Are We Really United in Diversity? http://openeurope.org.uk/
Is UK going to leave the European Union?

Written by Asher Simpson

1977, fifteen years before the official establishment of the European Union, Hedley Bull put forward a prediction that it was ‘by no means implausible’ to think, that at some point in the future a Glaswegian citizen for example might be equally represented by a Scot, an Englishman and an authority from Brussels and yet retain ‘no exclusive loyalty to any one of them’. Indeed, this idea of a subscription to citizenship beyond the national, yet retaining cultural identity is the centerpiece of the EU - “United in Diversity”.

Unity and diversity indeed, are of great benefit to a state in a modern globalizing world. The UK for example in 2014 had a GDP of between 2.67tr and 2.94tr depending on which source used, this gives it a rank of 5 or 6 globally, behind the United States, China, Japan, Germany and at times even France (in 2013). As a part of the EU however, the UK has much more than just ‘clout’ in Europe, to use a term so often employed by David Cameron. Instead, with between 16.45tr and 18.46tr GDP the UK as a part of Europe is the number one world economy by GDP, according to the World Bank and the CIA World Factbook, and number two according to the IMF. In a recent interview (23rd July) Barack Obama, drove home the point by urging the UK to remain in the EU saying “the UK’s EU membership ‘gives us much greater confidence about the strength of the transatlantic union’”[1]

From a European individual’s perspective, there is more freedom than ever before, to travel, to learn and to work abroad. This levelling of cultural differences provides greater access to a wider skill-set and more diverse job pool. In terms of trade a free market provides a right to use resources within the EU, thus reducing a need to rely on outside nations. This aids in the creation of a more robust economy at home and increasingly solidifies absolute power on a world stage.

In the current system of negative linguistic turns, the language chosen by the political parties, financial institutions and the media conveys a certain intent, it suggests an engineered rhetoric that serves to demonise foreign citizens and lesser member states. Bleakly there has been a propagation of negative language attached to foreign citizens by both political rhetoric and the media and an exponential increase in power of right-wing and anti-immigration governments in many European countries, France (FN), Hungary (Jobbik), Denmark (DPP), Austria (FPÖ) and in the UK (UKIP), just to name but a few.[2]

The causes for this rise in popularity are broad and complex; firstly, education plays a large part in determining people’s views when they grow up, both for and against trans-nationalism. Secondly, international events such as the Greek bailout and the political rhetoric that surround it affect people’s attitudes. Thirdly, history plays its own role in shaping the perception of people in the modern day.

Finally however, and this is what I want to highlight in this article, it is no surprise, that right-wing groups such as those mentioned previously have a large following, when tabloid newspapers continually use negative rhetoric to describe immigrants, as ‘illegal’ and arriving in a ‘flood’, ‘surge’ or ‘wave’[3] and conjure up statistics without proper attribution to sources or clarification of context[4]. A fellow One Europe writer, Robert Heslop addresses the issue in his recent article, which unashamedly debunks several popular Euro-sceptic myths:

“It has sadly become lost to many of the British people that every survey conducted by some of the best universities in the world time and time again show that EU 'migrants' or free movers as I prefer to call them contribute more to the economy than they take out in benefits.[2] The free movers that the UK attracts are among the best educated, most motivated and most open people this Union has to offer. Time and time again the Euro-sceptics do not recognise this basic fact that the UK benefits so much from the free movers, economically and just as importantly culturally. London is home to thousands of free movers who enrich the life of the capital. It is time that freedom of movement moves on from scare mongering about millions of eastern Europeans coming to this country and focuses on the great benefits we as a country and society receive.”[5]

With this type of rhetoric is instilled a tiered system of membership within the EU, with some countries at the top and others on the bottom. As Helmut Schmidt pointed out in 2013, huge youth unemployment in Greece and Spain, coupled with ‘enormous, outlandish’[6] debts pose dangers for the health of nations. When compared to its own robust German economy, which has an account surplus, you begin to see the real disparity in the power relationship. This distinction between greater than and less is a breeding ground for resentment and discontents on all sides; it feeds into historical and current prejudices and thus swells tension. Indeed, when the Other, which is cast or written, portrayed in certain light is seen as subaltern, sub-standard, less than the natural order of things, the natural reaction of the citizen is to solidify their national identity in contra-distinction to the undesirable. Thus a vicious cycle is started.

As Andrew Linklater recently put it[7] we have a choice: “The question is whether, over the decades and centuries to come, the growing interweaving of peoples’ lives will promote identification with humanity as a whole or generate new conflicts and tensions – or, as seems probable, some combination of the two” (The Globalization of World Politics). We have recently tasted what it is to have conflict and tension within a cosmopolitan transnational community, so how do we, as a modernizing, pro-opportunity and pro-strength community combat the demonizing rhetoric of right-wing media channels?

In the UK we need an outspoken and popular left wing news source to combat the right wing papers that promote biased opinions and which are perverting the minds of British people nationwide into believing a negatively mediated view of integration. This is done under the guise of producing what is popular to read and under the banner of freedom of speech. Indeed, websites such as One Europe do set out the model to achieve bipartisanship, stimulating debate and leading the counter-charge, and there are left-wing news sources such as socialistworker.co.uk but too often there isn’t the reach to challenge the mammoth readership of national newspapers, which span into the multi-millions.

Freedom of speech only works if there is a balance; if people have equal exposure to a diverse range of views then they can make a moderate and informed decision. The left is too often apologetic about its vision and achievements. Where it should be shouting just as loudly back at the racist or selfish approaches of others, it shies away. It accepts that everyone is entitled to an opinion.

But, why shouldn’t you condemn a point of view if it is fundamentally unfair, mean spirited and backwards? This myth of writing ‘what people want to read’ must end. After all, isn’t challenging disenfranchising, segregating and unfair discourses what liberal politics is all about? Every debunked opinion was once part of the mainstream; resistance politics is about being brave and not subscribing to the norm.


[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-33647154

[2] http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/nov/18/europe-angry-nationalist-eu-elections

[3] http://www.migrationobservatory.ox.ac.uk/reports/migration-news

[4] https://www.article19.org/data/files/pdfs/publications/refugees-what-s-the-story-case-study-.pdf

[5] http://one-europe.info/brexit-debunking-the-myths

[6] http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/dec/22/helmut-schmidt-europe-crisis-interview

[7] The Globalization of World Politics, Baylis et al.