The Great British tragedy

Ole Christensen MEP

As a social democrat it is my clear belief that creating a better world requires cooperation. Only by fighting together against the harsh consequences of raw capitalism did our ancestors manage to gain workers’ rights. And only by standing united did women suffragettes all over Europe manage to gain the right to vote. There are numerous other such examples in history proving that progress only happened because brave people worked tirelessly and courageously together.

That is the main reason why I regret that Britain will soon be leaving the European Union. The building blocks of the EU were laid out on a ruin. Europe had just been through two devastating world wars and millions of people had suffered the consequences, be that Danes, Brits or other Europeans. Looking at these senseless incidents, European leaders made a bold decision and started to cooperate. In this way, the idea of the European Union was born.

I know that this is common knowledge to most of you and that this milestone took place almost 70 years ago. However, the lesson learned should never be forgotten.

Unfortunately, it seems that this is exactly what has happened. As years have passed by the European Union has grown both in geographical size and in competences. Apart from ensuring peace European cooperation has created growth and has eased the lives of millions of people that move across borders every year.

Nevertheless, this expansion has not taken place without both frustration and conflicts. When 28 countries cooperate hard compromises have to be found, and these compromises might not always suit the national election body of each country perfectly.

The European Union, therefore, has become an easy scapegoat for politicians in the member states. Creating hostility towards the EU amongst the people is an easy task. In this sense, the EU has been blamed for almost all misery that has come across Europe for the past years, from the financial crisis to the migration crisis. Yet, none of these events have been caused by the EU.

We saw this shaming and blaming mechanism during the election campaigns leading up to both the Danish and the British referendums in 2015 and 2016 respectively. The leave campaigners appeared to be speaking the words of the people by picturing the EU as a money machine that lacked all sensibility. Yet nothing could be more wrong!

As a Danish social democrat and a pro-European I regret the misery that this has caused at many levels. Personally, I will soon have to say goodbye to good Labour colleagues that have worked tirelessly to ensure a better future for young Britons and Europeans.

From a national perspective Denmark will lose a close ally in both cultural and economic matters.

And at the European level I feel a sense of bitterness. The Tories of the UK have been a key factor in moving the European Union in a neoliberal direction, ignoring those social aspects that I and many others, including our British labour colleagues, wanted. And in what way did they thank us? By risking Britain’s future in the EU in a referendum that was doomed to fail. This is almost unbearable.

But these are only small seeds in the big field of misery that I fear that working-class Britons will experience. Leaving a community that has brought peace and prosperity will in no way benefit the people. On the contrary, I fear working Britons might experience a devastating race to the bottom where the welfare system will be hollowed out even further in order to pay the economic burdens that Brexit will cause.

I do of course hope that my fears are over exaggerated and that I am wrong. Only the future can tell. Nonetheless, we as socialist, cooperating politicians in all European countries have an immense task in understanding why Brexit happened, and what we can do promote the idea of cooperation. We owe this to future generations.

Thus, now is the time to find a way of getting out of the crisis of populism and nationalism. One lesson to learn for all of Europe’s socialists and social democrats is that we need to be in sync with the people. We as socialists represent the best that society has to offer. We have solutions at hand for working people making that extra effort to do their job well and provide for their families every day. Together we have created better nations and a better Europe before, and we can do that again.

I, for my part, will do anything possible to prevent another great tragedy.

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