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The Radical Case for the UK to Stay in the EU

Referenda make for odd bedfellows. But there is nothing odd about this company – those of us who are joining in today to sign The London Declaration.

We rely on hope and invest in unity rather than on fear and loathing.

Unlike the two official campaigns, we do not rely on dodgy statistics. As an economist I assure you that both sides’ econometric predictions on the effects of Brexit are not worth the paper they are written on. Cameron’s and Osborne’s warnings of a collapse in disposable incomes, the pound, house prices etc. are bogus. But so are the Leave campaigns’ optimistic numbers. Economics is simply incapable of producing decent predictions on any of this. Those propagating such numbers are either fools or lying.

Unlike the two official campaigns, we are not interested in polarising voters.

We come from different backgrounds, political parties and even nations. We may harbour different perspectives on the EU. But, as our London Declaration affirms, we stand united in our belief that a democratic, prosperous Britain can only be won in the context of a pan-European struggle to democratise the EU.

Yes, we are here to present the radical case for keeping Britain IN the EU. The internationalist case. The case for rejecting the beggar thy neighbour, the divide and rule logic that both the British establishment and the Brussels bureaucracy fall back on, each in its own cynical manner.

Our campaign engages honestly with the strong points of both opinions. The official REMAIN and LEAVE campaigns cannot afford to treat voters as children. There is a reason for this. On the one hand REMAIN represents those who favour a status quo limiting democracy all over Europe and serving particular vested interests. On the other, the LEAVE campaign represents a national oligarchy keen to liberate itself from Brussels.

The Leave campaign turns on two issues. Sovereignty and Migration.

Sovereignty is crucial. Boris Johnson is right: We should not tolerate democracy-free decision-making in Brussels. The people of Britain must NEVER settle for diminished democratic sovereignty. For it is not a fair price to pay for supposed EU-mediated global influence in the era of globalisation.

However, voting to leave the EU will only benefit a national ruling class that loves democracy as long as the demos is not in power.

Leaving the EU will not even rid you of the EU’s regulatory over-reach that the tabloid press love to lambast. We agree that it is important to keep a check on bureaucrats luxuriating in the power of their unelected office. But leaving the EU will not change anything. Britain’s establishment will never allow PM Boris Johnson to leave the single market (even if voters choose to leave the EU). And so there will be no escape from the EU’s regulatory framework.

On migration, we are concerned that its undisputed net benefits are asymmetrically scattered throughout society. Public services, in certain parts of Britain, are indeed strained, leaving many with a feeling of having been marginalised in their own country. However, this feeling is not caused by migration; it is merely correlated with it. The reason public services are failing is the rolling austerity that cloaks a vicious class war against Britain’s poor; a war that would have happened even if the UK border were hermetically sealed. Indeed, without the labour, skills and dedication of migrants staffing them, the NHS and other services would have collapsed. Lest we forget, turning the native poor against the migrants is a variant of the old divide-and-rule trick that the British establishment honed ages ago to dominate the Empire. Today it uses it to dominate the domestic ‘natives,’ to hide austerity’s effects, and to deflect anger toward the ‘other,’ the foreigner, the migrant.

Friends and opponents point out a seeming paradox: Last year I tried, and failed, to convince the EU to behave humanely toward my long-suffering country, Greece. And now I am standing here in front of you campaigning for Britain to stay IN this same EU – yes, the one that crushed our Athens Spring and has been behaving abominably ever since.

Why don’t I agree with those who argue that speeding up the EU’s fragmentation through Brexit is not such a bad idea. Think again!, I say. Will the EU’s disintegration cause progressive democrats to rise up across Europe, empower their parliaments, usher in the forces of light and hope, and foster harmonious cooperation on the continent? Not likely.

This is the reason that following the crushing of the Athens Spring, Caroline, myself and many, many others from across the continent formed DiEM25 on the principle that we shall now surrender to the current, authoritarian EU but we shall also not surrender to the soothing fantasy of progress through a return to the nation-state.

I read only yesterday, on a leftwing site that supports Brexit, a depiction of our campaign as Leftwing Turncoats Fearing Change. I have news for these comrades: We crave Change. We are working for Change. We are campaigning to tear up the status quo. But to ensure that it is Progressive Change, we eschew isolationism and we insist on taking the difficult, internationalist path that is built on the conviction that we cannot usher democracy into Britain if we do not fight for democracy everywhere.

Today, we shall sign the London Declaration, reflects this determination for change along the lines of the manifesto of our Democracy in Europe Movement – DiEM25. This is the beginning of a process. A process for putting on track an agenda of DECENTRALISED EUROPEANISATION to produce:

  • A Democratic Europe in which authority stems from Europe’s sovereign peoples, decision-making is transparent and communities are empowered;
  • A Social Europe that recognises rights and freedom from exploitation as a prerequisite for true liberty;
  • A Dynamic Europe that unleashes the creative and productive powers of its citizens;
  • A Peaceful Europe, which serves as a force for good in our neighbourhood and around the globe;
  • An Open Europe that is alive to ideas, people and inspiration from all over the world, instead of building fences and borders to divide us;
  • A Sustainable Europe, leading the way in the green transition to the flourishing economies of the future, and living within the planet’s means.

What does this mean in practice? It means working toward a coordinated economic (monetary, fiscal, investment and financial sector) along the lines of a Green New Deal for Europe that is implemented from The Shetlands to Crete and from the Riga to Porto. It means deliberative democratic decision making that must replace oligarchic pseudo-representative democracy. We have a long way to go. But this is the path that we have chosen instead of the twin illusions of business as usual or of recovering prosperity in the splendid isolation of nation-states barricaded from one another by xenophobic borders.

When I was a student, a close friend who hated parties nevertheless never missed one just so that he would have something to bitch about the day after. My message to the people of Britain is: Please do not be like him! Please go out there after this event to campaign, campaign and campaign for radical change of your municipality, your region, your country, your Europe. Please join is to campaign in favour of Britain staying in the EU with enthusiasm for our common cause: to take arms against a sea of troubles, and, by opposing, end them!

This article is adapted from a lecture originally delivered at London DiEM25.