Sunday, 4 October 2009

Integration Or Disintegration?

So the Irish have passed their referendum on the Lisbon Treaty by a margin of 2-to-1, despite the volume of sceptical opinion out there.

Even Nigel Farage's excuse-making that the score is now 1-1 and a decider is required has been blown out of the water by the scale of the defeat - it can't even be written off as an away-goals victory considering the aggregate score!

The thing which gets me is how the criticism is just so massively misplaced.

If the EU is imperfect then we should work to make it better - it can be and has been an effective counterweight to the excesses of national governments, so we should strengthen it's accountability processes and improve transparency.

Equally our national governments are far from perfect, but they are an effective counterweight to the weaknesses of the multi-national institutions and the only line of defence to wholesale intervention from outside, so we also work to bring in positive reforms at home.

Yet the very same people who complain about the loss of national sovereignty are exactly the same ones who complain loudest about how the people elected to our no-longer-sovereign parliament are abusing their power. By that logic we should get rid of the EU and we should get rid of the UK and literally turn every Englishman's home into a castle!

But I don't see it as a zero-sum game where an increase of sovereignty by one political body is matched by an equal loss elsewhere.

No, the balance of powers held by each organ is a mechanism by which real freedoms can be protected and advanced in a competition for legitimacy.

Obviously that isn't anything any aspirant dictator wants, so people like Farage use whatever means they can to attack each side in turn as they undermine the whole system. It doesn't matter to them what damage they've wrought so long as it helps advance their cause of building a power base (NB standing down one job to try to gain a bigger one in a breaking of convention is a tactic straight out of Caesar's handbook - Conservatives who egg on their Ukip opponent simply betray their anti-democratic credentials and lack of principles).

As for referenda I think it would be very interesting to hold them simultaneously at a pan-european level, just like with Eurovision or Uefa competitions, which would massively increase the interest among the general population to ensure decisions are placed on a much more democratic footing. This would also prevent sceptics from accusing commissioners of rigging the vote quite so easily.

At the moment I simply don't think the issues are understood or debated widely enough (the only people who have at least tried to read the actual texts of what is under consideration are amateur obsessives and real pros), so I don't think it is possible to make a good decision - yet.

What we really need to understand is that at the heart of the European question is a fundamental decision over whether people think integration or disintegration is the way to proceed - one thing is certain: the status quo is both unacceptable and unsustainable.


Update: He may be a slightly different species, but I think it's worth linking to Nosemonkey's desire for eurosceptics to use rational arguments.


Doubting Richard said...

Errrr, say what?

How can you be so ill-informed yet think to have an opinion? You don't even know what 'misplaced' means!

OK, for a light, off-the-top-of-the-head fisking, a few points.

In order to win the referendum they had to change all the rules, yes they actually changed Irish electoral law to win, and then pour money in to lies about 'guarantees' that are worth precisely nothing. That is after they had completely ignored the original opinion.

If you ask people often enough eventually you'll get the 'right' answer!

The EU is imperfect, as is everything. However there are two points. First should the 'working to make it better' not have come before 'giving it authority over every aspect of our lives'?

Second EU is so flawed that it is impossible to make it better without fundamental reform. That is because it was quite deliberately made to be undemocratic (a small history lesson - after the war, on the continental mainland there was a view that democracy had allowed Hitler, as he was an elected, populist leader, and the way to avoid that was to separate power from democracy). The only people that can propose changes to the EU are unelected Euro-enthusiasts in the Commission. How on Earth can we improve it? We have no say!

How can we strengthen accountability in the EU when those that try to hold it to account are first sacked, then investigated by those that should have helped hold the EU to account and then when elected are victimised by the Euro-enthusiasts? The EU cannot be held to account in its current form except by governments, and those that do are bullied (look at Vaclav Klaus's treatment when he took the rotating presidency)

National governments are not a counterweight to the EU when they can be over-ruled. The Lisbon treaty will make that happen more often.

"Yet the very same people who complain about the loss of national sovereignty are exactly the same ones who complain loudest about how the people elected to our no-longer-sovererign parliament are abusing their power."

However we can at least remove that government. There is also an opposition. We cannot remove the EU government as it is not elected and the European Parliament has only a nascent and currently weak opposition. The complaint that there are problems with our current government are neither an argument for anarchy nor an argument for a less-accountable supra-national government. You just made up that distinction either because you don't understand the other possibilities or because you are dishonestly arguing for the EU. Neither is good for your case.

What's that about 'aspirant dictators'? That makes no sense at all, not even enough to fisk it. It is simply drivel. Who are the aspirant dictators, apart from the European Commission?

Why should referendums be held simultaneously? They should simply be held, the exact timing is irrelevant to both the points you made.

You use the word 'disintegration' purely for propaganda. It is not the alternative to integration. You just made that up to sound cute.

As it happens I was just reading a paper on complexity and self-organization in particular with respect to human communities. Its point was that most government failures are due to too much central control of local issues (schools, hospitals) and national government control of international issues (trade, environment). Since the latter was due to the gross failings of supra-national bodies, including the EU, and since the former is made even worse under the EU (which takes policy that should rightly be decided at national level) the EU does not look good on that standard, although it was not a particular target. The paper was far, far more convincing than what you have written.

Look, sorry to be harsh but I don't think you have a clue what you are talking about.

Oranjepan said...

Prey tell DR, what is the alternative to integration if it isn't disintegration or the status quo?

Anonymous said...

"Prey tell DR, what is the alternative to integration if it isn't disintegration or the status quo?"

I may not be DR but 'release' would be an obvious alternative. If we leave I doubt the EU will fall apart or indeed "disintegrate". The EU will continue on its merry, corrupt little way but we will no longer have to suffer so many directives and regulations.

Oranjepan said...

doesn't that just beg the question - 'release' into what?

I think the problem is one of outlook.

If you feel powerless to change anything you only have the end to look forward to, but if you participate fully then you are responsible for the outcomes which are reached on your behalf and have nothing to complain about.

Anti-EU sentiment is largely destructive in intent, not constructive, so what exactly is it designed to achieve?