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PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2016 7:29 am 
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The American primaries have been sucking the oxygen out of international political news over the past couple of months, but the United Kingdom is approaching a critical referendum on June 23 - whether to leave or remain in the European Union. Most political parties, including Labour and the Liberal Democrats, are in favour of staying, the Euroskeptics like UKIP are obviously in favour of leaving (Brexit), while the governing Conservative Party is neutral. Opinion polling was against Brexit earlier in the year, but the leaving case is gaining traction.

If Britain does leave, it will certainly be another blow for the EU's leaders, who have spent the last couple of years lurching from crisis to crisis - first sovereign debt, then migrants. This crowd-funded film in favour of leaving also seems to be getting some media coverage. Even if Britain remains, I think that there must be some attention given to the EU's institutions of law and government, which are mostly-unelected, expensive and extremely opaque. And the staggering number of regulations.


Last edited by Túrin Turambar on Fri Jun 24, 2016 7:51 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Brexit
PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2016 7:41 am 
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As an American, I wonder about the parallel between (some) EU countries' reaction to the EU government, and (some) American states' reaction to the federal government.

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 Post subject: Re: Brexit
PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2016 7:51 am 
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Primula Baggins wrote:
As an American, I wonder about the parallel between (some) EU countries' reaction to the EU government, and (some) American states' reaction to the federal government.


Although keep in mind that the President and both houses of Congress are elected, and they are all quite high-profile figures known to the public. The institutions of the EU are often not elected, with the one that is, the European Parliament, being much less powerful vis-a-vis the others compared to Congress or other national legislatures. And the institutions and the people involved in them are often obscure and not widely-known. That is part of the problem the EU faces.


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 Post subject: Re: Brexit
PostPosted: Sat May 14, 2016 2:36 pm 
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Lali Beag Bídeach
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Wait. The leading institutions of the EU aren't elected? How did that ever get approved? :scratch: I guess I just assumed it was put together much like the US, with the member countries analogous to (but obviously not identical to) our states and the EU itself acting much like our federal government. Oh dear. I need to do some research. (I had some of this stuff in my head at the time it was happening, but I've obviously forgotten more than I knew. Political stuff only gets allotted a small amount of attention in my brain anyway, like gardening/landscaping and sports. :suspicious: )

What's the general consensus from our European friends here? Are you all in favor of remaining in the EU?

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 Post subject: Re: Brexit
PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2016 8:41 am 
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One of the big stories in the referendum is the fact that the two leading figures in the Conservative Party, David Cameron and Boris Johnson, have come down on different sides. Cameron, the sitting Prime Minister, is campaigning hard for a 'remain' vote. Johnson, the colourful former London mayor who is gaining a growing following among conservative and libertarian Tories, is the highest-profile figure to come out for the 'leave' case. This is particularly significant as Cameron is expected to stand down before the next election, and Johnson is considered a major contender to succeed him. A lot may hang on the result of the referendum.

Johnson is known for being outspoken, but I have to wonder whether he hasn't crossed the line by comparing the EU project to Napoleon's and Hitler's schemes of European conquest. It is unlikely to hurt him among those committed to the leave side, but it may deter those on the fence. Then again, it may actually work.


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 Post subject: Re: Brexit
PostPosted: Sun May 15, 2016 2:18 pm 
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Boris Johnson would be quite a change for the Conservative Party!

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 Post subject: Re: Brexit
PostPosted: Mon May 16, 2016 9:18 pm 
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Lalaith, the European Union started only a few years after WWII as a union of steel and coal first in 1951, and only later (1956) became an economic community of six founding states which were West Germany, France, Italy, The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg. The institution was first and only foreseen as an economic union, assuring free trade and exchange or t say it differently: free circulation of money, goods and people. There was no direct plan for a common currency, policy or even less government. The different institutions forming the first entity, the European Community, have since then been adapted and mostly enlargened, but not profoundly changed. The European union remains in its essential points a intergouvernemental organisation, each country being represented through members and delegates of its gouvernement. So, while many institutions are not directly elected for most of them, the European parliament is and to some extent the commissaries are representing the government of their countries.

The European Union is not all comparable to the USA - it is formed of sovereign national member states. Could you imagine, for instance, an American state having its own army, national anthem, flag, passeport? And we are talking about countries having fought not only one, but several decade long wars between them.

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 Post subject: Re: Brexit
PostPosted: Mon May 16, 2016 10:09 pm 
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I was reading a little more about Boris Johnson's comments in favor of the pull out. They are pretty extreme, comparing the EU to the Third Reich and saying that while the means might be different, the goal is basically the same as that of Hitler and Napoleon. Needless to say, these comments have no gone down well in certain quarters.

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 Post subject: Re: Brexit
PostPosted: Tue May 17, 2016 1:32 am 
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Thank you, Nin, for the further explanation. That helps quite a bit. I believe I was only vaguely aware that the EU was around for that long. I became more aware of it as it began to change into what it is today. (I should say that as it came more onto the radar of the general population of the US.)

I hope I was clear in my previous post that I understood the EU is not exactly like the US. There are some similarities, however (at least in my mind). Federal rights vs. states rights would be somewhat comparable to each country in the EU having to balance its own interests and laws against the objectives and plans of the EU. I understand it's only a basic comparison. Obviously, countries are a different class altogether from a US state, though US states are more than just, say, counties in Ireland or regions in another European country. I do think it's amazing that countries that were at war with one another (and often at war and for long periods of time!) decided to band together. Our Civil War was only 4 years long, so it's a bit less impressive that they all came back together into one country.

So how do you feel about the EU? (I know Switzerland isn't a member, but I'm curious given your multinational background.)

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 Post subject: Re: Brexit
PostPosted: Tue May 17, 2016 5:23 am 
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Quote:
Our Civil War was only 4 years long, so it's a bit less impressive that they all came back together into one country.


Yet there are still fault lines within our country that date back that far, as well as legitimate grievances from the descendants of slaves. (I know you know this, Lali, but it might not be so apparent from a European perspective.) In some ways we're, if not still fighting this war, still divided by it—not just South to North, but within the South.

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― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King


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 Post subject: Re: Brexit
PostPosted: Tue May 17, 2016 8:23 am 
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Lali, I hope I did not sound to patronizing. I made my second Masters degrees in European Studies and it's a passionate subject for me. Although I understand why Switzerland is not a member state, I am personally a convinced european and a defender of the European Union. This also comes from the fact that I dislike the idea and concept of nation states and am quite opposed to any form of nationalism, often even patriotism. The European Union is not a unit like the US, with which people identify - so somehow it's more countries deciding to work together than countries deciding to band together. This is its strength - it's very possible to work with someone without liking him, and even to work with another country and ceasing to be ennemies without becoming friends. But this is also it's weakness - people don't like the European Union, they don't feel strongly about it. So, somehow, reuniting people in a complete and functioning country like the US after the Civil War is more impressive or more difficult - or just different.

The EU has a its flaws and the main flaw is being perceived a really far away from the population and very technocratic. Also, European law is a real maze and it is difficult to study and follow. From its history, the European Union is more an administrative and economic than political union and the institutions reflect that. It has already changed and it still needs more change, but historically seen the period of peace brought by the European construction among other factors is an absolute exception. Europe has never before known a time of peace as it has since 1945 - despite the wars in Yougoslavia.

So, of course I am opposed to a Brexit - or to a Grexit too. Mainly because of the precedent it would create. For me the European Union is not a club you can leave or take as you like it. It's commitment to a construction. I am afraid of a possible Domino effect.

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 Post subject: Re: Brexit
PostPosted: Tue May 17, 2016 8:29 am 
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Lalaith wrote:
Obviously, countries are a different class altogether from a US state, though US states are more than just, say, counties in Ireland or regions in another European country.


Keep in mind, though, that some European countries (like Germany) are federations in almost exactly the same way that the U.S. is. German states are directly comparable to American states, and the German federal government to the American one. This adds another layer of complexity, as the EU is a super-national authority over, in some cases, countries which already need to balance state and federal relations within themselves.


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 Post subject: Re: Brexit
PostPosted: Tue May 17, 2016 12:00 pm 
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Voronwë the Faithful wrote:
I was reading a little more about Boris Johnson's comments in favor of the pull out. They are pretty extreme, comparing the EU to the Third Reich and saying that while the means might be different, the goal is basically the same as that of Hitler and Napoleon. Needless to say, these comments have no gone down well in certain quarters.


Yep, that was all very over the top. :suspicious:

Johnson is a flamboyant (and very clever) man, but as Mayor of London, he did little to address many of the social problems of London ... which is why London remains very much a Labour city. The Tories are busy selling off what remains of Britain’s social housing, etc. etc. etc. Johnson was all part and parcel of that. Bah.

As a Brit, I do feel quite strongly about national sovereignty. No doubt this comes from being an islander. At the same time I despise the 'Little Englander' mentality. People have been immigrating to Britain for centuries, it’s all part of our rich history and heritage.

I have my issues with the EU, and I’m not really sold on the idea of the European super-state. But I will probably vote for Britain to remain in the EU ... mainly because I dislike the political leaders who want to lead us out! There are huge risks, IMO, if Britain leaves the EU, and not just for Britain. (There are also risks if we stay.)

But the achievements of the EU, as detailed by Nin, are no small thing, when you think that only 70 years ago we were emerging from a catastrophic world war with a nation which is now an ally. Peace within Europe is not something I take lightly. At all.

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 Post subject: Re: Brexit
PostPosted: Tue May 17, 2016 1:17 pm 
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Di, I was hoping that you would weigh in here!

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 Post subject: Re: Brexit
PostPosted: Tue May 17, 2016 1:58 pm 
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Voronwë the Faithful wrote:
Di, I was hoping that you would weigh in here!


:sunny: :sunny: :sunny: :sunny:

Interestingly, during the Irish moot, I got into conversation over breakfast in my guesthouse with a polite, but rather dour, Irish gentleman who had very decided opinions on the EU Referendum. He told me that Britain should get out of the EU, because Germany dominates everything and it was ironic that we had fought them 80 years ago when they would end up running everything in the end.

Well, it's a point of view. :suspicious: I'm too polite, and don't have the energy, to get into political ding-dongs with strangers so I just nodded and made the right non-committal 'yes, at least I'm listening' noises.

But I couldn't share his view of the world or of Europe. Alliances change, situations change, over time. The situation in Germany 80 years ago was horrific: the situation is very different now. Re: the dangers of Fascism, or any other form of totalitarianism, it's a case of 'constant vigilance', no matter where you live.

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 Post subject: Re: Brexit
PostPosted: Tue May 17, 2016 3:09 pm 
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Including here in the good ol' U. S. of A.

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 Post subject: Re: Brexit
PostPosted: Tue May 17, 2016 4:05 pm 
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Voronwë the Faithful wrote:
Including here in the good ol' U. S. of A.


Indeed. :neutral: These are ... challenging times.

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 Post subject: Re: Brexit
PostPosted: Tue May 17, 2016 5:25 pm 
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Unlike Di, I would love the idea of a European State rather than a collection of nations. I am clearly European first, and I say that even as Swiss because even more than being a member of the European union, it has a cultural meaning to me to be European. (And I became Swiss, I was not born).The region my grand-mother was born in has changed nationality four times in the 20th century. Nations are a myths for me.

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 Post subject: Re: Brexit
PostPosted: Fri May 20, 2016 2:30 am 
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(I keep wanting to come back to this topic but have been too busy and/or too tipsy when I have had the time. I should be back soon! I think the discussion is interesting.)

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 Post subject: Re: Brexit
PostPosted: Fri May 20, 2016 3:23 am 
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I wanted to chip in that I'm with Nin on the "I'll support whatever weakens the silly illusion of nation-states and borders and increases a sense of broad human unity" POV. :)

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