Brexit Referendum, Two Weeks Out

Here we are again. Britain stands upon the brink of a wrenching political realignment, as I watch in fascination. Less than a year ago, it was Scotland voting on whether or not to quit the UK; in another two weeks the (still) whole country will vote on whether or not to quit the European Union.

Fascinating, fascinating. Twitter hashtag #Brexit has become a substantial part of what gets me through the day lately.

I’m not sure what to add, beyond that. One of the things which has struck me is a limited parallel with the civil war inside the Democratic Party. In that context, just as in both British referendums, it seems like the biggest question for me is (or would be) essentially the same. Is trying to reform an existing political institution from within a more promising path to larger societal reforms, or is being part of that institution more of an obstacle?

I don’t think that there is a universal answer. But I’m coming around to think that in the case of the European Union, the existing institution is more of an obstacle.

Full disclosure, I don’t have a vote here, shouldn’t have a vote here, and have not done the fuller research I would regard as necessary if I were voting. (Twitter is for entertainment, everyone knows that, right?) But based on the arguments I have read for and against, I feel increasingly confident that when it comes to the European Union, tearing it down and starting over looks like a more promising route.

I don’t say this lightly. I consider myself an internationalist, and a lot of the people in favor of Brexit and the arguments they’re using are awful. There is also the fact that many arguments on both sides were flung around (often by people who have since swapped positions on them) just last year in Scotland’s referendum, and while I was torn about that one I leaned toward “stay in.”

But I’ve become convinced that the European Union just offers a much, much less promising path to reform-from-inside. As frustrating as Tory governments which a majority of Scottish voters opposed must be, the EU seems to be in a whole other category. Having read articles for and against, I have been particularly moved by the remark that the EU is at this point, fundamentally, a project to place neoliberal capitalism beyond the reach of democratic “interference.”

As recently as a year ago, it’s likely that I would have dismissed this as melodramatic. Various things have contributed to a different reception, I’m sure, but the number one was unquestionably Greece.

Last summer’s European crisis remains vivid in my mind. It’s difficult to forget remarks like that of German finance minister Wolfgang Schaeuble’s that “Elections change nothing. There are rules.” Or vice-president of the European commission Jyrki Katainen’s that “We don’t change policies depending on elections.” This doesn’t seem very ambiguous, and if one can quibble about whether or not these men represent the European Union… I have not seen any indication by the EU power structure that its agenda is any different.

I was also affected by the comment of author Warren Ellis, who indicated himself as opposed to leaving the EU yet at the same time summarized those events thus:

…the Out vote here in Britain will only have to point at the carceral economics being aimed at Greece and the obvious intent of many in the European governing system to turn it into a client state.  The message is clear: if you stumble, the shackles will be clapped on where you lay.

It just seems like this needs to go.

In contrast, I now feel even more like Scottish secession from the UK was a poorer choice than remaining; the radical concept of changing policies depending on elections seems quite real and alive in Britain when compared with the EU. I’m still mulling over the prospects for the Democratic Party, but I’m leaning toward reform-from-within as the most expedient possibility there, too. So, again, I don’t feel like I am instinctively take-my-ball-and-go-home on questions like this.

For what it’s worth, then, best of luck to everyone who actually has to make a real choice in this… but a bit more luck to Labour Leave & co.

One Thought on “Brexit Referendum, Two Weeks Out

  1. There is also the chance that a swing in the polls could be a blessing in disguise for those campaigning to stay as it might motivate more voters concerned at the prospect of a Brexit to head to the polls. So far, every survey has shown Leave supporters are far more likely to turn out.

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