Sunday, 28 February 2016

The EU referendum debate reveals a more sinister democratic deficit

Brexit campaigners have a point, the EU referendum debate reveals a democratic deficit - our collective ignorance and illiteracy.

On the 23rd June the nation will be asked to vote on an issue whose outcomes reach further than any general election while masses of voters are struggling to comprehend the issue. Our establishment resembles a totalitarian state in matters of public information. So much for a progressive enlightened western democracy? Also the same vested interests have prevented 16/17 year olds voting despite the enormity of the decision. Wouldn't want too many people getting involved in democracy would we?

We don't need conspiracy theories when at every turn we are kept ignorant of our governing system and it is no accident or oversight. Our political illiteracy is not confined to the wilfully ignorant or the uneducated. One can simply ask intelligent, knowledgeable people about the core EU institutions, what are they? how are they elected? how do they affect our lives? what is the troika?

Beyond the simplistic soundbites of our anti-intellectual debate, the European Parliament legislates on a number of issues like regulating banks and setting a bonus cap. It can maintain online privacy and uphold human rights, but it could also mean permanently privatised railways, austerity and the spectre of the profit-over-people TTIP trade deal. And so the EU economic war on the vulnerable continues as the gap widens between rich and poor.

The Brexiters offer nothing against neoliberal global institutions which wield more combined power than their continental nemesis. The undemocratic governance of the EU is replicated internationally. Anyone remember having a say in the G20? The G7? Or deciding the IMF board? Meanwhile the World Trade Organisation (WTO) oversees secretive trade talks of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal involving the collective economic might of East Asia, Australia and the US. This pact is very similar to aforementioned TTIP in that it favours big business over citizens. Brexits want Commonwealth trade to replace EU trade, yet fail to challenge the anti-consumer TTIP terms. With the lack of profile given to this massive issue why should the public feel confident them as an alternative?

global governance

The simple framing of Remain or Brexit excludes a third possibility of a democratic EU with bottom-up sustainable economics, fairer competition, absolutely no TTIP and strengthened worker rights. This referendum issue is a complicated mix of national, regional and global debates. But you can't study their underlying neoliberal orthodoxy on any national curriculum, or understand it by watching the news. That is perhaps the greatest democratic threat of all.

ignorance is a choice

Instead we are distracted by the opium of personalities like Boris & Farage because the mainstream media gets revenue from the sensational over facts & insights. The day they and Brexiters highlight the importance of information about power structures is the day I'll believe they want ordinary citizens to reclaim democracy.

EU deal graph

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