Don’t say “undemocratic” when you mean “foreign”

Astonishingly the UK’s most prominent politicians did not read my blog post last week, and so the Brexiteers continue with the nonsense that the EU provides a “democratic deficit”, when the simple fact is it does the precise opposite (as established last week, in the real world, the EU’s problem is if anything that it is too democratic).

Brexiteers, as established last week, live in a country with a hereditary Head of State, most of whose legislators are appointed. They seem to have no problem with that, but do have a problem with a Union whose legislators are generally elected (or, at least, approved by those who are having been appointed by other people who were elected). They will also talk about the UK’s role in bringing democracy to far-flung parts of the planet but forget about the EU’s expansion of democracy into formerly fascist southern Europe and formerly communist Eastern Europe – the ultimate triumph of the West in which the UK played a role (in which should take pride).

I mentioned last week that Brexiteers are in fact not bothered about democratic deficits at all. Actually, they are just British (actually often English) Nationalists. That is what it comes down to.

It is in this way that they are very similar to Irish Nationalists and Scottish Nationalists, just at one step removed. Because, fundamentally, what all Nationalisms come down to is defining your “nation” (your “demos”, in academic language), and then being all populist about how you are going to put that “nation” above all others while forgetting that there is a big world out there with which you have to trade (otherwise you cannot create wealth and job), with which you have to exchange knowledge (say, for medical research) and with which you have to exchange intelligence (say, for security). We are back to the basic flaw in the Brexit argument – the notion that “sovereignty” has real meaning in a globalised world.

In exactly the same way that Nicola Sturgeon argues Scottish decisions should be made in Scotland, Nigel Farage argues that British decisions should be made in Britain. In exactly the same way as Nicola Sturgeon sets out to “demonstrate that independence is in Scotland’s financial interests” (leaving aside any possibility that, in fact, it may not be), Nigel Farage sets out to demonstrate leaving the EU is in the UK’s financial interests (by making up some garbage about £50 million a day he hasn’t got and wouldn’t really reallocate to the NHS even if he had). It is all about pre-determining which your “demos” is (“Scottish”, “British” or whatever) and then fitting the facts around that, rather than looking at the facts and coming to a rational conclusion based on them.

That is the very reason Nationalism is a scourge. Indeed, it is the very reason it is bad for open democratic debate, and thus for democracy itself.

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One thought on “Don’t say “undemocratic” when you mean “foreign”

  1. Alan Burnside says:

    Your article would be more convincing if it wasn’t obvious that increasely remainders are saying a leave vote will just be ignored.

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