EUROPEAN UNION pros and cons

Is Britain the most Eurosceptic country?

Polls show that anti-EU feeling is currently riding high in other states such as France and Italy.

Britain may have endured the tightest of EU referendum campaigns, but historical polling suggests it may not be the most Eurosceptic state in the EU.

A survey of 10,000 Europeans across 10 countries by Pew Research earlier this year found that a majority of people felt unfavourably towards the union in Greece (71%) and France (61%). Spain also had a higher proportion of unfavourable people (49%) than the UK (48%) did.

Change the question, though, and you get a different answer. Eurobarometer, a survey of every member state in the EU, asks each year whether the public think being in the EU is good or bad for their country.

The Danish state broadcaster, DR, compiled 40 years of these surveys and it is well worth taking the time to look at how different countries’ views have changed.

The Nordic states, for example, have gone from begrudging the union to being much more positive about its effect than the majority of other countries. Crisis-hit countries such as Italy, Cyprus and Greece were all once much more positive about the EU than they are now. However, the key thing here is that not one member state – including Britain – had more EU detractors than supporters.

In fact, according to this study, positive attitudes about the EU’s effect have actually been rising in most member states after they hit a low in the middle of 2011. This is not necessarily contradictory. You can hate the colour and the size of your bicycle but still feel that it is better than having to walk everywhere.

However, another poll by Ipsos Mori, also this spring, seems to suggest that Britain’s referendum is being looked upon with envy by other countries.

It showed a majority in Italy and France said they would like a vote on their membership of the EU. In the six other countries Mori polled, more people were in favour of a referendum than not, including in Germany, Spain, Belgium and Sweden.

Asked how they would vote if a hypothetical referendum were to take place, 48% in Italy said they would vote to leave.

Despite the rise of Eurosceptic parties such as Syriza in Greece and the True Finns in Finland, there are no referendums imminent anywhere else in Europe. Nevertheless, if diplomats in Brussels wake up to news that Britain has become the first member state voting to leave the EU, this data suggests that might be the first of a series of headaches.

Leftwing Eurosceptics are wrong to use Greece as a reason to leave the EU

Methodology: data comes from the Pew Global Attitudes Survey. Polls quoted in the chart were a mixture of telephone and face-to-face interviews with samples of at least 999 in each case. The surveys were conducted by TNS BRMB on behalf of the Pew Research Center between early April and mid-May. The specific methodology used in each country is available here.

Eurobarometer: The figures used in the chart come from Eurobarometer 84, which was a survey conducted by the TNS opinion and social consortium on the request of the European commission. Fieldwork took place between 7 and 17 November, and 27,681 people were interviewed across all 28 EU member states. Samples were over 1,000 in every country except Malta, Cyprus and Luxembourg where they were over 500.

Ipsos Mori: The study is based on interviews with 11,030 (between 500 and 1,005 per country) adults aged 16-64 in Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, India, Italy, Poland, South Africa, Spain, Sweden and the United States. Data are weighted to age, gender, region, and household income based on recent census and/or population figures for each country. Interviews were conducted via Ipsos Global @dvisor Online Omnibus between 25 March and 8 April 2016.

The roots of Euroscepticism

Why Britons are warier than other Europeans of the EU

union flag

The origins of today’s EU lie in the ashes of post-war Europe. Reconciliation between France and Germany, urged by Winston Churchill in 1946, led to the creation of the six-member European Coal and Steel Community in 1951 and the European Economic Community in 1957. But a wary Britain, keen to preserve links with the Commonwealth and America, stood aside from both. Only in the 1960s did the British, impressed by the continent’s stronger economy, try to join, eventually doing so in 1973.

What this history shows is that Britain has an essentially transactional relationship with the club. Membership has been evaluated in terms of costs and benefits, not as an emotional commitment. Moreover, as a latecomer, Britain has often found the EU’s organisation and policies uncongenial. This was reflected in Margaret Thatcher’s battles in the 1980s to cut the outsized British budget contribution.

Over the years the political base of British Euroscepticism has moved from left to right. In the early years Labour was the more suspicious party. In 1962 its leader, Hugh Gaitskell, warned that joining the common market would end 1,000 years of history. In 1975 Harold Wilson dealt with Labour splits over Europe by staging a renegotiation and putting the result to a referendum—a tactic remarkably similar to Mr Cameron’s today. In the early 1980s, Labour was once again set on withdrawal.

The pivotal moment came in 1988, when the European Commission’s president, Jacques Delors, promised the Trades Union Congress that Europe’s single market would be buttressed by tougher labour and social regulations. This reinforced Thatcher’s growing Euroscepticism, and led directly to her Bruges speech attacking excessive EU interference in the same year. Her political downfall two years later was triggered by her denunciation of Mr Delors’s plans for closer EU integration and a single currency. This marked the point when the Tories replaced Labour as the party of Euroscepticism.

Euroscepticism and Europeism

Europe of the last fifty years can not be described by dominance of any one of – in encyclopedias well described – “isms” because each one of them is partial and expresses only one component of our multidimensional reality. The current thinking in Europe is based on a wider, more general and evidently heterogeneous doctrine. I call it Europeism.

It is a doctrine which is not systematically formulated (de facto only some of its critics talk about it seriously). It is unfortunately not possible to refer to clearly defined sources, from which it could be “read”. The text of the European constitution was a certain “summary” of Europeism but it is not a good source, because this text did its best to suppress many important features and manifestations of it.

I see internal interconnections in this “conglomerate of ideas” and the enormous strength of their synergy which sterns from that. Due to this, Europeism brings together people with very different worldviews. These people do not otherwise agree with each other too much but to stand against Europeism (they mistakenly – intentionally or unintentionally say against Europe!) would be a blasphemy for all of them. I am afraid that – in the today’s Czech political setting, for example – the Social, Christian and Civic democrats, and perhaps even Communists more or less accept the ideology of Europeism, although none of them could ever admit such a “friendship” in public. Europeism can accommodate the agreeing or disagreeing with the war in Iraq, wishing for higher or lower taxes, reconciling or not reconciling with the massive wiretapping of the citizens, wishing or not wishing to trade with China, supporting or not supporting “the registered partnership” and many other things.

I structure Europeism horizontally in the following way:

1. Political-economic (or social) dimension

One of the key parts of Europeism which is shared by both the European “politically correct” right and left (although less so in the Anglo-Saxon than in the “continental” or German-French Europe) is the model of the so called social-market economy. Although, such approach advocates an unproductive, overregulated, demotivating and excessively redistributing paternalistic system, the Europeists base their position on it stubbornly. They refuse “market without adjectives”, they do not want “free markets”. They do not like the word capitalism. They are defending all types of government intervention under the slogan “civilized correction of market anarchy”.

The exponents of Europeism do not accept the fundamental teaching of Adam Smith, nor the liberal ideas of the economists and representatives of other social sciences who followed him. The basic paradigm of Europeism is the mirror opposite – market is primarily anarchy and government is there to correct this anarchy.

It is a sad intellectual defect and a dangerous personality fault of the Europeists that they do not realize that in the overwhelming majority of cases government failure is much bigger and much more dangerous than market failure, and that government is not a neutral entity maximizing the well-being of its citizens, but an instrument for advocacy of very narrow private interests (of different interest groups and also of politicians and bureaucrats who satisfy mainly their own interests). The Europeists do not realize that government regulation is a weapon in the hands of well-organised (and therefore vocal) interest groups, not a promoter of interests of anonymous, not organized and hence almost defenseless citizens.

Europeism doesn’t want to learn a lesson from the tragic episode of communism and other, not less evil variants of centrally administered society and economy (different types of fascist or authoritarian regimes). Nor does it learn any lesson from the recent experience with the European “civilized corrections of market anarchy”. It interprets it as an extraordinary success.

This European social model is accepted by both SPD and CDU in Germany. It is considered a part of the cultural identity in France (with the exception of a few liberals). Scandinavia competes about the authorship of this model. In Austria, it is viewed as the desirable counterpart of the American “wild capitalism”. The British Conservatives have long stood out of this stream but I am not sure whether this will continue under the new leadership which is politically much more correct than the previous ones. The question is whether the “new” ODS (Civic Democratie Party) is not becoming softer in this respect as well.

2. The war of integrating Europe

For half a century there has been an ongoing dispute between the advocates of the liberalization model of European integration – which was based primarily on intergovernmental cooperation of individual European countries (which kept significant majority of parameters of their political, social and economic systems in their own hands) and on the removal of all unnecessary barriers to human activities existing on the borders of states – and the advocates of the harmonization (or homogenization) integration model which is based on unification from above, orchestrated by the EU-authorities, with the ambition to level-out all aspects of life for all Europeans and to do it in a supranational entity, which will determine an overwhelming majority of systemic parameters for the entire integrated Europe through its supranational bodies.

The first of these models has been mostly based on the assumption that the removal of these barriers will lead to a desirable competition between states, as well as to the consequent liberalization within individual countries. The second of these models wanted and wants the opposite. It essentially did not wish for the best system (the least regulated one) to win, but for the general acceptance of the most regulated system (regulated by the advocates of this approach).

In the initial phase of European integration (approximately until the beginning of the era of Jacques Delors in the mid-80s) the first model prevailed, although Jean Monnet wanted the second one from the very beginning. In the current phase it is, however, the second model that bas evidently prevailed. Europeism fully identifies with it.

The integration problem has, of course, many partial aspects. One of them is the question who or what is the basic entity (or building block) of European integration. Is it the man (the individual man or woman) or the state? The building of a supranational entity, which is an evident and undisguised ambition of Europeism and of Europeists, weakens the states and strengthens the direct relationship of the individuals towards the EU.

The European Union is, however, merely a “set of supranational authorities”, whereas the state is an entity which is fundamentally, by its very nature, more than. It is possible to like or not to like the country you live in. It is possible, for example, to cheer for it or not to cheer for it in football match. It is possible to defend it with a gun in the hand. It is (usually) possible to speak its language. It is possible to worship it and hate it. It is not possible, however, to have such relationship towards a set of supranational authorities.

Another important aspect of the Europeist model is the effort to introduce – as far as the legislation and institutional framework is concerned – a noncompetitive and therefore harmonized system within which the individual parts of Europe would not compete with each other because only one single system would prevail in them.

The problem is that from-above organized harmonization can only be done upwards. The economists understand it because they are familiar with the term “downward rigidity”. The deeply rooted vested interests do not allow for any movement downwards. It basically means the increase of the costs and the decrease of the competitiveness. The harmonization policy is nothing else but an attempt to export high costs and lowered degree of competitiveness to other EU countries; to the countries which are – for various historic reasons – at a different level of economic

development, have different priorities, customs and traditions, as well as different ambitions.

3. Views on freedom, democracy and society

The Europeists are alg_ characterized by their clear stances in the disputes about parliamentary democracy or civil society and in the disputes about democracy or post-democracy. They do not prefer standard democracy processes. They give preference to the pragmatic decision making efficiency. They prefer collectivity to the individualism, social partnership and corporatism to the classical democracy.

Since the Europeists are (and like to he) far from the citizens, since they do not see the citizens and do not reach them directly, they need various collectivities, groups and groupings with which they try to deal. That is why they like the corporativist concept of social partnerships, that is why they want big business and big trade unions, that is why they want Galbraith’s countervailing powers (at macro level, not the market, functioning at micro level). Since they do not want to be under the citizens’ control, it is convenient for them to deal with various NGOs, which – at least that is what they hope for – give them an otherwise missing legitimacy.

4. Foreign policy and international relations dimension

The Europeists do not like “domestic policy” (which is under much stricter democratic control) and promote the – democracy lacking – decision-making at supranational level. They like a big, world-wide, geopolitical thinking and this is also_ why they are establishing one international or supranational organization after the other. The effort to emancipate policies and politicians from democracy “accountability” is one of their primary objectives.

That is why Europeism promotes the slogan: “less of the nation state, more of internationalism”, that is why the Europeists purposefully associate the nation state with nationalism, that is why they promote multiculturalism and de-assimilation principle, that is why they strive for denationalization of citizenship, that is why all-European political parties are being founded and supported. That is why they expect the birth of European identity and of European “people”. That is why they want to build same kind of “brotherhood of Europe”. That is why they advocate abstract universalism of rights. That is why they strive for a homogenized, “decaffeinated” world. That is why they suggest that something like “collective psyche of Europe” exists.

I consider these ambitions (and arguments) merely a screen, a using of nice words in order to hide very down-to-earth interests. These are the interests to get rid of the state as an unsubstitutable guarantor of democracy, as a basic political unit of a democratic system (in contrast to Reichs, empires, unions, leagues of countries), as the only meaningfully organizable arena of political life, as the biggest possible, but at the same time also the smallest reasonable, base of political representation and representativeness.

Unlike intergovernmentalism European supranationalism brings rivalry towards the USA, in other words, anti-Americanism, to life. Instead of Atlanticism or transatlantic alliance, it leads to the opposite tendencies. It leads as well to the acceptance of the idea that the conflict between the West and Islam is a fore-picture of the unavoidably forthcoming clash of civilizations.

5. Broader philosophical stance of Europeism

In its general “Weltanschaung” Europeism maintains not a modest evolutionary belief in spontaneous order but a radically constructivist position. The Europeists do not believe in spontaneous, unregulated and uncontrolled human activity. They trust the chosen ones (not the elected ones), they trust themselves or these who are chosen by them. They believe in a vertically structured and hierarchized human society. They want to mastermind, plan, regulate, administer the others, because some (they themselves) do know and the others do not. Even though we thought that after the collapse of communism all this was a matter of the past, it is not so. It is around us again. Europeism is a new utopism and, I add, it is an extremely naive and romantic utopism.

Europeism is a product of the elites. It is a product of the people who do not want to go to work from 8am until 5pm and to have a normal job. It is a product of the people who want to steer, command, patronize, and “legislate” others. They include politicians and to them related bureaucrats as weIl as “public intellectuals”. It is a large group of people in the public sphere that “very pragmatically” maximizes the effects which result from its position and that

wants to ensure that its privileged status and with it connected benefits will be long lasting;

wants to isolate itself from the reach of the electorate, from public opinion and from standard democracy mechanisms;

wants – through the complexity and untransparency of the communitarian law decision-making procedures and through the distance from the individual citizen – to detach itself from any consequences of its decision-making and from the costs (in the broadest sense of the word) they by their activity – produce to the citizens of the individual member countries.

These three groups of people form a very strong coalition of interests which does not have any adequate counterweight in the heterogeneous and territorially vast Europe with so many differing interests. There exists a silent majority, which does think that this is wrong but it is unable to organize itself and has – unlike the Europeists – a normal job it has to and wants to do. This majority stands on the defensive. Moreover, the Europeists were successful in presenting themselves as advocates of human progress and all others as believers in obscurantism, which is an extremely successful trick. We have a vocal, immensely motivated, not explicitly organized minority, whose members however meet and talk to each other, against an entirely scattered majority with conflicting interests and concerns, which doesn’t see what this is all about. Besides that, this majority thinks that the EU project is a small addition to the normal course of events.

Unfortunately, it is not so. It is a revolutionary turn of the normal course of events.


Created with images by moritz320 - "breaking point euro flag european union" • LaertesCTB - "Flag - Great Britain"

Report Abuse

If you feel that this video content violates the Adobe Terms of Use, you may report this content by filling out this quick form.

To report a Copyright Violation, please follow Section 17 in the Terms of Use.