(First published by YGTV)
Europe is disintegrating. The EU establishment have failed in maintaining the Plan A “cartel structure”, as Yannis Varoufakis puts it. While it is a lie that the EU lacks democracy, we have seen very recently with regards to the crisis in Greece that they are abound with Plan Bs that appears to back up the argument that there is a democratic deficit in Europe. The Eurozone now resorts to threatening governments in to following a pre-determined economic regime know to some as austerity. Fear has been spread in Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Spain. Myths like the Spanish recovery have come about in order to sustain this dying economic authoritarianism. Even Germany is witnessing its slowest growth than at any time since the war. The Eurozone is an abject failure whichever way you look at it.
However, it is in movements like Podemos that we can see that there is a will for a new Europe to emerge. An EU that is democratised and breaks the shackles of austerity is waiting to be born. Certainly, it can be hard to be optimistic about the prospects of a stronger European Union at a time when the continent is in turmoil over a refugee crisis and right-wing populism is appealing for a growing number in several member states. Indeed, the cause for positivity is further pierced by some of the reaction to the coming UK referendum – which Gibraltarian citizens will be eligible to vote for. But this represents an opportunity for a watershed moment in European history. If the economic sphere is brought back into politics rather than being seen as a spectre that haunts international relations, radical change will occur. If the EU is a self-critical organism open to transparency, radical change will occur. If the political decision can be made to end austerity, radical change will occur. But ironically, it can only occur within a body like the union of European nations.
For residents of the Rock, the reasons to the remain in the EU in whatever form possible is self-evident. Unfortunately, Gibraltar has very little bargaining power in global politics despite being in a political conflict zone. This is why it is a worthwhile exercise to have a dedicated lobby group in Brussels to build relations. The Rock is unlikely to turn the tide of European politics as a single force. Quite simply, Gibraltar is a small but determined plankton in a vast ocean of various Lovecraftian behemoths. The micro-state that continues to exceed expectations in the financial sector requires the political representation of a supra-national entity like the EU. Without even having to mention the purely practical benefits, the links to these entities guarantee us by de facto the many things that we hold dear as concepts such as self-determination. Gibraltar’s recognition at this level means that the conflict with Spain is never likely to descend into an incorrigibly violent scenario. It acts as a political lock even if the UK decides, as it nearly did in 2002, to bypass Gibraltar’s rights of sovereignty.
From speaking to the likes of Andy Burnham MP and Mary Creagh MP at the Fabian Society conference ‘Europe for us all’, it is clear that team ‘remain’ have accepted that they (and the Left generally) must make the patriotic case for Britain to stay before it is too late. Director of North East Stronger In, Jessie Joe Jacobs, impressed upon the broad and historic association of Leftists that “we need to give disenchanted communities a new narrative and undo the story they have been fed for 20 years.” Eurosceptics have too long monopolised the media to encourage anti-migrant sentiment among many working-class families across the UK. If the referendum is to be won “on the doorstep”, the remain campaign must appeal to the heart as well as the head of the voters. The IN crew might have the facts on their side about the benefits of the EU but in order to reel voters to the polling stations, the case must be made that British involvement in Europe has played a big part in maintaining peace and co-operation on the continent last century and should continue to in the coming decades.
Alan Johnson was succinct in his recent description of the pro-Europe argument: “we have the lyrics but we lack the tune.” It is high time, as a struggling Europe’s patience grows thin with Britain, that the ensemble gathered as a united front to perform a positive and coherent vision to be part of a changing EU. Proud nations like Gibraltar and Scotland who will get a chance to vote in this referendum are expected to vote in large numbers to remain. If these ‘patriotic’ jurisdictions see Europe as part of their national identity, then perhaps there is gravitas in the argument that appealing to Britishness in a Eurocentric way could be vital in securing a ‘remain’ vote on June 23rd.