Time for All to Leave the EU?

The European Union elections begin today. The complaint often heard about the gulf between the people and the ruling elite is not new and is not the central problem with the European Union. The British and European “remainers,” on the other hand, are making a fuss in favor of the status quo at a time when the EU is at its worst. The dispute is not between “Europeanism” and nationalism. The EU betrayed its founding principles and purpose long ago when it allowed itself to be co-opted by globalists.

I have no nostalgia for the nation state. However, nations—like regions, universities, cities, and towns—will always need some proportionate, substantial degree of self-government. Similarly, regional and national cultures must never be flattened. National economies must enjoy some reasonable protection when necessary.

The central problem with the EU today is its globalist-inspired hostility toward self-government. This hostility was not shared by the original founders of European integration. Konrad Adenauer, Alcide De Gasperi, and French foreign minister Robert Schuman—all Catholics—did not initiate European integration so that one day WTO rules could be implemented. This was not the raison d’être of Europe as they envisioned it. Originally proposed by Schuman in 1950, the European Coal and Steel Community (ECSC) was intended to achieve a stable peace and to begin building a new kind of polity for Europe. It became a model for later European integration efforts but, along the way, the process was corrupted.

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Globalization and EU integration are compatible only up to a point. To explain this, let us imagine a typical federation. If the central government grows too centralized and bureaucratic, member states will be hollowed out or degraded. This has now happened in the EU and globalization is accelerating this process. The founders of modern Europe did not intend to submerge the continent into an ever-growing scheme of global commerce, global rights, global regulation of migration, and global governance. Consider the final stage of this globalization process: if the entire planet becomes an EU writ large, the EU would become not much more than a large administrative unit. The founding architects of European integration would never have sought independence from the U.S. only to become more dependent on China.

As time passes, the EU performs no unique, irreplaceable task in the world. Concerning culture and values, it is hardly different from the liberal elites in the United States or Canada. It tends to impose political correctness on all member states. It carries out no major defense or foreign policy, and the Middle East and North Africa (not to mention Ukraine) know it. By contrast, Russia provides order and stability to its Middle Eastern clients, and China offers the Belt and Road project and subsidies to many countries on several continents.

Under EU rule, Europe’s historical and cultural legacy risks becoming archaeology. Distinctively European university models fade away—and the EU cares little. Something similar could be said of other critical European traits such as Christianity or the medieval and Enlightenment cultural achievements. I wonder what Schuman—a humanist and connoisseur of European history, a man who read Aquinas’s Summa Theologiae in the original Latin in his leisure—would think of this.

We all know that some dramatic challenges are looming that could turn our world into an inhuman place. Artificial intelligence and transhumanism will impact man and society in profoundly disruptive ways. A massive assault on personal, mostly European-born, liberties such as free speech is taking place. According to French writer Eric Sadin, the world is increasingly being controlled or “silicolonized” by Silicon Valley using the data that we generate, and the EU has failed to offer a humanistic, enlightened, and specifically European response. For the first time in thousands of years, European education is giving up two key foundations: personal improvement—gnothi seauton, meden agan, as the Greeks had itand classical knowledge. Educators seem to think competitiveness and gender ideology are more important.

Every time the EU enters into a trade agreement with some remote producer of cheaper wine or peppers, this is to the detriment of our local European producers, who must contend with higher labor and regulatory costs. Once the deal becomes EU law, our national governments are required to enforce the new trade agreement which is disadvantageous to domestic wine producers or pepper farmers. It is similar to a democratic inversion: we elect our rulers, but once in office, they represent the EU before us rather than us before the EU.

The EU has committed financial suicide by promoting policies that, after ruining our industries and causing pandemic unemployment, threaten to turn us into an economic basket case. Globalization undermines the original advantages of being a member of the European Union because the loyalties of the bureaucrats in Brussels are global and not local.

As a Spaniard, I have watched this globalizing process take place in my own country with increasing dismay. In the last decade, Spanish governments zealously enforced the provisions of the Bologna Plan that sought to impose uniform education standards across Europe. In the process, local academic traditions and customs were extinguished. In the 1980s, as they prepared to join the European Economic Community (EEC), Spanish governments enforced de-industrialization policies. From then until today, they have worked indirectly against Spanish workers and small industries. The same policies were implemented when Alexis Tsipras became Prime Minister of Greece in 2015.

Unless EU interventionism is curtailed, member states will increasingly decide to leave. Such acts of defiance could save the nation state and also save Europe from the globalizers.

Editor’s note: Pictured above, Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, Member of the European Parliament, speaks at a press conference regarding the party’s European Parliament election campaign in London on May 7, 2019.  (Photo credit: TOLGA AKMEN/AFP/Getty Images)


  • Antonio Carlos Pereira-Menaut

    Antonio Carlos Pereira-Menaut is Professor of EU Constitutional Law at the University of Santiago de Compostela, Galicia, in Spain. He is the author of several books including (with Celso Cancela-Outeda) Resetting the European Union Constitutional Engine (2012) and Teoría Política [Political Theory] (2015).

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