Anas Hassan: Are we heading towards the end of the European Union?

CommonSpace columnist Anas Hassan examines whether the gradual erosion of liberal democracy worldwide and potential future developments in Europe could put the European Union out of existence

BREXIT, Donald Trump, the potential rise of France's Marine Le Pen: these are at least three reasons why the European Union could cease to exist within the next five years, let alone the next decade.

Some readers will be desperate to brand the author of this article as a champion of scaremongering, but others will pause and conclude that the EU's demise may yet be a realistic possibility. The political union has come under threat on quite a few occasions since the time around the signing of the Maastricht Treaty in the early 1990s.

But nothing is as terrifying now as the amplified chances of the EU collapsing like a fragile deck of cards. We have yet to properly see how relations between the EU and the USA will be shaped after 20 January next year. But let's be honest, it will never be the same again.

Supporters of the EU have a major fight on their hands if they do not want to see its demolition.

The chances of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) coming to fruition now is overwhelmingly remote. Many on the left of the political spectrum will cheer this development with glee. 

TTIP fostered unpopular sentiment across the European continent and there were fears within Scotland and the rest of the UK that its implications would mean the NHS becoming vulnerable to being cherry picked or even taken over by the private sector.

But this relief may suddenly be short lived as the continuation of economic and political union across the majority of Europe comes under greater threat. There are elections in countries like France, Germany and the Netherlands next year. Will any of those nations survive any Brexit style electoral uprisings? One would be a fool to write off the chances.

Supporters of the EU have a major fight on their hands if they do not want to see its demolition. They must realise that they are on the back foot and will have to re-evaluate the case for the continuation of the EU.

Because if that doesn't happen, then voters across the continent will deem the European political project as surplus to requirements.

They must realise that they are on the back foot and will have to re-evaluate the case for the continuation of the EU.

Scotland voted solidly in favour of the EU back in June, because the case made to the electorate in favour of staying was simple, solid and related to the daily expectations of people. 

Those who voted Brexit bemoaned the perceived lack of democracy within the EU, but failed to convince the Scottish electorate that people's lives would be better by withdrawing from it.

But there is a danger that some who campaigned to remain in the EU could indulge in the unpleasantness of self-righteousness. Just because there are those voters out there who opted to quit the EU, it doesn't make their say less valid.

It is absolutely dangerous and hypocritical to dismiss most of the reasons many people expressed when they said they'd enough of EU membership. Many people who backed Brexit felt that their own lives and living standards did not improve over recent years, nor did they feel that politicians were implementing policies that strived to improve their livelihoods.

But at a UK level, one of the most unfortunate things to come out of June's EU referendum was the scapegoating of immigrants and the hysterical exaggeration over the perceived rate of immigration. 

British politicians were poor at countering much of the unfounded fears over immigration and did very little, if anything, to deal with the concerns of people over their economic and social needs. 

The majority of people who came to the UK enhanced economic prospects and enriched society for the better, and they very much would still bring those advantages to the economy and society, but it is now uncertain how immigration will be dealt with in the future.

In general, mainstream politics only has itself to blame for sheer complacency. British politicians were poor at countering much of the unfounded fears over immigration and did very little, if anything, to deal with the concerns of people over their economic and social needs. 

It will take a lot of hard work and genuine insight into untangling this political mess that engulfs us all.

Have the majority of pro-EU politicians, who champion its benefits, initiated its own undoing?

Picture courtesy of MPD01605

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