It’s becoming clear that the EU is coming together again, after suffering from a spell of rightwingitis. As Joris Luyendĳk wrote:
But then Europeans started to vote. First Austria chose a Green president over a nationalist one. Then the populist PVV party of Geert Wilders received a paltry 15% of the vote in the Dutch general elections. And now the unapologetically Europhile Emmanuel Macron has come out on top in the first round of the French elections, setting him on course for victory against Marine Le Pen next month. The next European elections are in Germany, where all traditional parties are solidly pro-EU. The new Eurosceptic party Alternative für Deutschland is mired in divisions, infighting and confusion.
Even Donald Trump seems to be realising that the EU isn’t going away and that a trade deal with the block is much more important than a quick deal with the UK. (It took him a while, though. Apparently Angela Merkel had to tell him 11 times that he couldn’t do a trade deal with Germany.)
However, the London-based media seem to have painted themselves into a world where Brexit is the new black, so having talked up Le Pen for ages, they’re now struggling with finding a way to explain Macron’s victory in the first round. It seems to be some sort of ‘Brexplaining’ that somehow tries to find ways to confirm that Brexit was the right move, even to the extent where they’d argue that black is white. As part of this, they need to argue that the EU is falling apart, which it isn’t.
The countries of the world seem increasingly to be heading in two different directions: Some are aiming for a centrist, open, liberal vision, and others are choosing illiberal authoritarianism. The former group includes most EU countries and Canada, while the latter includes Russia, Turkey and Theresa May’s UK. (I’m not entirely sure what’s happening in the US – Trump seems slowly to be shifting away from Bannon’s vision, and it’s not very clear what’s replacing it.) The SNP and the other pro-independence parties are clearly in the former camp, too, which is why EU membership is such an obvious move for an independent Scotland.
What really frustrates me at the moment is that too many members of the public are buying these Brexplanations. If people realised what Brexit really means, the Tories would be lucky to get 10% of the votes in June’s general election.
I must reluctantly accept that they think Theresa May is the best person for the job at hand. As the Guardian wrote:
Most voters conclude that strong leadership is needed more than ever. [In] focus groups conducted this week, after Theresa May’s shock announcement, […] one voter commented: “If it’s 27 against one, we need our strongest people at the table.” Another said: “I’ll be voting for strength, direction and whoever will represent the UK in the best light possible.” To those swing voters, May looks a lot like that leader.
The thing is that to people on the continent she doesn’t look strong, just xenophobic and mad, whereas they love Nicola Sturgeon (and to some extent Tim Farron, if they know him).
It reminds me of an interesting tweet about Donald Trump I saw a while ago:
— James F. Haning II (@jameshaning) March 4, 2017
In the same way, the Brexplainers are telling us that Theresa May is strong, organised and leading the country to a bright future, when she’s really weak, disorganised and leading us back to the 1950s (just with more unemployment).
It’s really important at the moment to supplement your diet of UK media with a selection of other sources. Google Translate is not perfect, but it’s good enough to allow you to understand most of a newspaper article, so do spend a bit of time glancing at for instance German, French, Spanish, Dutch, Polish and Finnish newspapers from time to time, in addition to Irish newspapers and other clued-up media in English, like EUobserver. They’ll tell you what’s really happening instead of feeding you bizarre Brexplanations.
What is happening at the moment is that the EU’s economy is starting to grow steadily again, and all EU countries agree that Brexit has to be seen to be a bad move, so that no other country gets tempted. There are two options for the UK – either it becomes a tax haven with low taxes and no welfare state, or Brexit gets reversed (or at least ends up with a soft, Norwegian-style solution). So long as the British public are buying the media’s Brexplanations, we’ll remain headed for a disaster, and Scotland needs to get out before it’s too late.