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Pete Lawrence - 11 Sep 2017
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"The economic and social policy agenda we presented in March, DiEM25’s European New Deal, offers a tangible, realistic but also far-sighted manifesto for every European country, independently of whether it uses the euro or not."

Yanis Varoufakis: a progressive Brexit transition can be built – on both sides of the Channel

In an article for The Conversation, Yianis Varoufakis looks at the progressive response, on both sides of the Channel, to what he describes as a "disaster-in-the-making"

He warns that Europe is setting a trap for the UK and May's government and that while the EU is exploiting Brexit to practise "its authoritarian incompetence" - for example, demanding that London negotiates with bureaucrats lacking a genuine mandate to hammer out issues like a free trade agreement - "Brexit is also being used by the British government to push the country on a long slide toward May’s own brand of authoritarian incompetence. None of this augurs well for the people of Britain or, indeed, for Europeans at large"

"Insurgencies often end up betraying the ideals that motivated them. Brexit seems no different. In no time, it has shed its intellectually most powerful motive: the full restoration of sovereignty to the House of Commons."

May has chosen to :

  • Interpret the referendum’s binary choice – without consulting parliament – as a vote for a hard Brexit.
  • In triggering Article 50 without seeking the transition period necessary to give parliament at least one full term to deliberate over the long-term links with the EU, May essentially denied parliamentarians any say even on the form of hard Brexit that will follow
  • The third blow: the so-called great repeal bill, which caused even pro-Brexit MPs to erupt in anger during its first airing in the House of Commons, proposes to vest the government with inordinate power to amend EU laws as they are converted into UK laws, without even consulting the house.

In terms of the response he and his organisation DiEM25 advised Labour pre-EU election to adopt what he describes as the 'radical remain line' of "In the EU, against the EU" which they largely did ("Caroline Lucas, John McDonnell and I will show that leaving the EU would only benefit Britain’s oligarchs")  

He says "The Labour party did adopt this position, albeit half-heartedly, but in the end the people of Britain decided to vote Leave. As democrats we must respect that verdict. But as progressives, we have a duty to confront the minority Tory government’s dalliance with a catastrophic Brexit."

Following the referendum, DiEM25 under Varoufakis was the first Remain-supporting movement to respond with a positive proposal.

Refusing :

  • to be downhearted,
  • to vilify those who voted Leave,
  • or to call for a second referendum (or parliamentary vote) by which to annul the will of the majority,

Instead they proposed that Article 50 be triggered while, at the same time, London filed for a five-year Norway-style arrangement to come into force after the initial two year period lapses. 

"May felt her political room for manoeuvre was limited of course, but had she adopted that option, then freedom of movement, the customs’ union, the European courts’ jurisdiction, Britain’s contributions to the EU budget and so on, would have remained unchanged until 2024. The EU bureaucracy would not have been empowered to carry out the hatchet job it is currently mandated to do, and the House of Commons would have had the opportunity to debate properly, and in peace, both the future UK-EU relationship and a British constitution is desperate need of revision." 

"Crucially, it would also have meant that the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, could have relaxed – with the happy news that the Brexit hot potato was thrown into the lap of her successor."

Varoufakis notes that "In recent weeks, I have noticed with pleasure that Corbyn’s Labour party, alongside some key Tory MPs, have adopted the same proposal. Now that this is becoming mainstream, it is crucial that we take it further by specifying in greater detail what that transition period should aim at and what follows afterwards."

As for the transition period, he notes that the conservative view is for "a virtually unchanged UK to find an accommodation with a virtually unchanged EU. However, this would be a betrayal of all those people in Britain who cast their vote for Corbyn’s vision of a radically transformed UK."

"It would also be seen as a lost opportunity by those of us in continental Europe who do not believe that this EU can or should stay as is. In this sense, progressives must work toward a transitional period during which the aim is the progressive transformation of both the UK and the EU."

In terms of what a progressive transformation would be like Varoufakis suggests starting from the position that Labour adopted for this year's June UK election.

As for the progressive transformation of continental Europe, he suggests that "the economic and social policy agenda we presented in March, DiEM25’s European New Deal, offers a tangible, realistic but also far-sighted manifesto for every European country, independently of whether it uses the euro or not."

"The adversarial tone of Brexit talks thus far is of little use to anyone. Instead of arm-wrestling to secure the competitiveness of one European country against another, a transition period would allow Europe, including the UK, to focus on boosting productivity in green sectors across the continent, and sharing in the benefits that flow from that."

The present trends point to a dreadful outcome: a clueless Tory government and a degenerate EU bureaucracy locked in a pointless conflict. But progressives should never respect present trends.

"We must dare to dream of a Corbyn-led government in the UK, and of progressive, DiEM25-linked parties scoring similar successes in a swathe of EU countries by the 2019 European Parliament elections. That could clear the path towards a second UK referendum in or around 2025 when a transformed Britain enters a European Democratic Union. Dare to dream: and then work damned hard towards realising that dream."

 

2 Comments

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Ruth Wallsgrove

Pete, interested in who DiEM25 is - have you been following what they are doing? The Conversation also looks interesting, many thanks for alerting us to them x

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Pete Lawrence

Yes, I was aware of them last year @Ruth Wallsgrove - have a look at the website https://diem25.org

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