Neoliberalism infects the EU debate

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As a libertarian anarchist, I will most likely vote to leave the EU on June 23rd. The EU, with its supranational corporatism and affirmation of legislation writ-large, goes against my fundamental principles, that of popular litigiousness expressed through common law and a belief in freed markets and radical decentralism. However, none of these principles are captured in the prevailing debates and discourses that currently surround the question of whether the UK should leave the European Union.

Instead, both the Leave and Remain campaigns are infected with neoliberal ideology, and both argue for some version of the economic status quo. The Remain campaign talks of the success of the UK economy, with extremely high levels of private debt and a developing housing bubble just waiting to burst, and how such success would be jeopardised if we were to exit the EU. Equally, the Leave campaign talks of similar economic successes but instead makes them out to be a sign of British economic strength that would last if the UK were to leave the EU. Thus both campaigns believe in the economic track the UK is on. The continuation of highly indebted individuals and businesses, and of highly leveraged banks who are not loaning capital. There is no radicalism in this debate, and little in the way of anti-establishment sentiments. Under this regime, if the UK were to leave things would be broadly the same, with Boris Johnson as the potential Prime Minister (a frankly frightening thought).

Further, the kind of individuals and groups that are backing both campaigns represent the crème de la crème of corporate capitalism. On the Remain side, you have the Confederation of British Industry, the definition of corporate vested interests. If there are onerous regulations (such as the minimum wage, restrictive health and safety codes, workplace ‘liberalisation’, etc.) you can guarantee this group fawns over it and pays good money to see it implemented. However, the Leave camp has an assorted list of hedge fund managers and multinationals backing it as well. The kinds of policies Leave campaigners are pushing include things like continued farm subsidies (which subsidise large, inefficient farming and land ownership), R&D investment (which is usually funnelled into corporate research and IP monopolies) and the development of a TTIP-like “free trade” agreement with America and assorted other countries.

The referendum debate has been moulded round these status quo policies. Unfortunately, many voters will go to the polls not with an ideological clarity of what they want to see in their communities and nation, but rather with the muddled lies of these campaigns which hold very similar opinions on most of the major issues. If we were to leave the EU on the current terms, government legislation (much of it being in line with European law) would dominate over common law. The regulatory harmonies that exist between the UK and the EU would not be removed, thus maintaining the entry barriers to a whole range of new firms and ownership regimes.

On June 23rd, I will be voting to leave, because I hope that if we were to exit the EU it could potentially kickstart a whole raft of decentralist ideas, moving toward community empowerment, voluntary taxation and freed markets. This is already being expressed in the Flexcit campaign. However, this debate over the EU is farcical, and proves that power is vested in the elites of both the UK and the EU. Neoliberal establishments won’t be brought down by one vote, as this referendum blatantly shows.

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