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.