March 4, 2019 9.50 am This story is over 33 months old

Barry Turner: Living in the past – How anachronistic ideology made Brexit a disaster

Both the UK and the EU are equally guilty in allowing anachronistic ideology to block a path to a progression

It was always rather obvious that the UK would manoeuvre for better terms over the tortuous period since the implementation of Art. 50. Various models are still being touted as the solution in spite of the unworkable nature of all of them. The UK is not Norway or Canada, or for that matter Singapore. Whatever its eventual relationship with the EU becomes, it will not be on a model established in entirely different circumstances. As things stand, the UK cannot get a free market based deal because the EU is chained to a doctrine written over 60 years ago and designed to achieve a federal state. We cannot move forwards while everyone is looking back.

The EU cannot change its position because the framers of the Treaty of Rome designed it to be a path to political union and it is that in the main that has caused the Euroscepticism that has shattered the comfortable democracies of post war western Europe.  The four pillars of the European Economic Community, promulgated in the aftermath of World War Two, made eminent sense at the time. The architects of the project saw it as a means to end wars going back almost continuously over a thousand years of European history. The one that had just ended had finally convinced them that European civilisation could not afford another one.

In the immediate aftermath of that war it rapidly became apparent that the UK had learned less from it than our European neighbours. In spite of the economic devastation and financial bankruptcy Britain faced, one of the first positions the war-weary country turned to was the preservation of its empire. Had it not been for enormous political and more to the point economic pressure from the United States, the chasing of that futile and immoral fantasy would have been fully acted out.

Both the UK and the EU therefore are equally guilty in allowing anachronistic ideology to block a path to a progression. Britain had ceased to be an imperial power long before 1945. It is remarkable that three generations later some of our politicians, most born long after the sun finally set on it, still believe in a legacy of empire and imagine Britain as a world leader rather than one of the pack.

Europe no longer needs a federalist pipedream to prevent it from going to war again. That federalist pipedream is as foolish today as the imperialist imaginings of the post war empire loyalists. The European project is hamstrung by this obsession. Europe as an economic community made total sense, A United States of Europe makes none. In reality, the debacle that is Brexit is a consequence of an adherence to two ideologies long since obsolete.

Britain has an absurd and primitive democracy designed in an era before universal franchise. Its moribund political parties are both paralysed, its system of government unworkable by factionalised politics. Those constantly repeating the mantra that Britain will flourish outside the EU are wilfully blind to the irreparable schisms within their own parties that years of infighting have caused — schisms that will extend well beyond the eventual, whenever it is, date of leaving the EU.

The EU clings on to the federalist dream but it has not yet shed itself completely of hegemony. A federation dominated by the richest and most powerful states in the EU would be no real democracy either. Until there are effective checks and balances, something like those in the US, a federal Europe would be one dominated by a system that has shown little regard for parliamentary democracy. The institutions of the EU have always been sceptical of checks and balances that would inevitably obstruct the pathway to federalism.

In spite of this, Britain should have stayed in the EU because outside it has no say. Britain could have acted as a brake on the federalists who will now exert their influence all the more. The effect will be to see more Italian and Visegrád style resistance to all power at the centre. In the final analysis, it will not be those who leave the EU that will cause its demise, but those who insist on hegemony by federalism. The signs of that are already there, and when this Brexit nonsense is over, it will become the overarching problem the EU will face for years to come.

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Barry Turner is Senior Lecturer in Media Law and Public Administration at the University of Lincoln.