Brave New World – first reflections on Brexit

farageThe UK has stepped back from Europe and stepped back from the world. Kirsty Hughes explains how in the process, the UK has done deep damage to itself, the EU and the wider world.

The shockwaves from England and Wales’ Brexit vote will reverberate and grow for months and years to come.

In the first few hours since the vote, there have been calls for a second Scottish independence referendum, for a vote on Irish reunification, for joint control of Gibraltar, Cameron’s resignation, the Labour right mounting a pre-planned attack on Corbyn, falling stock markets, falling pound and other currencies and more. Continue reading

Support for Brexit is no longer a minority viewpoint on the British left

man-hands-reading-boyIn recent years, Euroscepticism has frequently been associated with the right of the political spectrum in the UK, but a number of figures on the left have also voiced their support for the country leaving the EU. Imke Henkel writes that while criticism of the EU’s handling of the Eurozone and migration crises is understandable, such problems should be used as the basis for stronger engagement from the British left at the European level.

Among the British press, which overall shows a bias for leaving the EU, the Guardian is seen as one of the few papers with a friendly attitude towards remaining. However, there are pro-Brexit voices within the Guardian, too. On 20 May, Larry Elliott, the paper’s Economic Editor, made his argument for Britain to leave the EU: “Brexit may be the best answer to a dying Eurozone”. The piece culminated in the provocative conclusion that the EU was “the USSR without the gulag”.

The article sparked a strong response from the Guardian’s former Director of Digital Strategy, Wolfgang Blau. The German born journalist had moved to the Guardian only in 2013 from his previous role as editor in chief at the German digital publication Zeit Online. He left after just two and a half years in December 2015 to become the Chief Digital Officer at Condé Nast International. In February 2015, Blau had been one of four candidates in the internal hustings to succeed the outgoing Guardian-editor Alan Rusbridger. With just 29 votes out of 964 Blau came last by a wide margin. Still, his early departure from the Guardian surprised many in the industry. Continue reading

The Left needs a Better Conversation on National Sovereignty

EU flagAs many parts of Europe continue to suffer from the Eurozone crisis and austerity, and as populist and far-right political parties continue to gain in importance, voices of the left across Europe are reclaiming the concept of national sovereignty. Renaud Thillaye, Deputy Director of Policy Network, examines these arguments, and suggests that the member states might be able to achieve freedom, and the capacity to act in their interests, only in and through the EU.

Gone are the days when talking about national sovereignty was associated with backwardness and narrow-minded conservatism. Everywhere in Europe, a section of the left is standing up to reclaim this concept and explain that regaining control over one’s own country’s destiny is a priority. The debate is particularly vivid in the UK and France.

In the UK, Owen Jones popularised the idea of ‘Lexit’ (the left version of Brexit) in July, which prompted reactions by Caroline Lucas and Philip Cunliffe on the Current Moment blog. More recently, Paul Mason dubbed the EU an “undemocratic semi-superstate”. On the account of Greece’s acceptance of a third bailout package and the sidelining of Yanis Varoufakis, Jones argued that the EU was killing national democracy and that there was no space within the EU for progressive solutions. Over the summer, Jones supported Jeremy Corbyn, whose initial ambiguity over EU membership can be seen as another element of the renewed yearning for sovereignty on the left. Since then, the new Labour leader made clear he would fight for a more social Europe from within. Continue reading

Britain’s EU referendum: the pre-referendum campaign, so far

blank pageThe debate on European issues in the UK has certainly gained momentum since the outcome of the 7 May general election made it a racing certainty that there would be an ‘in/out’ referendum before the end of 2017, most likely on a date still to be determined in 2016.  David Hannay, member of the House of Lords and former Ambassador to the EU, reviews the pre-referendum campaign so far.

Some of the main battle-lines have already become discernible.  But so far the debate is no more than that; it falls far short of the sort of all-out campaign which can be expected before the vote.

Why is that? Well, first there are a number of technical, electoral law considerations relating to finance and other matters which discourage any premature formal campaign activity; and in any case neither side of the argument has yet settled on the shape and composition of the main campaigning organisations. More significantly neither of the two main political parties, Conservative and Labour, have yet decided how they are going to campaign. That both these parties will be to some extent split when a real campaign does start is not seriously in doubt, and it is already possible to make an informed guess as to who will be campaigning for a ‘yes’ to remaining in the EU and who for a ‘no’. But on the Conservative side much will depend on the negotiations in Brussels which the government has engaged and whose outcome will only be known at the end of this year at the very earliest, probably rather later. And on the Labour side everything, this issue included, is shrouded in the fog of battle which surrounds the leadership succession. Of the smaller parties there is no doubt how the Scottish National Party, the Liberal Democrats and the UK Independence Party will line up; but in Northern Ireland the implications for the Good Friday agreement of Britain finding itself outside the European Union could produce a rather difference approach than was the case in 1975. Continue reading