“I know it would make me worse off, but I am against the EU because I am a democrat” is a frequently cited Leave argument.
Like most Leave arguments, it is utter garbage.
And it is utterly hypocritical. We live in the UK – a country whose Head of State is hereditary, whose upper house of parliament is appointed (in ways not really aligned to the public’s votes), whose Prime Minister enjoys an absolute majority having attained just 37% of the vote, and whose corridors of power are disproportionately filled by people who went to particular schools. This is scarcely a beacon of liberal democracy. It is funny how few of these excitable “democrats” propose leaving the UK…
The EU is vastly more democratic. Its Council consists of Ministers from democratically elected national governments; its Commission consists of appointees from democratically elected national governments approved by its Parliament, and said Parliament is directly democratically elected in the second biggest global election there is. The EU is gridlocked on many occasions, such as over refugees, not because it is not democratic, but precisely because it is!
Furthermore, in a world where we use Chinese-made phones developed in America to listen to Swedish music apps while driving German cars requiring Saudi Arabian oil, a vast number of decisions which affect us are made in boardrooms, or dictatorships, or committees over which we have no say whatsoever beyond the market – a market which spectacularly fails when oil causes wars or lending causes banking crashes. The notion that we deal with all of this by pretending globalisation does not exist and building walls (under the propaganda of “national interest”)to confirm this denial of reality is not democratic. On the contrary, it simply leads to political disunity in the West, thus handing more power to the banks, corporations, committees and vast undemocratic countries like China, Russia and Saudi Arabia. That is the inevitable outcome of said “democrats'” lunacy.
If any of these suddenly enthusiastic Brexiteers had long records as “democrats” supporting Lords reform, changes to the way honours are given out, or even just a new electoral system for the Commons, I would begin to believe them. They don’t.
Actually, they don’t want to leave the EU because they are “democrats”; they want to leave because they are “nationalists”. Underlying it all is a fanciful, ludicrous and often xenophobic notion that somehow automatically the British (ahem, English) do democracy and Johnny Foreigner doesn’t – when all the above evidence demonstrates beyond dispute that it is the UK’s democracy which is obviously outdated and flawed.
The EU, meanwhile, has welcomed in countries emerging from both fascist dictatorships and communist regimes and secured for them representative democracy backed by free trade. No other project in human history has expanded democracy faster and to more places than the EU has. It is a remarkable achievement – and a profoundly democratic one!
I am a democrat. That is precisely why I support reform of the UK’s institutions and it is precisely why I supported the EU’s eastward expansion. And it is precisely why I will be voting REMAIN.