As the referendum draws nearer, the debate is now heating up regarding the European question. Both camps are employing the full repertoire of the art of rhetoric: cameos from CEOs, political leaders and academics all ensuring no surface of the public canvas is left uncovered. But behind all this showmanship, triumphs not a big thumbs up for ‘power to the people’, but a prime example of smoke and mirrors that detract from the real problem. While the voting cards will display the age old question on everybody’s lips. The real question is – does it even matter?
In, out, shake it all about…
‘If I’m not part of the gang, can we still be friends?’ While evoking a playground sensitivity, in its essence, this question represents the uncertainty that entangles the arguments of the ‘leave’ campaigners. Citing real alternatives shows there is light at the end of the tunnel if Britain were to leave the EU. Norway, Switzerland and Turkey all boast non-membership on their respective CVs and low and behold, each provide examples of co-existence alongside the ‘single market’. While commentators are eager to stress that emulating the approaches taken by such countries would be near enough impossible, logic suggests that a ‘Brexit’ wouldn’t necessarily necessitate the key ingredient resulting in an economic meltdown. In any case, with another four years of George Osborne as head chef, surely the promise of an ‘Eton mess’ still remains intact?
While Boris and other Tories are rallying an anti-European sentiment, the ‘remain’ campaign, captained by Cameron, is adamant that staying in the EU will ensure the security of businesses, provide job creation, consolidate appeal to foreign investors and enforce Britain’s presence on the global stage. Key to Cameron’s argument is that a renegotiated deal with Brussels has emerged as an added extra and this is something that he’s been keen to dangle in front of the public eye.
While it’s perhaps become natural to disregard the sincerity of every utterance to emerge from a politicians lips whenever the word ‘promise’ is mentioned, Cameron’s belated fulfilment of his European referendum proposal has, inadvertently triggered something of a ‘Hokey Cokey’ effect within the Brussels elite. Already experiencing its most turbulent period since its inception, the last thing Brussels wants to further tarnish the Union’s power and legitimacy, is a defector.
Without a doubt, the arguments run deep for both sides and come June, Britain will either
be re-affirming its commitment or running away from this dominant force that is constantly affecting the lives of ordinary Europeans. Stay or go, the influence of this leviathan will remain. As it’s confronted with the ongoing humanitarian and economic problems of global politics, this erstwhile economic union is fast becoming a powerful governing body. As ever-present as it has become in most facets of politics, surely then the referendum question is redundant: in or out the UK will still be heavily influenced and dictated to by the EU.
So, does it even matter? To an extent, no. But more importantly, who’s really making the decisions in Brussels?
‘It’s not me, it’s EU’
‘Ten people who speak make more noise than ten thousand people who are silent’.
So said Napoleon. This quote encapsulates the genetics of the decision making process in Brussels. Thanks to the billion-euro lobbying industry in Brussels, the EU has become ‘corporatised’. Prominent watchdog the Corporate Europe Observatory, estimates there to be at least 30,000 lobbyists based in Brussels, which essentially matches the 31,000 staff employed by the European Commission. These represent some of the biggest companies, PR consultancies, law firms, trade associations and banks that the corporate world has to offer. All present together with the objective of influencing the decision making process of the single market, striking trade deals and determining the economic and commercial behaviour in a union that directly affects the lives of 507 million people. Fantastic.
In effect, while arguably being elitist in its structure, is the EU also merely an empty vessel of which corporate giants are able to exercise their influence over the masses? If this is the case, then the continuing growth of the EU as a governing body does not sit well in the stomach of democratic principles. The question of in or out is irrelevant when the system itself is corrupt. After all, admission does not mean access. It’s not the countries that are causing problems (Greece, Britain) but the organisation itself which is manipulated by volumes of unelected representatives. Until accountability and transparency can become true realities of a reformed EU, citizens from member states are going to slowly but surely become more disenchanted and skeptical. As it stands, it is estimated that around 75% of all legislature is directly influenced by the lobbying industry. Without doubt this rivals the situation present in U.S. politics.
Asking the wrong questions…
For too long we’ve been asking the wrong questions. The June referendum will pose the question of either a re-commitment or removal from the ‘single market’. Once a shared vision of governments, this is now firmly spearheaded as a business led initiative. As the British public will decide their own fate come June, concerns over job losses and the survival of businesses will continue, regardless of the outcome. The sooner governments and the public realise that what is growing and developing in Brussels is not a Union of member states, but a vessel nurturing the interests of the few, the clearer the future will be. A Europe Inc.