Congratulations on the Brexit Vote for Democracy!

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Lecture date: Sun, 12th Jun, 2016
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The result of the referendum is a victory for “Project Hope” over “Project Fear.” The voters of the UK must be congratulated for their bravery and for voting to win back Britain’s political independence and national democracy in face of the anti-democratic entity that is the European Union. While the EU is presented as a wonderful democratic regime that puts the rights of people, peace and social justice first, it is in fact the exact opposite. The rights of people and the type of EU which people want is pushed to one side in the interest of transnational capital and the powerful elite of this world. The reaction by the EU elite to EU referenda results in Denmark, Ireland, France and the Netherlands prove this point.

A Supranational EU is Reactionary

The UK vote must be seen as a positive and progressive blow against the reactionary supranational EU integration project. All those who fought against the odds in this campaign must strive to counter the attempt being made to reverse or frustrate this democratic vote of the people. As an Irish person I warn that there may be an attempt to override the will of the people; it was done to the Irish people’s vote against the 2001 Nice and 2008 Lisbon Treaties and the French and Dutch votes in 2005 against the EU Constitution.

The embarrassment of the Brussels elite and their national agents is well-deserved – they must not be allowed to circumvent the result. Former EU Commissioner, Peter Sutherland went on Twitter immediately after the UK vote to say, “Somehow this result needs to be overturned” (Irish Times, 27 June, p.16).

Democrats across the member states of the EU should now look at what opportunities this decision provides for them to win back their own independence so they can restore true democratic principles in their political systems. Ireland needs to reassess its own relationship with the EU in light of its strong ties with the UK and the fact that Ireland does two-thirds of its foreign trade outside the nineteen-member Eurozone – 63% of its exports and 72% of its imports in 2013 were outside the Eurozone. Ireland applied to join the then EEC in 1961 because the UK did so. Ireland renewed its application and joined the EEC along with the UK in 1973 because it did so.  Some economists argue that leaving the EU is the only legal way in which Ireland can disentangle itself from the disastrous Eurozone, joining which was the biggest mistake ever made by the Irish State.

The size of the UK’s Leave-side majority may have been even greater but for the British Government’s spending £9 million on sending a Remain-side booklet to all UK households, the alarmism of “Project Fear” and the many other abuses of fair procedures by the Remain side.

Outside the EU, Britain can once again become a workshop of the world if its new Government adopts progressive policies that put people and democracy first. One of the core fundamental issues at stake in the EU debate is that of democratic self-government versus rule by supranational EU institutions that are ever more obviously under German hegemony.

This world-historical vote of the British people on 23 June will encourage democrats in every EU country, whether on the political Right or Left, to push ahead with their struggle against the anti-democratic and reactionary EU and work to replace it with a Europe of independent cooperating democratic Nation States, which is the only basis for any internationalism worth the name in the continent we live in. The EU is an out-of-date construct left over from the Cold War, when it was the economic underpinning of NATO in Europe. The situation in the world today is very different and it is time to move on and look for a better way forward.

No Independence within the EU

The discussion on a break-up of the UK ignores many political and economic realities especially with regard to Scotland and the talk of independence in Europe. Firstly, independence in the EU is contradiction in terms – a country cannot be independent in the EU. Furthermore, Scotland’s 2014 independence referendum was premised on Scotland’s retaining the pound sterling as its currency, which is not meaningful independence. Do those who speak of Scotland remaining in the EU while the rest of the UK leaves it not realise that to do this Scotland would have to commit itself to adopting the disastrous euro-currency with the permanent balanced budget obligations required by the EU Treaties?  Are the majority of Scots people ever likely to vote for that?

On the issue of Northern Ireland, although Sinn Fein has called for a Border poll, the conditions set down in the Good Friday Agreement for holding such a poll do not exist at present. Therefore, as pointed out by Theresa Villiers, the former Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, there is no chance of such a poll being held.  Even if it were to be held, many believe that there would be a big majority in Northern Ireland at present against any United Ireland.

Many Northern Nationalists and Republicans would vote against a United Ireland, because by voting for Irish unity they would in effect be voting to put themselves under Brussels/Frankfurt instead of Westminster. A key factor would be that they would be voting to adopt the euro and take on board the €64 billion of private bank debt which the Eurozone authorities imposed on Irish taxpayers in 2010. It is unlikely that any sensible Northern Nationalist vote for such an outcome.

Finally, with regard to what happens post Brexit, it is essential that negotiations are open and transparent and that the public are fully informed and fully involved in the process. This call for openness and transparency also applies to the other 27 member states of the EU. At present, Irish political leaders are having discussions on the planned approach to the UK exit behind closed doors and without any public scrutiny. This is yet another assault on the democratic rights of people to decide their own destiny. The governments of the other 27 member states have at present no direct mandate from their people with regard to the post Brexit decisions. People cannot be presented with a fait accompli on what their respective governments have agreed.

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Patricia McKenna

Patricia McKenna is currently a Barrister-at-Law candidate at The Honorable Society of King’s Inns, Dublin. She is a Bachelor of Law & Political Science (LL.B.) from Trinity College Dublin. She was a Member of the European Parliament for 10 years and is a former Vice-President of the Green Group in…