At a time when it seems to be nearly impossible to get away from America’s upcoming presidential elections and the presumptive candidates on either side of the isle, nearly all British and many Europeans have another important thing on their mind: the Brexit referendum.
Two days before the British people are headed to the polls to vote on the Brexit referendum on Thursday June 23, Dutch correspondent Joris Luyendijk has published an op-ed in NRC Handelsblad (6/21/2016) that quickly made it to the Reddit site in a (sorry, rather bad) English translation and really got the negative comments of Brits on both sides of the Brexit chasm flowing.
Luyendijk, who has been living in London for the past five years and has worked as an editor for the British newspaper The Guardian for two years, has seen enough of the Brexit debate – which toned down a bit for only two days after the murder of Labour MP Jo Cox and now has resumed in all its harshness – to propose that perhaps it’s not such a bad idea if Europe took her leave of the UK.
“Enough is enough. In normal times the British sabotage was tolerable. But these are not normal times, Joris Luyendijk ascertains. So let's go our different ways – as friends”
In the years he’s lived in England, Luyendijk has come across much ‘Euroscepsis’ in “A mix of unsuspecting indifference and self-imposed ignorance. Featuring the views of a large part of the mainstream British towards the EU and Europe.” He thinks that’s innocent enough but found it increasingly worrying to listen to a colleague at The Guardian “who recently compared the EU with the Soviet Union, ‘but without the gulag,’ a journalist dead-seriously saying: "Well, ultimately the EU is nothing more than an attempt by Germany to still win the Second World War," or hear politicians like Boris Johnson who “claimed no essential difference between Hitler's plans for Europe and of the EU.”
Luyendijk thinks that the referendum is very useful in this respect: it shows how deep the Europhobia is rooted. Many in the ‘out’ camp media use this absurd and false caricature of Europe to feel superior and dream about making Great Britain great again, blaming the EU for it no longer being a world power. The ‘in’ camp treats staying in the European Union as a favor for which the EU has to make concessions.
For a large part of the English media and politics ‘Europe’ is a dirty word. Yet Luyendijk has misgivings about the Brits choosing to leave the EU in the end. Leaving could mean that the Scots, who are likely to vote to stay, will want to leave the UK to remain in the EU. Northern Ireland is of two minds about this too, as it could rekindle the ‘troubles’. So chances are that a slight majority will vote to stay in and according to Jean Quatremer that could mean: "If the UK decides to stay then they will make the lives of the populations in the other 27 countries worse than ever before."
Is Luytendijk such a EU enthusiast then that he doesn’t want the UK to stay? Far from it; he’s a ‘Eurosceptic’ in his own right: “The EU is not in a crisis. The EU is about to collapse. Schengen is not working. The euro does not work. And the EU is simply not democratic in its current form.” But he also firmly believes that the EU is in desperate need of reforms and all member states should do their level best to bring that about successfully. Luytendijk just doesn’t believe the UK is going to do that. He’s convinced it will keep pushing for concession after concession, for having it 'their' way, not open, or rational and on the basis of a realistic self-image. What is needed are countries where public opinions are not held hostage by Europhobic billionaires, notably by mediate magnate Rupert Murdoch who has been quoted saying: "If I go to Downing Street, they do what I say. If I go to Brussels, everyone ignores me." So much for ‘sovereignty’.
Joris Luyendijk believes Europe should be the wisest of the two and stop its wishful thinking that the British are going to want to fit in some day. What is needed is an amicable divorce, it would be beneficial to all.
Before finishing this article, I watched our national news which of course had an item on tomorrow’s Brexit referendum. ‘Outer’ Boris Johnson was trying to convince undecided voters with something along the lines of: “We need to take back control…otherwise we’ll end up in the trunk of the car…not knowing where we are going to, but probably ending up somewhere we don’t want to go.” To that he gleefully added: “ and the car will be driven by a chauffeur who doesn’t speak the best of English.” Hmmm, perhaps Luytendijk has a point.