If We’re Serious About Europe, We Need to Ditch the “Better Together” Rhetoric, Fast.
Like pretty much everyone I know, I’m very much in favour of the European Union. It’s one of the best examples of genuine internationalism, and in many ways it has defined the age in which we live. Born out of the devastation of two world wars – an era which is slowly shifting from living memory – the ongoing legacy and importance of the EU cannot be understated.
Yet, even as a firm supporter of a United Europe, there is something about the looming referendum which leaves me cold – and I’m sure I’m not the only one.
The official campaign to remain in the EU ‘Britain Stronger in Europe‘ is aimed squarely at a nationalistic sense of might and superiority facilitated through the status quo, and it all sounds a bit familiar. Yes, ‘Britain Stronger in Europe’ could very easily be a carbon copy of the ‘Better Together’ campaign which opposed Scottish independence, and as such it does a great disservice to those who wish to remain in the EU.
A lot of pro-EU opponents of Scottish independence claim not to see a difference between the two “unions”, and many have argued that it is nonsensical to oppose a United Kingdom whilst simultaneously supporting a United Europe. They are, of course, wrong: The European Union is a union of independent states, the UK is not. The two institutions are not comparable.
Perhaps the worst element of the official campaign to remain in Europe though, is the extent to which it panders to a right-wing, macho view of Britain’s place in the world. In this respect it is not only reminiscent of the Better Together campaign of 2014, but sadly, most mainstream UK politics over the last 10-15 years.
Britain will be “stronger”, Britain will be “better off”, Britain will be a “leader in the world”, and of course, we’ll be safer from terrorism. Am I the only person who finds these sentiments to be vacuous and utterly irrelevant? Europe’s appeal is surely in its internationalism, in a coming together of so many different nations, and – dare I say it – open borders?
The Schengen Area (which the UK isn’t even a part of anyway) has always struck me as one of the most beautiful things to have come out of the EU. Free movement across the borders of 26 different countries represents the sort of humanity and respect for our neighbours that we should be working towards, not rowing back from. It is a peculiarly small minded view of the world which sees things like Schengen as a threat. I say small minded, but of course, I mean racist.
The EU has brought with it many great things which are often written off by its detractors as unnecessary regulations foisted on us by shadowy, malevolent “Eurocrats”. Well, if the principal of equal pay, health and safety, paid holidays, basic human rights and consumer protection make life more difficult – call me crazy, but it’s a price I’m willing to pay. Sadly though, as we head towards the EU referendum, no one seems to be talking up the true benefits of the European Union. All we’re hearing is the same old Better Togetheresque, right-wing rhetoric about “strength” and “influence”.
This is not complicated, if we fight to protect our place in the EU by giving in to the narratives posed by UKIP and their fellow Euro sceptics, then we agree to have the debate on their terms – ie, in fantasy land. The argument to remain in Europe couldn’t be more different from that of the official IN campaign, or its Better Together predecessors; it’s a progressive, internationalist argument – and it’s about time we started hearing it, because we’re running out of time.