Twenty four percent of under-25s are unemployed across the entire EU zone. Never has it been less cool to be part of the ‘in’ crowd.
Now that the in/out campaigns have been officially launched, all the mood music of the past few weeks has to be developed into full symphonic mode.
And, just as we might have suspected, the ‘in’ campaigners are tuning up their Psycho string section and polishing up the crash cymbals, all the better to scare us with, my dear. ‘Always keep a-hold of nurse, for fear of finding something worse’ just about sums it up.
The argument should be easier for the outers, and Boris Johnson certainly got off to a good start by making the whole thing feel like an awfully big adventure, sounding, all on his own, like a big brass band with plenty of whizz-pop percussion.
There is no good reason to vote ‘Yes’ on June 23 – well, not if you discount ‘Nurse’ and ‘Europe’. This isn’t about Europe. It’s about the EU, a very different matter. Friends have been critical on the basis that they like being part of Europe; they like their European friends; and they like taking the ferry and driving around Europe on their holidays.
Well, yes. So do I. But isn’t it slightly ironic, in that context, to talk about Europe as though it’s somehow ‘over there’? Surely if we’re so keen on it, it’s over here as well? Don’t we feel European?
But the EU – ah, that should be a different matter. Except that, for the ‘in’ crowd it’s not. And it’s one thing not to listen to Nigel Farage, or even to Boris Johnson.
But if we’re so keen on our Europe-ness, shouldn’t we also be listening to the Hungarians, and the Swedes, the Germans and the Greeks, the Portuguese and the Romanians? France has its Frexit movement in place, but we don’t talk about that. We’re European when we want to feel clever and cosmopolitan, but when it comes down to the brass tacks of the EU’s desultory effect on people we never come across, the ‘in’ crowd averts its attention.
Nor do we acknowledge – possibly because we haven’t been listening – the undercurrent of dissatisfaction with the EU among most of its members. Most significantly the Germans are tired of picking up the bills for their poorer neighbours and then watching them flout the spirit of the whole EU enterprise.
Hence Hungary’s new fence along its southern border with Romania which not only keeps out unwanted refugees, but has also had the unintended consequence of confusing wildlife. Large mammals are dying long and agonising deaths trying to force themselves through razor wire which now crosses land they had become used to roaming freely.
Dissatisfaction with the EU is given eloquent voice by Yanis Varoufakis, former finance minister of beleaguered Greece. He and Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras came to power on a wave of (unfounded) optimism in January 2015. Varoufakis, a proponent of game theory, appeared to be ‘gaming’ the EU establishment in his bullish refusal to play according to their rules.
Turned out he wasn’t applying game theory at all. He simply thought he could talk sense to his masters. He couldn’t. And so Tsipras fired him, and the game went on according to the rules – stupid, incoherent and cruel as they are. If he’d had any sense of what he was dealing with, Varoufakis would have threatened to take Greece back to the drachma; and then started putting the mechanism in place to do just that. That might have woken Brussels up for five minutes.
But he didn’t, and Brussels dozed on, apparently unaware of the irony present in the daily lives of those unemployed under 25s – 24%, remember, a number that rises to 50% in southern Europe. Wasn’t that one of the things the EU was supposed to cure? How long can that go on before people take to the streets and we find ourselves back to the future, with fascism on the rise?
Varoufakis wasn’t worth listening to when he was finance minister in the no-hope government of a benighted country. But he’s worth listening to now. The EU needs complete reorganisation, he realises, and he has some very good ideas about the areas in which change is needed. He’s even written a book about it, And The Weak Suffer What They Must (from Thucydides: ‘Right is only in question between equals in power, while the strong do what they can and the weak suffer what they must’).
Unfortunately, he remains of the opinion that this can be done from within, despite the experience of 2015. But he is one of many dissenting and increasingly powerful voices who are with those of us in the UK who understand that the EU has gone too far, and has done so in a profoundly undemocratic manner.
A vote to leave in June will be the catalyst for major change. Ignore the ‘in’ crowd who pretend we’ll have no voice from without. The powers within whose voices really matter will be desperate to get us back in once we show that we’re serious.