Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Why I don't like the EU

The following is an excerpt from an email I sent today, expressing my concerns about the threat to the sovereignty of the Westminster parliament, the elected representatives of the people of the United Kingdom, posed by our membership of the EU. The email was addressed to a radio phone-in show presenter who had claimed that everyone who called his show to express opposition to EU membership did so on the basis of a fear or dislike of foreigners:

I would describe myself as being against the EU and my reasons are, I think, entirely devoid of any xenophobic basis. The undemocratic nature of that institution is my only ground for opposition. There are two main reasons for my objection to the UK's membership of the European Union: the first (and lesser of the two) is the sheer size of the institution. In a democracy, the amount of power held by each member of the electorate is, obviously, inversely proportionate to the size of the electorate. The number of people that need to agree with me, if I am to succeed in getting my views represented at government level, increases by an order of magnitude when the government in question is a continent-wide one. Of course, one could argue that this disadvantage is outweighed by the increase in the power and reach of government. A Europe-wide government is able to exert far more control and to wield far more influence in the world than a mere national one. But then, one could counter this argument by citing the increase in inefficiency that inevitably comes with an increase in size and scale.
The second reason for my objection to UK membership of the EU is, in my view, by far the more salient one. It is to do with the huge diversity of native languages spoken by EU citizens. There is no unified language for the EU and, consequently, neither is there a coherent public debate about the issues on which the EU legislates and over which its policies hold sway. Debates take place within individual countries about these issues but, as a rule, if I write an article or a blog post espousing a particular political viewpoint, or if you run a campaign to try and publicise a political issue, our efforts to try and persuade our fellow citizens as to the rightness of our respective causes are unlikely to have any significant effect outside of the UK. This is even more true for citizens of countries that speak less widely understood languages than English. An individual, a political party, a pressure group or campaigning organisation in, say, Slovenia, has little chance of making an impact on the majority of the EU electorate (an impact which would then be reflected in the voting decisions of that electorate) because of the language barrier. You may feel that I am exaggerating the extent of the insularity of social and political debate within European nations, but I don't believe so. How often do you read an article, watch a TV show, listen to a radio programme or even read a blog post written in a language other than English, even in translation? Even with the translation technology available today (eg. Google Translate), there simply isn't the degree of mutual comprehension to enable the kind of trans-continental public conversation and debate which should underpin a viable and democratically healthy electorate.
The effect of this inability of the citizens of Europe to have a coherent debate on the social and political issues that affect them is that power is devolved away from the ordinary citizens, each one of whom lacks the linguistic means to persuade significant numbers to support his or her viewpoint on any particular issue, and into the hands of the political elite gathered in the debating chambers of Brussels and Strasbourg and their associated institutions. Hence the European Union is characterised by a 'top-down' style of governance, and this situation persists in spite of all attempts to enhance the level of democratic accountability of its institutions. Democracy should be a 'bottom up' affair in which the legitimacy of government arises from the prior deliberations of those who are governed. Without a linguistic basis for such electorate-wide deliberations, the legitimacy of the entire European Union project is, in my view, at the very least, questionable.
I have heard you on several occasions asking anti-EU callers to your radio show to explain just which EU laws are causing them such consternation. When they have difficulty in coming up with any dramatic examples of Brussels-inspired oppression, you triumphantly point out that they are actually getting themselves unneccessarily worked up over something that really doesn't matter that much since, after all, it only affects such unimportant things as post-office privatisation and the number of weekly domestic refuse collections. This is, in my opinion, extremely unfair and short-sighted. Imagine if we lived under a relatively benevolent dictatorship, one which, say, respected human rights, didn't over-tax us and didn't lead us into unneccessary wars. Would you take the view that anyone campaigning for the right to freely elect our own leader was some kind of reactionary nutcase? Yet this is precisely analagous to your stance towards Gerard Batten (a UKIP MEP) and various other callers who failed to impress you with smoking gun examples of EU tyranny.

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