13 March 2017
For various reasons over the past 12 months, I’ve been visiting Brussels and the institutions of the European Union. Revisiting Brussels last week, with the Brexit Bill making its way through the House of Lords, shook me even more into realising the magnitude of the mistake the UK (or at least England and Wales) has chosen to make by walking away.
The volume of shared history and investment in cooperation being dropped made me cry actual tears when I was walking through the museum at the European Parliament, where the rebuilding after the World Wars and the fall of the Berlin Wall was laid out on the path to today’s European Union.
The unprecedented territory we’re in has left even the Prime Minister confused and flailing. In her speech to the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party, she blatantly contradicted her own push for Hard Brexit with her support for Scotland’s continued membership of the UK. Replace United Kingdom with European Union, and you’ll see what I mean:
“Time and again the benefits of the Union – of doing together, collectively, what would be impossible to do apart – are clear. There is no economic case for breaking up the United Kingdom, or of loosening the ties which bind us together. The pooling and sharing of risks and resources on the basis of need across our United Kingdom is the essence of our unity as a people.”
Leaving the EU with no UK-EU trade deal will leave us at the mercy of US corporations and undemocratic World Trade Organisation rules. It appears that the Brexiteers at the top of what is left of the Leave movement would love this. Combined with the Government's push for the UK to be made into a "tax haven", it's a worst case scenario.
I don't know which is best; perhaps a vote on the terms of Brexit, which may pave the way for a democratic reversal of the electorate's decision to leave? Or should all the progressive voices in the UK push as much as possible for a Soft Brexit, which may do more harm than good in terms of post-Brexit stability within the rest of the EU, with centre and far-right Governments thinking they should simply walk away with sweetheart deals too?
I campaigned passionately in the streets and online to convince people to vote to Remain, and I hold that position even more so now.
I think the only way for us to avoid a full-fat capitalist hellscape of low taxes and runaway corporate power stripping away our social and environmental rights is to work towards both a vote on the terms of Brexit, and for as soft a Brexit as possible.
Where this leaves the European Project is anyone's guess. But I refuse to sit by and watch the vandalism of so much that has been fought for by previous generations and friends across the continent be simply washed away by far-right populists and fascists.