Sunday, June 26, 2016

Remembering Why the EU Exists

It’s not about economic prosperity

Last week the United Kingdom voted by a slim margin to leave the European Union (EU); an entity of 28 countries that sought to create a single market by allowing the free movement of goods, services, and people. It seems though, that British citizens have, and many others across the world, have forgotten why the EU exists in the first place. It’s done its job so well apparently, that its purpose is forgotten.

The EU doesn’t exist to improve economic efficiencies (which it does), or to make more money (which so many absolutely have), nor to improve leverage in trade deals (which definitely happens). It exists to prevent war. After the Great War (a.k.a. World War I), people believed that there could never be another war because of the devastation caused by that one. False. A few short years later, the world experienced World War II. Clearly, devastation and horror are not strong deterrents to war.

Hence, an idea was formed and plan put in place. The idea was to make the countries of Europe so dependent on each other (especially France and Germany), that war would be a lose-lose situation, and always the worst of any series of options. This is how the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC), a precursor to the EU, was formed. People like Jean Monnet, one of the minds that fathered the current incarnation of European unity, weren’t concerned with making more money. They were interested in making sure that another continent-wide war couldn’t happen again.

Also something about a financial drain

Coming back to today: the UK Independence Party, and Boris Johnson (lovingly compared to Bam Bam from the Flintstones, by John Oliver), argued that the UK needed to leave the EU to control its own borders, to prevent immigrants from coming in and mooching off the British people. Using fear-mongering tactics, UKIP and Bam Bam, err…. Mr. Johnson, convinced 52% of Great Britain leave the EU.

Fear of others (immigrants), the unseen (EU institutions), and nostalgia (Um… colonialism I guess…?) are part of our base human instincts. These are the instincts that the Leave campaign appealed to. These kinds of arguments go beyond facts, and speak directly to the heart.

Rather than telling Britons why they should vote to stay within the EU, David Cameron, with the help of experts, economists, and other world figures (President Obama, Christine Lagarde, etc.), made a case for why they should be afraid of leaving. He fought fear-mongering with fear-mongering, but he didn’t do it particularly well. Jeremy Corbyn didn’t help much either. So what should Prime Minister Cameron have said instead?

How about telling his people everything they have gained by being part of the EU? The benefits of being the financial capital of Europe, because of unified regulations. Or perhaps the ease with which Britons can buy and sell goods to Europe. Not to mention easy, visa-free, vacations. Or the influence and power Britain wielded by being a major player in Europe, as well as being a permanent member of the United Nations Security Council.

This wasn’t a motivational poster.
These were instructions on what to do
during an air raid.
Or perhaps Mr. Cameron could have reminded the British people why they were members of the EU in the first place. Over half a century ago, Great Britain lost an entire generation to war. London was bombed repeatedly, and the nation bankrupted. In fact, they were on the verge of losing World War II to Nazi Germany altogether. It’s not about the economic benefits Britain reaped by being a member of the EU (which it did); it’s about continuing the efforts of the previous generations to ensure that Europe does not return to the era of constant warfare.

1 comment:

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