It didn’t take long for it to become clear in Wembley just how deeply divided the country is. Boris Johnson called out, “If we vote Leave, we can take back control of our borders.” Khan countered: “You’re telling lies Boris, and you’re scaring people.”
The three Brexit supporters scored points largely on the issue of immigration. The Remain camp had warned of an economic crisis and foreign policy isolation. After 90 minutes, the two men and the four women left the stage, with no victor in the debate. But the frenetic applause given to the Brexiteers offered an indication of which side had the more passionate supporters.
The Black Thursday vote also bolsters opponents of the EU in other member states. In the Netherlands, around half of voters want a referendum. If one were to be held, current polls indicate a majority would vote to stay in the union, though their lead is slight. The situation is similar in Denmark. In Sweden, polls indicate that only 32 percent of voters would support remaining in the EU if a plebiscite were held there. Brexit has exposed the destructive forces currently at work on the continent. The focus is no longer on the question of what connects countries — it is on what is different about them. Even in Italy, one of the EU’s six founding states, almost half of those surveyed say they have a negative view of the EU.Racist OvertonesSimilar opinions could be expected in Eastern Europe — particularly in Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, three countries that recently hindered refugee policies with their joint opposition. But even the biggest skeptics there aren’t demanding that their countries leave the EU. Europe is too important for the east. This week, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán took out a one-page ad in the Daily Mail for £32,000 in which he implored the British not to leave the EU.
In Eastern Europe, people now fear that they are losing an important partner in Britain, that an export market is disappearing and that the development will result in a marked increase in German dominance in the bloc. For Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, London, in contrast to Berlin, had always advocated a tough stance against Moscow.
In France, meanwhile, the Brexit vote is likely to invoke pleasure for at least one woman: Marine Le Pen has stated repeatedly that Brussels is like an ulcer sucking France dry. It’s her view that there’s nothing to justify the EU’s continued existence and in the unlikely event she is elected as French president next May, her first act in office, as she recently stated, would be to “immediately go to the European institutions and demand the return of France’s sovereignty. I want control back over our currency and our borders.”
The British have shown a side in recent months that people wouldn’t have expected of a people generally considered to be cosmopolitan. It hasn’t made the country look any more welcoming, either. The debate over immigrants in particular took on ugly and sometimes racist overtones and British journalists used war metaphors in describing the battles between the different camps. The major task at hand for the government and the parties now is to reunite the divided country. Europe may have been the trigger, but it was not the cause of the critical self-questioning that just took place Britain. The country is fraying and is more divided than ever before: between the rich and the poor; between the Scottish, the Welsh, the Northern Irish and the English; between the middle and the upper classes.
Europe suddenly seemed responsible for everything that plagued the island. But beneath the surface, much bigger questions were stewing. Questions like what kind of country Britain actually wants to be. How the people there want to live, how many immigrants the country is willing to absorb and how open society wants to be. In that context, though, the British are hardly different from the Germans, the French, the Austrians or the Italians.A New BeginningWhat is unique is the conservative English elite’s obsession with Europe. The lies and malice flowing from the pages of the Daily Mail, the Sun and the Daily Express were so nasty they instilled fear even in some Brexit supporters. Tory politician Sayeeda Warsi, who was born in Pakistan, switched sides only days before the referendum and complained of a lie-, hatred- and xenophobia-filled debate. Indeed, the murder of Jo Cox, a member of parliament with the Labour Party who had championed refugees and the Remain campaign, underscored just how toxic the atmosphere has become in England.
Most EU opponents were blind to the possible consequences of Brexit. Scotland, for example, where the probability of a second referendum on independence has grown, as have the chances of its success. Or Northern Ireland, where peace could be threatened if the border to the Republic of Ireland in the south is sealed as an external EU frontier. On Friday, Nicola Sturgeon, head of the Scottish National Party and first minister of Scotland, said she believed a second referendum on independence from the UK was “highly likely” after Scots voted overwhelmingly to stay in the UK. She described the outcome as a “democratic outrage.”
There are many reasons to harbor doubts about Europe. The continent has been too rigid in recent years, too narcissistic, too comfortable. Some Brexiteers even posed justifiable questions. What if, for example, the EU has already fulfilled its primary function of securing peace and prosperity in Europe? What if the citizens of Europe no longer want deeper ties between their countries? Must “more Europe” really always be the only answer to everything?
The European Union now has the opportunity to reinvent itself. But it also needs to consider new, looser forms of memberships for countries like Britain or Turkey that want to conduct trade but either do not want or cannot be part of an ever closer community. Next week, EU leaders will meet in Brussels for their first post-Brexit summit. It has to be the start of a new beginning. That’s the only chance we have left.Blind to ConsequencesWhen Cameron was elected as leader of the Conservative Party in 2005, his party was deeply divided on the Europe question. On the one side were skeptics like Michael Gove, a long-time friend of Cameron’s, and on the other were pro-Europeans like Kenneth Clarke. Cameron wanted the Tories to open up and refocus their attentions on reality.
“While parents worried about childcare, getting the kids to school, balancing work and family life, we were banging on about Europe,” he said in a 2006 speech. It was a call for Tories to finally pull themselves together, though Cameron knew that most British didn’t care much about Europe. Since 1974, the pollsters from Ipsos Mori have regularly been asking British voters the same question: “What would you say is the most important issue facing Britain today?” Europe and the EU are usually to be found toward the bottom of the list. Even one month prior to Thursday’s referendum, less than one-third of respondents identified Europe as the most relevant issue facing the country.
Britain’s European policy is cyclical. There are phases of intense engagement followed by periods of great disappointment, frustration and withdrawal. The last committed European to reside in 10 Downing Street was Tony Blair, at least early on in his term. In 2002, he even proposed joining the euro, which in retrospect looks crazy to most of his fellow British. Blair pushed for the EU’s eastward expansion because he believed it would slow European integration, but the strategy wasn’t particularly successful. The EU treaties of Amsterdam, Nice and Lisbon led step-by-step in the direction of an ever closer union and Britain reluctantly followed. The more power that was sent to Brussels, the louder Tory resentment became. The anger felt by many Euroskeptics today is rooted in the feeling from those Blair years that they were gradually losing power and could do nothing about it.
When Cameron became prime minister in 2010, he was faced with the task of appeasing the Tories. He was considered a weak premier because he didn’t win a majority and was forced to enter into a coalition government with the Liberal Democrats. Prior to that, he had withdrawn Tory members of European Parliament from the center-right European People’s Party, much to the chagrin of Angela Merkel, whose Christian Democrats are part of the EPP. But that did little to calm the internal party hardliners, particularly since the right-wing populist UKIP party was poaching voters from the Tories in local elections. That led Cameron to make a daring wager: He promised that if he won re-election, he would initiate a new round of negotiations with Brussels on the relationship between Britain and the EU and would follow that up with a nationwide referendum.‘Fundamental, Far-Reaching Change’
In January 2013, he promised “fundamental, far-reaching change” in his country’s relationship with the EU. In particular, he promised a significant reduction of the number of migrants coming to Britain from other EU member states.
Euroskeptics developed a plan to blackmail the prime minister and wrote up a list of maximalist demands that Cameron would never be able to meet, making an exit from the EU virtually unavoidable. One of those who thought long and hard about how best to put the government under pressure was a calm, reserved man with rimless glasses and all the charisma of a small-town bank teller.
Matthew Elliott is sitting in a café on the Thames River one week before the referendum and is in an excellent mood. A brightly lit Palace of Westminster is standing elegantly across the river. In 2013, Elliott founded Business for Britain, an initiative bringing together Euroskeptic business leaders. It was the first important step on the way to Brexit: The business leaders were to lend the anti-EU activists an aura of gravitas.
Elliott didn’t believe even then that Cameron’s “fundamental change” would ever arrive — he knew the EU too well for that. At the beginning of the 2000s, he had worked in Brussels as an advisor to a Tory member of European Parliament before later campaigning in Britain for lower state spending and against changes to the country’s election laws. More recently, he became head of the Vote Leave campaign. He speaks of the EU as though it were contaminated with radioactivity. “Do I think that Britain’s future is better outside of the EU? One-hundred percent.” The bloc, he argues, is over-regulated and the euro zone will implode sooner or later. He smiles.
Elliott was correct in his prediction that Cameron would receive concessions from Brussels, but that they would be too meager to help him much domestically. Indeed, it quickly became clear that the rest of Europe wasn’t too eager to bend over backwards for the British. German Chancellor Merkel personally made clear to Cameron that the right of EU citizens to choose where they want to live and work inside the union was not up for negotiation.
In response, Cameron significantly slimmed down his demands and by last December, he was only asking that in-work benefits for EU migrants could be suspended for four years. Furthermore, he asked that the preamble of the Treaty of Lisbon, which obligates all EU member states to pursue an “ever closer union,” not apply to his country. He also wanted to increase competitiveness and removed disadvantages for countries that were not part of the euro zone.
Finally came the long Brussels summit on the evening and morning of February 19th and 20th, at which Cameron was supposed to show himself to be a tough negotiator. Shortly before midnight, he announced, “Britain will be permanently out of ever closer union — never part of a European super state.” He also negotiated a “red card” that would have enabled national parliaments to block decisions made in Brussels. The response from London was prompt. “Call that a deal, Dave?” read the cover of the tabloid Daily Mail. The battle lines had been drawn.
Matthew Elliott believes that Brexit is just the beginning. “There will be a queue behind us,” he says. He argues numerous EU countries will demand the same conditions that Britain will inevitably get in its negotiations with Brussels. Denmark, Sweden, Ireland and many other countries are very likely to demand special rights, he said. That could be the end of the EU as a political project and, he says, Europe would finally be free. Elliott laughs again.
But the coming weeks are unlikely to be as harmonious as the Brexit movement imagines. The current stance of the government in Berlin following the referendum is to adopt a tough position against the British. “In is in. Out is out,” Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble told SPIEGEL in an interview published two weeks ago. There will be no concessions.
The British vote, though, also represents a defeat for Angela Merkel. Few others were as engaged as the German chancellor in their efforts to sway Britain to stay in the EU. Early on, the chancellor told Cameron she would not be able to accept any fundamental changes to the treaties but that she would do everything she could beneath that level to help him. Indeed, that is one reason for her deep disappointment when she received no support from Cameron for her refugee policies. Officials in the Chancellery are aware that a policy of open borders played into the hands of Brexit supporters. But those close to Merkel still had the feeling they had been left in the lurch by the British.
Speaking on Friday, Merkel said we have to recognize the decision of the majority of the British people with “deep regret” today. “There is no point in beating around the bush: Today is a watershed moment for Europe, it is watershed moment for the European unification process.”
Britain’s withdrawal is to be negotiated according to the provisions of the Treaty of Lisbon. But Merkel and Steinmeier have already agreed that they will not rush Britain to initiate the formal proceedings. First, the domestic political situation in Britain needs to be clarified. “We first have to have someone who has the legitimacy to lead Britain out of the EU,” said one member of Merkel’s cabinet. “We want to give London the time it needs to clarify things at home.”
A Deep Impact in Germany
Within Merkel’s center-right CDU, but also within the Chancellery itself, officials are already thinking about how the British can maintain a close relationship with the EU even after the Brexit vote. Government sources say it is in nobody’s interest to unnecessarily cut economic ties. Nevertheless, the source said, it is also clear that Britain will only be provided with access to the single market if it continues to provide the same rights to EU citizens. In other words, it can’t be part of the common market unless it accepts the freedom of movement — meaning the acceptance of immigrants from other EU countries — that comes along with it.
Brexit’s impact cuts deep into the German political landscape. Following the decision by the British, Horst Seehofer, the head of the Christian Social Union, the Bavarian sister party to Merkel’s Christian Democrats, now wants to implement referenda all across Germany. “Citizen participation is the core of modern politics,” Seehofer says. That applies to significant issues, like changes to the country’s constitution or to European policy, he says. Even the fact that the British have voted to leave does nothing to change that, he says. “You can’t say, we support plebiscites as long as they turn out the way we want,” he says. “If you lose, then either the policy wasn’t good or it wasn’t explained well enough.”
The coming months will be uncomfortable ones for the European economy. The emergency planning by the European Central Bank (ECB) and other central banks may make a speculation-triggered crash unlikely, but it cannot be ruled out entirely.
Far more severe could be the medium-term consequences for the financial industry. Since the creation of the single market, investors and financial institutions from around the world have been able to use London as a bridge to the EU. No country in the world exports as many financial services as Britain — and one-third of those go to the EU. As a consequence, a lot would be at stake if it lost access to the common market, the International Monetary Fund has warned. It’s very unlikely the ECB will continue to allow a significant portion of euro currency trading to take place in London. Currently that trading has a daily volume of €€750 billion.
Huge Job Losses in the Financial Sector
If euro trading moves, so will the traders — and the situation is similar for many other financial products. HSBC, Britain’s largest bank, is already considering moving parts of its business to Luxembourg. The American bank J. P. Morgan has also announced that as many as 4,000 jobs in Britain may be lost as a result of Brexit. Most of its US competitors view the situation similarly. Companies like Deutsche Bank are reviewing the possibility of moving entire departments to the continent. The consultancy PwC estimates that anywhere between 70,000 and 100,000 jobs could be lost in the financial sector as a result of Brexit.
The phase of uncertainty will paralyze Europe economically. But what steps must now be taken.
In his speech outside No 10 on Friday morning announcing his intention to resign as prime minister, David Cameron compared himself to the man at the helm, in the British ship of state: “I will do everything I can as prime minister to steady the ship over the coming weeks and months, but I don’t think it would be right for me to try to be the captain that steers our country to its next destination.” – David Cameron – oh captain, my captain!
Taking his lead, Remainers are already planning to jump ship. If you agree with these folks, here’s Mercer’s 2016 “better life index”, a list of 230 cities based on living standards. Mercer use 39 factors when compiling the list, including political stability, crime, recreation, natural environment, housing and media availability.
Ironically, the vast majority are in Europe… Better get a move on before those visa regulations change…
1. Vienna, Austria
2. Zurich, Switzerland
3. Auckland, New Zealand
4. Munich, Germany
5. Vancouver, Canada
6. Dusseldorf, Germany
7. Frankfurt, Germany
8. Geneva, Switzerland
9. Copenhagen, Denmark
10. Sydney, Australia
Ahead of the European referendum, we asked leading authors and thinkers from EU countries to write letters to Britain. Do they want Britain to stay, or are they ready to say goodbye? Elena Ferrante, Javier Marías, Timur Vermes, , , Jonas Jonasson, , , Riad Sattouf, and Cees Nooteboom answer this question…
Riad Sattouf• The graphic novel by Riad Sattouf is published by Two Roads.
I don’t have much sympathy for the current European Union. Its upper floors are elegantly furnished, with spacious halls for parties and banquets; there are abundant stores and provisions, rooms with panoramic views where building bylaws pertaining to those residing on the lower floors are discussed and drawn up, security services that design alarm systems and sturdy doors to keep out those who want to set up camp in the entrance hall or at least in the basement. It’s an ugly Europe, this one. Behind its facade, it safeguards the interests of those countries that are strongest, both economically and militarily. And yet, despite the rules and regulations, it has never stopped thinking that – when there is nothing further to be gained – it is best to throw off the union and make do with the old cocksure ways of the proud old nations.
This belief is the most wrongheaded of all. The single pieces of Europe have long lost their autonomy and centrality. Major financial crises cannot be faced by stewing in one’s own juice. Migrations cannot be controlled with traffic lights or barbed wire. Global terrorism is not a video game you play at home in your living room. The world’s climate cannot be fixed by opening an umbrella. The happy few are no longer enough, not even for themselves, but must confront the unhappy many.
And so, while it may be a union that has united little or nothing, it is necessary, in my opinion, to stay together at all costs. What we need now is not many small countries but a continent. Amid conflicts and confrontations, in defiance of the facts, we must try to move towards a community that instead of drawing up lists of objectives becomes actively political and puts an end to countless intolerable inequalities. Contained in the treasure chests of its sovereign states, Europe has many kinds of poison but also wonderful jewels. It is time to throw away the former and pull out the latter in preparation for our impassioned feast of common thought and action. We don’t need roots now: they make plants of us, splendid, yes, but bound to the ground, and nowadays everything is more mobile than ever, shifting quickly from one shape to the next. A broad, true identity must open itself up to all identities and absorb the best in them. Time is short. Many kinds of malaise and poverty are spreading, the streets are increasingly stained with blood, the worst intentions feed the worst kinds of politics. Staying together is no longer an option but an obligation and an urgent necessity. Women and men of Britain, please, let us stay together, and change Europe together.
• Translated by Daniela Petracco. will be published in November by Europa Editions.
As Spaniards born under the Franco dictatorship (especially those of us who belonged to families on the losing side of the civil war) we were always aware that we might one day have to leave our country and go into exile. Whenever I imagined this possibility, my chosen destination was never France or Italy or some Latin American country, but Britain. This was perhaps because, early on, I acquired a reasonably good knowledge of English, but it was doubtless also because I had read so much British literature and seen so many British films that Britain seemed to me a familiar place and as undeniably European as my home town of Madrid. Indeed, I partly owe my vocation as a writer to Richmal Crompton and her Just William (or Guillermo as we knew him) books. I was brought up reading Charles Dickens and Robert Louis Stevenson, Rudyard Kipling and GK Chesterton, J Meade Faulkner and Anthony Hope, Agatha Christie and Arthur Conan Doyle. My childhood heroes were portrayed by actors such as John Mills, Stewart Granger, Jack Hawkins, David Niven and Trevor Howard. My first platonic love was Hayley Mills. Britain was not only a constant presence in my fantasies, it also seemed to me a country that would be sure to take me in if things took a turn for the worse in Spain; a place where I would not feel entirely foreign. For me, it is as much a part of Europe as Italy, Germany, France or Austria, possibly even more so.
I knew, too, that it was an invariably democratic country, respectful of individual freedoms and generous to those who took refuge there: from Joseph Baretti to Nikolaus Pevsner and from Elias Canetti to my friend Guillermo Cabrera Infante, who was exiled from Cuba in 1965, not to mention such Spanish writers as Blanco White, Luis Cernuda, Arturo Barea and Manuel Chaves Nogales. It seemed only natural that Britain should form part of the EU. True, the EU does not tend to arouse great passion – it more often provokes feelings of discontent – however, it is largely responsible for the fact that, since 1945, the various countries of this continent have not resorted to killing each other. That this fails to spark enthusiasm and, above all, gratitude, only demonstrates how ignorant and forgetful our present-day societies are.
Were Britain to leave the union, it’s unlikely that anyone would immediately start a war, but you never know. One thing I do know is that the rest of the continent would feel orphaned, amputated, empty and even defenceless. Let me explain that last word: those of us who do still remember ought to give thanks every day for the existence of that island separated from us only by a narrow strip of sea. Without it, it is probable that the entire continent would have suffered the consequences of a crushing victory by Hitler. Simply knowing that this small island spent years resisting tyranny and invasion is enough to make us all want to be able to count on its continuing presence, and always to be on the same side, whether in wartime or during long years of peace. We want to keep it as close to us as possible, even if only for purely selfish reasons and in order to save us from ourselves.
• Translated by Margaret Jull Costa. is published by Penguin.
Let’s keep it short: what is the EU? It’s the consequence of the second world war. It’s the attempt to make things better.
Even if you don’t always get the best result for yourself.
Many, throughout the whole of Europe, don’t share this ambition any more.
That’s understandable, for 60 million people had to die before most found it a worthwhile ambition.
And that was a long time ago.
Everyone has the right to wait until this view comes naturally to them.
But they should know this: next time they won’t get it so cheaply.
is available in paperback from MacLehose.
I have two of your children – at least, they might choose to be yours. Their father is British, born and reared. He likes cricket. His name is Murphy. His family moved from Ireland to London after the potato famine of the 1840s and five generations later, they are still called “Spud”. In 1980 he swapped the friendly racism of Surrey for the friendly racism that English people are subjected to in Dublin, which he finds a bit tiresome. The huge migration that unsettled his family and left them forever subject to cheerful insult involved more than a million refugees who left Ireland for the urban centres of Britain and America. When a population tips like that it is hard to rebalance. Ireland has been weakened by migration ever since, and Britain has been strengthened by it.
It must be tempting to shut the doors and pull the curtains, keep the money under the mattress and think about the past
I don’t think there will be a Brexit because people rarely vote against their clear economic interests (“Apart from working class Tories,” mutters Mr Murphy). But I would like Britain to stay in Europe for more positive reasons. I could talk about idealism. I could talk about the second world war, or other wars less glorious – ask why you don’t vote to leave Nato, for example, or the community of nations that went to Iraq – but the arguments for Brexit seem based on a fear of being contaminated by foreigners, and fear is never truly idealistic. It is tribal. It is the kind of atavistic thinking that makes me step back from my own nationalism, now and then. So it is easy for me to set aside my Irishness in order to say: I like Britain very much. I mean, I like whatever Britain is – a shifting thing, a landscape, a language, a library full of astonishing books, a mosaic of peoples stalled in one migration or another, from the raw Saxon faces you see in East Anglia, to the sari shops of Bradford, to the eyes of my two children, who came from God knows where.
They like the trees, by the way. Also, and in this order: curry, cousins, yorkshire pudding, “the way that everything is better funded”, the BBC, Bristol, sarcasm, the pub, AFC Wimbledon, Edgar Wright, Topshop and “how the politicians seem very polite but are really furious”. So now you know.
Of course as an Irishwoman I also have to be cheerfully insulting and say that I am really sorry that Britain lost her empire with all the money and the power that came with it, I know that must be hard for you all. But as you would say to any grand old lady, in her nostalgia and wounded pride, “Don’t isolate yourself.” It must be so tempting to shut the doors and pull the curtains, keep the money under the mattress until the value fades out of the old notes, and think about the past. Which was great, if a little bit unfair. But the world has changed, since Britain was last alone. Don’t go. You will not thrive, and we want you to thrive. You are still family to us all.
is published by Vintage.
Last year I tried, and failed, to convince the EU top brass to behave humanely toward my long-suffering country. Now, I am writing to you with an odd plea: that you stay in this same EU – yes, the one that crushed our Athens spring and has been behaving abominably ever since.
AdvertisementSome will deploy tabloid logic to explain my plea (“Varoufakis wants the UK to stay in to pay for Greece’s bailouts”). Others will accuse me of abandoning the fight for restoring democracy. Yet I trust that your Pythonesque appreciation of paradox will pierce through the seeming contradiction.
The reason I want you to stay in is that voting to leave will not get you “out”. Rather than escaping the EU, Brexit will keep you tied to a Europe that is nastier, sadder and increasingly dangerous to itself, to you, indeed to the rest of the planet.
The masters of the City will never allow a new Boris Johnson government to even think of leaving the EU’s single market, despite Michael Gove’s musings. Which means that all the gadgets sold in your shops will have to abide by standards made in Brussels, your environmental protection rules will be drawn up in Brussels, and market regulation will be (yes you guessed it) determined in Brussels.
So, even after Brexit, the majority of your laws will be written in the same dreary Brussels corridors as now, except you will have no say in their shaping. With your democracy as truncated as it is now, you will remain stuck, albeit less powerful, in a Europe whose fragmentation Brexit will accelerate.
The EU is undoubtedly bureaucratic, opaque and contemptuous of the parliamentarianism that you and I cherish. You may, therefore, conclude that speeding up the EU’s fragmentation is not such a bad idea. Think again! Will its 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.
The EU’s fragmentation will divide the continent in at least two parts, the major fault line running down the Rhine and across the Alps. In the north east, deflation will rule, with millions of working poor Germans, Poles and so on becoming unemployed. In the Latin part, the order of the day will be inflation with unemployment. Only political monsters will crawl out of this fault line, spreading xenophobic misanthropy everywhere and ensuring, through competitive devaluations, that you will also be drawn into the ensuing vortex.
This is why I am pleading with you to stay in our terrible EU. Europe’s democrats need you. And you need us. Together we have a chance of reviving democratic sovereignty across Europe. It won’t be easy. But it is worth a try.
When I was student, a close friend who hated parties nevertheless never missed one just so that he would have something to bitch about the day after. Please do not be like him. Please stay in the EU with enthusiasm for our common cause: to take arms against a sea of troubles, and, by opposing, end them.
is published by Vintage.
You have many talents. Playing football springs to mind. Brewing decent beer. Speaking a language that people understand. On the other hand, you seem to be having trouble driving. It is the wrong side, you know. But it seems to work, as long as you all make the same mistake.
AdvertisementAnd you were more than brave during the war. Churchill said all he had to offer was blood, toil, tears and sweat. But he left out self-esteem. You taught the world and yourselves that a Brit is a Brit is a Brit. Meanwhile, Swedes let the Nazis pass through our country, cap in hand.
War is bad. And still Europe engaged in war for a long time in the first half of the 20th century. More than 50 million Europeans died. And we came to sensible conclusions: we decided to work together, across the borders, in such a way that attacking your neighbour would be like attacking yourself. We called it the European Coal and Steel Community, a rather ingenious construction presented by a French politician of German descent. As more countries joined, this community eventually turned into the European Union, and it was quite something. Fifty million died during the first half of the last century. Fifty thousand in the second half. Were it not for the downfall of Yugoslavia, there would be no official number at all.
But then there is this thing called memory. We tend to forget a lot. Like England not being able to beat Sweden in football for 24 straight years (you were just as surprised every time we won). Or like the EU, and what it is really for. In Sweden, people tend to write about how the UK would be worse off leaving the union. The fact that it would be a disaster for the rest of us is given less attention. I think Brexit would be the beginning of the end of an unprecedented period of peace at the heart of Europe. Without you, the EU will crack at its very seams. I wish you would stay, and that all of us together – in toil, tears and sweat but not blood – will steer the peace project that is the European Union in the right direction. If you accept, you may drive on whichever side of the road you prefer. We will even let you win Euro 2016 this summer. After all, the manager of the England team is practically half Swedish.
by Jonas Jonasson is published by 4th Estate.
The country I come from is where Europe technically ends today, or begins, depending on your journey. But only technically: recently, in European Turkey, I met people who feel proudly European, just minus the passports. To them, Europeanness, like the secular republic, is a hard-won value, worlds away from Brussels, where beautiful Europa has been nibbled to a drab word. The Turks on the west side of the Bosphorus are perhaps the last European idealists.
Let us not be fooled there is some better place, once we drift away. There isn’t. There is only the cold Atlantic Ocean.
It was the Ottomans who gave Europe – via the Balkans – the word komshulak, neighbourliness, the spirit of living next door convivially, sharing joys and sorrows as the tides of history turn. Komshulak is the highest, if humblest, form of civility. When it breaks down, everything breaks down. Komshulak is at the heart of the battered European project. Battered but not beaten. Let us not be fooled, on these most westerly isles, that there is some better place, once we drift away. There isn’t. There is only the cold Atlantic Ocean.
I settled in Edinburgh a decade ago, after a decade in New Zealand: I had returned to Europe, and one of its great cities too. When I moved to the Highlands, I lost none of this essential Scottish Europeanness, with its unfussy love of eccentricity, diversity, and live-and-let-live attitude, this sense of continuity with the continent even in remote glens. And though I love Scotland with an almost unseemly passion, I feel like an adopted Brit. Is that a paradox? Then so is the fact that I feel Balkan and European, in the sense that the Balkans are (whisper it) only partly “European”. And here’s the wonderful rub: Europe is not a monoculture. It is a place where people ride reindeer, grow vines, eat Turkish delight, and call themselves Shetlanders. I’ll keep my subscription to that.
• Border will be published by Granta in 2017.
When Stalin was asked in the late 1920s which is worse, the right or the left, he snapped back: “They are both worse!” And this is my first reaction to the question of whether or not to leave the EU.
AdvertisementI am not interested in sending love letters to the British public with the sentimental message: “Please stay in Europe!” What interests me is ultimately only one question. Europe is now caught in a vicious cycle, oscillating between the false opposites of surrender to global capitalism and surrender to anti-immigrant populism – which politics has a chance of enabling us to step out of this mad dance?
The symbols of global capitalism are secretly negotiated trade agreements such as the Trade in Services Agreement (Tisa) or Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). The social impact of TTIP is clear enough: it stands for nothing less than a brutal assault on democracy. Nowhere is this clearer than in the case of Investor-State Dispute Settlements (ISDS), which allow companies to sue governments if their policies cause a loss of profits. Simply put, this means that unelected transnational corporations can dictate the policies of democratically elected governments.
So how would Brexit fare in this context? From a leftwing standpoint, there are some good reasons to support Brexit: a strong nation state exempted from the control of Brussels technocrats can protect the welfare state and counteract austerity politics. However, I am worried about the ideological and political background of this option. From Greece to France, a new trend is arising in what remains of the “radical left”: the rediscovery of nationalism. All of a sudden, universalism is out, dismissed as a lifeless political and cultural counterpart of “rootless” global capital.
The reason for this is obvious: the rise of rightwing nationalist populism in western Europe, which is now the strongest political force advocating the protection of working class interests, and simultaneously the strongest political force able to give rise to proper political passions. So the reasoning goes: why should the left leave this field of nationalist passions to the radical right, why should it not “reclaim la patrie from the Front National”?
In this leftwing populism, the logic of Us against Them remains, however here “they” are not poor refugees or immigrants, but financial capital and technocratic state bureaucracy. This populism moves beyond the old working class anticapitalism; it tries to bring together a multiplicity of struggles from ecology to feminism, from the right to employment to free education and healthcare.
The recurrent story of the contemporary left is that of a leader or party elected with universal enthusiasm, promising a “new world” (Mandela, Lula) – but sooner or later, usually after a couple of years, they stumble upon the key dilemma: does one dare to touch the capitalist mechanisms, or does one decide to “play the game”? If one disturbs the mechanisms, one is very swiftly punished by market perturbations, economic chaos and the rest. So how can we push things further after the first enthusiastic stage is over?
I remain convinced that our only hope is to act trans-nationally – only in this way do we have a chance to constrain global capitalism. The nation-state is not the right instrument to confront the refugee crisis, global warming, and other truly pressing issues. So instead of opposing Eurocrats on behalf of national interests, let’s try to form an all-European left. And it is because of this margin of hope that I am tempted to say: vote against Brexit, but do it as a devout Christian who supports a sinner while secretly cursing him. Don’t compete with the rightwing populists, don’t allow them to define the terms of the struggle. Socialist nationalism is not the right way to fight the threat of national socialism.
is published by Allen Lane.
Imagine for one moment a peculiar kind of parlour game. Take the famous picture by Jean-Baptiste Isabey, The Congress of Vienna, from 1815. Look at the gentlemen involved, Alexander I, tsar of Russia, the Duke of Wellington, the devious and eternal Talleyrand, accompanied by a poet and a writer, De Lamartine and Chateaubriand. Then of course Metternich, the Bavarians, the Saxons and the Prussians, Karl August Fürst von Hardenberg, Alexander and Wilhelm von Humboldt. There is even a Dutchman with a German name, Hans Christoph Ernst von Gagern.
Now take out Viscount Castlereagh, the Duke of Wellington, the Earl of Aberdeen and the rest of the British delegation. Remember it is only a game. Make them leave their seats, that means five empty chairs. Look at the intense amazement on the faces of Metternich and Talleyrand. Where are the British? Have they really left the table?
Imagine the famous picture, The Congress of Vienna by Jean-Baptiste Isabey, without the British delegation. Have they really left the table?
These last few months we have been reading and hearing daily about Brexit. Economists, politicians, commentators have inundated us with arguments for and against. We have lost our innocence. There is no escape. We must have an opinion. Even me. I am not an economist. I am a poet, like Lamartine. And I have written a book on Germany. Does that make me an expert? I was a child during the second world war. My father died in the British aerial bombardment of the Hague in February 1945. But the British did not start the war. Germany did. And the Germans have understood better than most they were on the wrong side of history. Therefore they are now convinced that they do not want a German Europe but a European Germany.
But what if a British absence will force them to fill the European vacuum? Simply, by their specific weight in the middle, by their industrial strength, and by their history, which will determine the history of Europe, because they are there? And how does that affect the other countries of Europe?
I am a European, convinced, against all odds, and amid the sad turbulence of separatists and populists. The Europeans outside Britain cannot decide their fate this time. Now I read that the bosses of hedge funds are supporting the campaign to leave the EU. These are the people who were called not so long ago the dandies of the apocalypse in a French publication … but who reads the French newspapers in the UK? David Cameron has spoken about the possibility of a world war. That seems far-fetched rhetoric, and has been ridiculed.
And yet, who dares to bet that if Britain opts out, later historians might not see this as a Versailles moment? Castlereagh and Wellington never left the congress in Vienna, and as far as I am concerned Cameron – or Johnson, or Corbyn – should stay seated at the tables of Europe. Our problems are manifold, but 50 years of peace is too precious to gamble with.
is published by MacLehose.
Remain in the EU 48,1%
Leave the EU 51,9%
Brexit was a decision based on gut instinct rather than reason. The predominant sentiments in play were nostalgia, fear and a vague hatred of the establishment. On top of this comes a fear of foreigners that was deliberately stoked by Brexit strategists during the campaign — and that’s what makes this decision both sad and depressing.
It’s also a lashing out against “the powers that be” in both London and Brussels. The British have followed a patriotic whim. All the flags, the drumming, the pledges and promises of the Brexiteers worked in the end — and that’s what makes this day so frightening.
Brexit has come to pass largely because of voters in England and Wales. A majority of voters in London and several electoral districts in southern England voted to remain in the EU, as did Scotland and Northern Ireland. It is now possible that Scotland may soon hold a second referendum on independence from the United Kingdom. It is a possibility that the United Kingdom could break apart. The economy is already in tumult.
The negative ramifications of a Brexit vote were predictable — and were widely discussed prior to Thursday. But none of the warnings prevented the British from voting to leave. It is no less than an act of deliberate self-mutilation.
Britain has now become a little more foreign to us. The British voted against pragmatism and for risk. That’s part of what makes this morning so surreal.
England in 2016 is a divided, uncertain country. It is difficult to believe what has happened here in the past several months. A relatively small, relatively unknown group of activists, gamblers and egocentrics managed to incite and drive a country out of Europe against the will of the prime minister and against the advice of economists, friends and allies around the world.
The Europe that woke up this morning is a weaker one. It will take years before Britain’s exit from the EU is finally completed. Until that time, the Continent faces a period of uncertainty and tumult, as does Britain.
Brexit is a democratic decision that cannot be changed. Now Europe needs to learn a lesson from it — it has no other choice.By Christoph Scheuermann in London
51.8%Regional Totals: Remain – Leave
Highland 56.0 % / 44.0 %
Scotland 62.0% / 38.0%
Northern Ireland 55.8% / 44.2%
North West 46.2% / 53.8%
North East 41.4% / 58.6%
Yorkshire & the Humber 42.3% / 57.7%
Wales 47.5% / 52.5%
East Midlands 41.4% / 58.6%
West Midlands 41.2% / 58.8%
South West 47.8% / 52.2%
East of England 43.3% / 56.7%
South East 47.7% / 52.3%
London 60.1% / 39.9%Pound Against the Dollar
Talk with Vit Bohal, Dustin Breitling, Vaclav Janoscik and Gabriela Korwin-Piotrowska. Prague, 27.05.2016
Speaker: Vit Bohal, Dustin Breitling, Vaclav Janoscik, Gabriela Korwin-Piotrowska, Anna Marjankowska
Panel discussion: Mark Fisher, Nick Srnicek, Aleksandra Przegalińska (MIT, Kozminski University), Ewa Drygalska (Jagiellonian University)
Speaker: Mark Fisher, Nick Srnicek, Aleksandra Przegalińska, Ewa Drygalska
04 Pre-organized panel: Anne Koppenburger, Philipp Frey, Paul Buckermann
Fully automated prometheanism: rethinking accelerationist approaches towards ecological, social and organizational issues
Speaker: Anne Koppenburger, Philipp Frey, Paul Buckermann, Jakub Dymek
05 SESSION I: Dustin Breitling, Jakub Nikodem, Patrick Leftwich
Panellists locked horns over immigration, as the pro-EU London Mayor Sadiq Khan tore into his predecessor Boris Johnson, a key campaigner on the “Leave” side.
”You’re telling lies and you’re scaring people,” Khan declared as he brandished a “Leave” leaflet warning that majority-Muslim Turkey could join the EU.
‘A DUEL BETWEEN LONDON MAYORS'”That’s scaremongering, Boris, and you should be ashamed… you are using the ruse of Turkey to scare people to vote Leave,” Khan said to cheers from the audience.
Johnson threw the criticism back at Khan, saying the pro-EU side had run a “Project Fear” by warning that leaving the 28-member bloc would damage Britain’s economy.
”They say we have no choice but to bow down to Brussels. We say they are woefully underestimating this country and what it can do,” Johnson said.
The Conservative lawmaker promised Britain an “independence day” on Thursday if it voted to leave, bringing sections of the audience to their feet in prolonged applause.
The prospect of Britain becoming the first state to defect from the EU in the bloc’s 60-year history has raised fears of a domino-effect collapse of the European project.
European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker earlier Britain against “an act of self-harm” he said would endanger everything Europeans had worked together to achieve.
‘Mist of blood’
As the audience filed into the 12,500-seat Wembley Arena, which often hosts global music stars, they were serenaded by pro-Remain demonstrators singing “All You Need is Love”.
Organisers Avaaz said the serenade was an attempt to counter the “fear and division” of the campaign.
But the two sides remained deeply opposed and the audience split among equally vocal “Remain” and “Leave” crowds.
”It felt like a football atmosphere… it felt very hostile. You could tell there was almost a mist of blood in the air,” said Michael Flaxington, 21, a student from Kent.
Retiree Linda Mayne, 60, also from Kent, said the debate was well-argued on both sides but had not swayed her from her conviction to vote “Leave”.
”I support Leave because I want the UK to have our own democracy back, to be able to control ourselves,” Mayne said.
But 21-year-old student Anton Georgiou said the Leave side’s “take back control argument” was “an empty slogan with no detailed plan whatsoever”.
As the debate concluded, the Daily Mail newspaper announced it was endorsing Brexit.
”Lies. Greedy elites. Or a great future outside a broken, dying Europe,” read its front page. “If you believe in Britain vote Leave.”
Two newspapers, the Daily Express and The Sun, carried front-page stories reporting that Queen Elizabeth II was challenging guests to give her “three good reasons” why Britain should stay in the EU.
Earlier this year, Buckingham Palace issued a rare complaint over a previous article by The Sun that claimed the queen favoured Brexit, a challenge to the monarch’s long-held position of political neutrality.
The Times, which has backed Britain remaining in the EU, published a warning from hundreds of business leaders, including Virgin boss Richard Branson and US media mogul Michael Bloomberg, that Brexit could cause an “economic shock”.
”Nobody knows what is going to happen,” Prime Minister David Cameron told the Financial Times, insisting he did not regret calling the referendum.
”I believe it will one way or another be decisive. Britain will not want to go through this again.”
Actor Liam Neeson told AFP that a vote for Brexit could be hugely damaging for his native Northern Ireland, potentially undermining the peace process that quelled decades of violence known as the Troubles.
”A UK exit would have the worst ramifications for the island of Ireland,” Neeson said.
The outcome looked deeply uncertain, as a poll by Survation gave “Remain” 45 percent and “Leave” 44 percent, with 11 percent undecided.
Six major bookmakers showed the odds heavily pointing to a “Remain” vote, with the likelihood of Britain staying in put at around 80 percent.
The latest surveys were mostly conducted after the brutal murder of Jo Cox, a 41-year-old Labour lawmaker who campaigned to remain in the EU, who was shot and stabbed in her northern English constituency on Thursday.
Her alleged killer, 52-year-old Thomas Mair, gave his name as “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain” at his first appearance in court after being charged with her murder.
In an interview with the BBC on Tuesday, Cox’s widower Brendan said she had been “worried” the debate may have been “whipping up hatred”.(AFP)