

      All sorts of inflammatory, needless terminology in that piece – ‘smash democracy into the ground’, ‘lap-dog like persona’,…

      It defeats the purpose of your argument.

  3. The Real Jane

    *People have watched as unelected technocrats have assumed dictator-like positions of power and have sat on high issuing instructions for the whipping of the ‘little people’ in their kingdoms.*

    I agree with most of what you’ve written here, Anne Marie, but this is just silliness. There are undoubtedly problems with the EU, but let’s debate those rather than UKIPpery ravings.

    1. Steve

      +1. The lack of democracy crib is annoying. We elect our MEPs democratically. We elect our government democratically who nominates our commissioner. We elect our TDs who in turn form a government (lol) and a Taoiseach who is a member of the European council. Our democratically elected government appoints a central bank governor who represents our country on the ECB…and on and on. Should we replace Philip Lane with a SIPTU “elitist”?

      All of these processes and appointment methods existed for decades and certainly before the Euro crisis. Yet there wasn’t hysteria then. We were more concerned about Treaty integration. Which is where the focus needs to return.

      Mistakes have been made, FOT was partially right yday – some mea culpa is needed.

      The democratic deficit spiel, like Anne Marie is advancing, is just a guise for ‘the little guy got screwed in the Euro crisis and there was shag all our gov could do about it’. Which is true.

      What we need is not more complex voting mechanisms for “technocrats” to improve perceived legitimacy. That’s not going to make a blind bit of difference in the next crisis. We need full fiscal Union and more power devolved to the European Parliament, who should be on an equal footing to the European council – aka congress/ senate in the US. We are in for a penny, it’s time to go in for a pound / euro.

      1. ahjayzis

        I’m all for integration, political union even. I’m a federalist.

        But not with this power setup. I don’t believe political appointees have any mandate to cow and threaten democratically elected governments.

        The commission is a discredited institution, the parliament is not an actual parliament in that it rubber stamps but cannot initiate legislation, Germany’s power and influence must be checked.

        As the power of the EU expands into every facet of our government, into our budgets and what we can and cannot spend our money on, no serious democrat can argue that the power structure doesn’t need massive, massive reform and democratisation, if only even to retain it’s legitimacy in the eyes of its demos.

        1. Steve

          Difficult to argue with any of that. Hence why we need to forge ahead with American federalist model.

          checking Germany wasn’t at the top of people’s agenda before 2008. It all comes back to the euro crisis and the little guy versus big guy and the ECB head / Finnish commissioner telling us we needed to saddle those bank debts onto our shoulders. Democratic deficit / ECB head / Finnish commissioners wouldn’t have been an issue if we had been able to spread those debts over the Eurozone. Full fiscal Union is the answer. Good that we can have this debate, as opposed to ‘ah sure lets just leave’

          1. ahjayzis

            No Fiscal Union without proper, democratic Political Union is my position.

            Replace the Commission with an elected Senate a la the States, three or four (for proportional legitimacy) Senators elected from each state and we can talk about giving them a veto on our budgets. Until then, Angie has no mandate to tell us anything.

      2. classter

        The essential problem is that to become democratic the EU needs to give more powers to the European parliament.

        But there is very little appetite to do so around Europe.

        I do think that the European Parliament should be allowed to propose legislation but even that could cause controversy.

  4. some old queen

    Ann Marie deliberately omits to mention the one topic which kept creeping up again and again and won the Leave, Immigration. England is a very multicultural society which has accepted all sorts of people in the past including Irish so it is not about colour or race, it is about sheer numbers. The free movement of low and unskilled labour may have been good for the economies of Europe but the negative social impact has been devastating on the home countries and caused huge resentment in the hosts.

    Just a general comment. Apart from a few, why did it take Britain to leave before people started to openly criticise the EU? Its failings were all there long before this happened but there was a somewhat self imposed near blanket ban on any sort of commentary. That in itself says a lot about the nature of this project. The EU cannot stand still. It either rows back and breaks up or it moves closer to a federal state complete with army. I know which option I prefer.

    1. The Real Jane

      *it is not about colour or race, it is about sheer numbers*

      Well to judge by the rise in racist attacks, it appears to be about colour, race, religion and numbers.

      1. some old queen

        I don’t agree. Unless things have really changed since my time living in England, I found the English to be a very liberal and tolerant people. Much more so the the Irish btw. This has given an excuse to a minority of people to vent their bigotry but the very core of this problem is the free movement of cheap labour.

        1. nellyb

          On cheap labor:
          Why is it english working class not being angry with english business owners for relentlessly driving wages down because they can?
          How is it perfectly OK for businesses to pay peanuts in the name of ‘business survival’ and ‘job creation’ but not OK to take “peanut employment” for personal survival?
          Demanding social maturity from labor and not same from employers is kind of strange, isnt it?
          But then again, it’s not just english working class, it’s endemic globally.

          1. some old queen

            Immigrants can be exploited a lot easier than natives and it is not their fault. Nobody (or at least I don’t) blame those fellas earning a few quid to send home to their families but it really is time that the idea that free movement principle was challenged. With the next wave of new countries joining, it is going to get much worst.

            As for the employers, for the most part it is not about survival it is about greed. The working conditions some of those people have to endure are third world which natives rightly object to. If you have to employ slave labour to survive then you should not be in business in the first place.

          2. LW

            Do labour laws not still apply? You talk about a minority of venting bigots, but surely the people in slave labour are in a minority? There’s a minimum wage in Britain isn’t there?

          3. some old queen

            In theory I am sure labour laws do apply but practice is something different. The reason why immigrants are attractive is more than just being paid less than the minimum wage. They are vulnerable so are not going to complain about working conditions either.

          4. LW

            But on what sort of scale is that happening? Are you saying enough people are being paid less than minimum wage to drag down conditions across the board?

        2. classter

          Where did you live in England?

          If you lived in London, Manchester, Cambridge or one of the other locations which voted overwhelmingly to remain then your assertion makes sense.

          Wander outside those lines & you’ll quickly see a different side. Especially after a few drinks.

          1. some old queen

            Yes fair point I was in London but the ethnic breakdown of all England is about 9% non white. Some areas will be more so than others but my core question remains.

            In a country where the national dish is curry, why such resentment to white European immigrants?

            This question is a little more complex than it first appears and IMO, dismissing it with ‘racist’ or ‘xenophobia’ is not actually answering it.

        3. classter

          ‘very core of this problem is the free movement of cheap labour.’

          This is not borne out by the evidence. Generally the places which voted most strongly to leave have had very little immigration, even if there was a lot of rhetoric about immigration.

  5. ahjayzis

    Good article.

    As a Wildling what really irked me was the meeting of the “Six Founding Members” at the weekend.

    What the fupp status do those guys have? What decisions are six countries banding together to come up with and force down our throats via their Viceroy Kenny?

    We need democratically elected leadership of the EU, not Merkel and whatever chums happen to either agree with or worship her.

      1. ahjayzis

        So was the Governor of Nevada – try selling the Yanks a government system where he carries the power the German Chancellor does in the European “Union” in the American system.

  6. The People's Hero

    Ah, the old rub of the back of the head dominance technique…. Enda knows his place so he does……

  7. nellyb

    interesting stats in the Guardian:
    “In the past five years, the European Union’s official research bureau found that less than 30% of Europeans had faith in their national parliaments and governments – some of the lowest figures in years, and an indication that almost three-quarters of people distrust their countries’ most important political institutions. Everywhere in the west, political parties – the key players in our democracies – are among the least trusted institutions in society.”
    http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/jun/29/why-elections-are-bad-for-democracy

  8. DubLoony

    Badly written piece with some relvent points in there.

    When it was founded, Europe was recovering from WWII, half of it was under the Soviet block, there was a dictator in Spain, generals running Greece. All members now are functioning democracies, not at war with each other. The loss of soverigntiy the Britian most vocal about was the same loss by all. By pooling soverignty, the murderous nationalism that caused 2 world wars is kept in check.

    The response to the refugee crisis is shameful. Greece, already fractured by economic catosrophe got no help at its borders. The EU for all its humanitarian principles, failed a most basic humanitrian test.

    There are fundemental questions to be asked, but a some perspective is needed. The challenges of an unstable middle east, Putin in Russia, climate change, global tax evasion need to be dealt with by countries working together.

    Its not perfect, but a damn sight better than what went before.

    1. ahjayzis

      When any polity starts regarding calls for more democracy and more equality among member states as destabilising or a threat, we’re in real trouble.

      The plus points you mentioned are true, and valuable. But they won’t survive if the leadership continues blindly ignoring criticism and calls to reform.

      1. DubLoony

        Agreed, the criticisms need to be dealt with.
        But many of the problems are local ones. Its easier to blame a far away institution than deal with a persons own insecurity around migration.

      2. classter

        It depends what you mean by ‘calls for more democracy’.

        What genuine reforms were Euroscpetics or Geert Wilders or Le Pen calling for?

        1. ahjayzis

          Screw them, I’m talking about pro-Europeans who have to swallow their frustrations and defend it against the likes of them. The overweening dominance of Germany, the arrogance and the questionable legitimacy of the Commission, the outrageously aggressive, political nature of our Central Bank and the mockery of the concept of a parliament are the sticks they use to beat us. Not to mention the disgusting treatment of Greece and the bungling of the refugee issue.

  9. PJ

    A basic fact missing here:

    Proportion of the population that are immigrants from the EU

    UK: 4.1%
    Ireland: 15%

    Most UK immigrants are not from the EU and leaving the EU will not change that.

    The referendum result revealed the disconnect between London and the rest of the country. Thus is a result to some degree of the extent that Londoners live in a bubble of artificial unsustainable prosperity, like Ireland before the crash. It is the world’s capital of money laundering via property. The corruption in the London property business, involving British Virgin Island companies to conceal ownership, dodge taxes, transfer assets etc is simply off the chart. And it stretches to and involves the Conservatives, root, branch and crown. London might as well have been on another planet. See http://www.unmaskthecorrupt.org.

    London’s 0.01% (and it’s representatives, Cameron and co) have now discovered that they cannot fool all of the people all of the time, that they govern by consent, now withdrawn. They won the last election with fear-mongering about the SNP in particular and they shafted the electorate by blocking PR (which would have avoided the disconnect persisting as long as it did), so there is some justice in their now being victims of the forces they sought to manipulate earlier.

    The outcome will be as clear an own goal as the execution of the leaders of the 1916 rising. The UK will likely be smaller and poorer before it becomes fairer.

    Who in Ireland would lament international businesses moving here, Scotland becoming independent, our neighbours in NI discovering the benefits of an Irish passport (and, hopefully, rising prosperity), and the English giving up nuclear weapons and their love of “punching above their weight”? All of these things are possible. As are other long overdue constitutional and legal reforms in the UK (reform of the House of Lords, ending the established church, hereditary titles, leasehold tenure etc).

    Parallels are drawn with Trump’s supporters in the US and Brexit voters “voting against their own interests” because they will be disproportionately affected by the consequences of their actions (as if they had much left to lose). It’s the wrong parallel despite the shared xenophobia, which is a sy!prom of economic insecurity.

    The real parallel is that the rich in both places are no longer quite as able to rig politics as they were, never mind that it has taken mendacious circus clowns to expose it.

    Ireland should align itself with friends in Europe against Anglo-Saxon neoliberalism in favour of fairer societies. If the English want a low wage economy and corrupt property market open to the world’s oligarchs that is their affair.

    Meanwhile, it would do us good to look at ways of helping ensure political discourse here is honest and not influenced disproportionately by the agendas of the super-rich. The role of the tabloid press in UK referendum was sickening, with endless stoking of fears of immigrants. But we have Irish versions openly on sale here, and the same kinds of offshore owners. Some legislation on concentration of media ownership and ownership by non-EU residents?

    1. some old queen

      The real parallel is that the rich in both places are no longer quite as able to rig politics as they were, never mind that it has taken mendacious circus clowns to expose it.

      Bingo.

      1. Nigel

        People have been criticising inequality, loss of freedoms, democratic deficits, income disparities, socially and environmentally destructive policies and the sheer counter-productive injustice of austerity measures that punish the poor and the vulnerable for the actions of the rich and hyper-rich for a while now. Along comes a mendacious circus clown to capitalise on it in ways that will make everything worse, and suddenly people are forced to acknowledge the underlying truths and trends they ignored when non-demagogues were trying to make themselves heard, now that it’ll be even more difficult to tackle them effectively or meaningfuly. Ever was it bloody thus.

      2. classter

        ‘The real parallel is that the rich in both places are no longer quite as able to rig politics as they were, never mind that it has taken mendacious circus clowns to expose it.’

        But actually what has happened is that other rich people have gained power & are likely to impose further pain & disenfranchisement on their own supporters.

  10. Truth in the News

    What a better way to commemorate 1916 than the “Exit” and long may it continue
    What above all things the British emulated the revolutioners of 1916 without firing
    a bullet to get rid of undemocratic tyrants……how come it took so long, how
    many chances had we and we blew them all, but the English didn’t…..yes we are
    led by “lapdogs”

    1. classter

      One of the few positive aspects of Brexit is that it may reduce our focus on the UK in policy & cultural terms. This narrow focus has hurt us

      1. DubLoony

        It will, we’ll have to pull our chair closer to the discussion table as well without our neighbour poking us in the ribs.

  11. Kieran NYC

    Many on the leave side will say ‘great, the financial big-wigs in the City will suffer’ and that’s true (we’ve already seen the million/billionaires having share wealth decimated)”

    You know who was also hurt from this economic self-vandalism?

    Pension funds. Ordinary people’s pension funds took a hammering.

    The lack of basic financial knowledge on all sides is astounding. When you bluntly try and ‘stick it to the bankers’ because it temporarily gives you the horn or gets you votes from the ignorant, EVERYONE suffers.

    Sorry – your pension pot has gone tits up, but at least Michael O’Leary lost a few quid, eh? Some comfort.

  12. Deluded

    “People have watched as unelected technocrats have assumed dictator-like positions of power and have sat on high issuing instructions for the whipping of the ‘little people’ in their kingdoms.”
    http://www.ukpolitical.info/european-parliament-election-turnout.htm
    … I can’t believe that lefties are actually doing the donkey-work for anarcho-capitalists or neo-libertarians or whatever you want to call unelected, unaccountable elites who will now be negotiating trade and currency deals by a system of courtiers and diplomats.

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