UKIP in reverse? Holding a mirror up to Remain – a guest post by Cat Menzies

Have you got your Brexit specs on? Everyone is talking about whether the Remain parties should form an alliance in the European parliamentary elections. But, hold on, isn’t that how we got here in the first place? Isn’t this just a new version of the ‘EU as a proxy for UK political discontent’? Isn’t this just total disregard for the European Parliament and other Europeans?

It’s entirely possible that we will be ‘Brexiting’ forever but the European Parliament and the MEPs that sit in it are about so much more than Brexit. Tax havens? Climate change? Security in relation to unrest in North Africa? Electromobility? Propaganda and fake news? Corruption? Rule of law? These are all some of the important issues the EU parliament will be debating for the next five years. To ignore the point of the European Parliament, its functions and the work of the MEPs is to do exactly what the UKIP MEPs have been doing for decades.

So take your Brexit specs off and let’s treat the European Parliamentary elections with the respect they deserve. As we cast our votes let’s think about that five-year mandate. UK MEPs may never take it up, or may give it up sooner, but we have to assume they will be representing our interests and the interests of Europe throughout. And it is on that basis that we should make our decisions.

What should our debate be about? Presumably we hope the EU will adopt policies we favour. How can we achieve that? The two most obvious guides to voting are the party manifestos and the EP groupings the subsequent MEPs will join. These groupings wield power in the EP so it’s important we know what they stand for. The minute we start taking these elections seriously we see that a ‘remain alliance’ is impossible. I have no idea which grouping Change UK would join, but as someone who would like to see more investment in public infrastructure in the EU, I won’t be voting for proponents of austerity. Being left-wing and concerned about climate change, I could never vote Lib Dem as they sit in the more economically right-wing ALDE.

So let’s have a proper debate. Let’s talk manifestos and EP groupings, policy-making and values. Forget about Remain alliances; otherwise it’s just the same blinkeredness that allowed the almost non-existent debates on the EU to be limited to the shape of bananas.

Comments

  1. Sean Danaher -

    One of our occasional contributors, Chris Kendall @ottocrat of the Cakewatch podcast argues very much along these lines as indeed does the Green Party.

    It is good argument. Its a shame the UK does not seem to take the EP parliament seriously but has an obsessive fixation on Westminster.

    I will definitely vote but as yet am conflicted. My post yesterday on the British D’Hondt voting system and how inferior it was to STV makes the choice difficult.

    The Irish take the EP far more seriously and much as I dislike the EPP, our FG ruling party (and EPP member) has used its leverage brilliantly.

    I have an intense dislike of UKIP and Farage’s new party. It is possible the Tories won’t stand as they fear decimation. Reducing the number of fascist seats is also a high priority!

  2. Bill Hughes -

    It is strange that Gibraltar has a vote in the EU elections but not the Isle of Man, Channel Isles or other crown dependencies. The point has been made that the STV voting system in Ireland is more proportional than the UK D’Hondt system though the Green party managed to get 3 seats last time in England under D’Hondt but as N Ireland has only 3 seats so that greens and Alliance don’t stand a chance there. Surely the whole of the EU should have an equally fair system and not suffering from lack of representation by smaller parties in some areas and not others?

    1. Sean Danaher -

      I think the short answer re Gibraltar is that Gibraltar is actually in the EU whereas the Isle of Man etc. are not. Being in the EU makes the border with Spain far more seamless.

      There is a balance between local representation and constituency size. In Ireland for GEs the constituencies have 3, 4 or 5 seats. One could go for a UK wide system which would be more proportional.

      In 1801 UK while dominated by England was more evenly balanced in terms of population, with the combined population of Ireland, Scotland and Wales being about equal to England.

      The bulk of Ireland leaving did not help, but currently England has over 10x the population of Scotland and c. 85% of the total UK population.

      A country wide system would be totally dominated by England.

      In the case if NI, both SF and the DUP have hands dripping with blood and sectarianism. I would far prefer an SDLP a UUP and either a Green or Alliance MEP, but sectarianism wins votes in NI sadly.

      The DUP if anything is tacking further towards Loyalism and their local election literature has been widely mocked. This is ultimately a loosing strategy as their power base is rapidly shrinking demographically as is a common theme in my posts.

      This will ultimately

  3. Peter May -

    Agreed the Brexit specs are a great handicap to everything – including how we (could) progress in the EU. I’d love to see who is in which grouping, which currently I have to confess I have no idea…

  4. Geoff -

    One of the important decisions to be made this year will be voting on who replaces Juncker as President of the Commission. We need as many progressive MEPs as possible because collectively they will vote for Franz Timmermans a Social Democrat as his replacement, I doubt Change UK or the LibDems will do that and UKIP and The Brexit Party certainly will not.

    Timmermans is a democrat and I think he would oversee some important changes for the better, should he be elected. His robust defence of Juncker at times is questionable but his point is more about the democratic process than the individuals who the system elect and for too long the neoliberal MEP’s have held the power. We have a chance to change the direction of the EU and its focus on equality, curtailing the extremists and bringing urgency to climate change policy. If we do leave the EU but have new MEPs elected in May then their parting shot could be to change the course of the supertanker that is the EU. That would be a good legacy. Our collective responsibility is to try to bring this to the attention of the voting public.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K0T7LhBMQlI

    1. Sean Danaher -

      Geoff

      its a very powerful argument and Timmerman’s English is extraordinarily good.

      Very easy to be a heckler and wrecker such as UKIP and I would love the EU to move further to the left.

      The EPP seems to be the dominant force in the EU, which as a centre-right party is a but depressing.

  5. Geoff -

    Sean,
    the European elections are so important, it amazes me that people are disconnected from them, although perhaps not too surprising as part of the neoliberal globalisation roll out plan, has been to reduce the power of Parliaments throughout the world, with some measure of success. Not so with the far right anti-democratic parties who are increasingly seeking to use the democratic voting system to gain power, in the coming elections they are targeting many more of the 751 parliamentary seats and expecting to be elected in 150 of them, making them a serious force within the European Parliament. I’m not sure exactly what will happen to the 75 seats we currently have, once we depart the EU.

    My hope is that people realise what’s happening and come to the ballot box to stem the flow (ever the optimist) DiEM25 are offering a very good democratic platform but I think they lack appeal to the average voter and are still new to the field. I could be wrong, I hope I am, they certainly win the intellectual arguments, but how many engage on that level, I’m really not to sure. Steve Bannon recently declined to be on the same venue as Varoufakis, at the Oxford Union!

    I wonder why!

    1. Sean Danaher -

      Regarding the UK seats some are reallocated – Ireland gets two new ones for example and a number have been kept in reserve for new member states most likely in the Western Balkans.

      The Far Right is a big worry. Very well funded. Farage is getting millions apparently in chunks of £499 as anything over £500 has to be declared. Their message seems to resonate with a lot of voters.

      There is no question in my mind that the Left has the best intellectual arguments but the Far Right has a visceral emotional appeal on some people. I find the far right disgusting and loathsome but they do have a grip on a surprising large number of people. I’m not surprised Bannon declined to take on Varoufakis academically no match but Bannon is playing an entirely different game appealing to the worst instincts in all of us.

  6. Geoff -

    Sean, I have been thinking about the comment you made on how Farage is receiving funding and have a couple of questions for you. The process is obviously legal but does it demonstrate how technology has outstripped the way the system was meant to operate and does it need to be changed? Secondly, can those individuals funding him make multiple donations and still remain anonymous? Thirdly, do you or any of your circle have influence to raise this as an issue in the EU?

Comments are closed.