As nationalists gather on one side on the wall, it's time for those who believe in the EU to say so.
The European Union has been a victim of its own success for a while now. Its increasing reach over the decades has had a big impact on the lives of EU citizens, making them richer, more mobile and more interconnected.
However, undeniable successes, from Schengen to uncompromising standards on food and commercial goods, have provoked a backlash from those who have a rather different idea of European governance. The feeling that the EU’s top dogs, such as Jean-Claude Juncker and Guy Verhofstadt, want the ever-closer union to become a federal Europe has created millions of nationalists who wish to return to a Europe of competing nation-states.
There are many reasons for this, from immigration to sovereignty, but at the heart of the phenomenon lies a battle of ideas outlining a world either open or closed.
On one side of the wall, the nationalists seek to fortify their battlements, retreating from Brussels and putting up borders. They are often opposed to the unregulated free movement of people within EU borders and blame Europe’s politicians for failing to handle the migrant crisis.
On the other side, a Europe of young liberals, along with older generations who see the EU as the best guarantee of peace on the continent fight for its Union, see strength in openness and weakness in walls. Renew sits firmly on this side of the argument.
This is the defining conflict of our time. But at some point, these two diverse sets of people will need to come together and compromise on their visions for Europe. If they do not, the seeds of division will be sown deep into EU soil. It will be hard to uproot the thorns that grow from them.
The reconciliation may come through the strengthening of Europe’s external borders that keeps Schengen intact, appeasing those who fear (irrationally) an invasion by foreign peoples. Yet appeasement is not enough; the nationalists will need to see the EU as a positive success story rather than something that holds back their communities.
Renew has been clear that this must come by unequivocally backing the EU’s ability to tackle our biggest problems, which transcend national borders. Climate change, the AI revolution and the overbearing surveillance capitalists of Silicon Valley all threaten the future of democracy in the West.
None of these can be tackled alone by a Britain, a France or a Germany. They demand multilateral action and a common framework of regulation.
In the UK, Pro-European parties won the largest proportion of the vote in the EU elections. Now MEPs must take that mandate, for however long they can, and make a no-holds-barred case for the EU’s existence.
By James Dilley
Storm clouds are gathering over Peterborough. Who will win the mantle to reform politics in the UK?
You might think of Peterborough as an unlikely candidate for a political battleground. Nestled in the heart of Cambridgeshire, this relatively small city has found itself on the frontlines of the battle to revolutionise politics in the UK.
On one side of this new struggle, you have the Brexit Party and their ideological forebears, UKIP. But the latter is dying, pushed to the fringes of the far-right. Instead, Farage’s new vehicle has done an excellent job of corralling the support of disenchanted voters and currently polls around the 18% mark for a future general election. The Brexit Party also seems to be successfully colonising the ‘people from outside politics’ message - except their people believe we should leave the European Union and retreat behind wall and border.
On the other side, Renew, backed by Change UK, as well as other pro-European parties, are fighting for a vision of Peterborough and the United Kingdom that is quite different. They believe in a European society that is socially liberal, open to the world and welcoming to newcomers. They shun the fearmongering tropes of the populists, instead placing faith in hope, reason and science. They believe that Britain is better off at the heart of European decision-making and as a key part of its union.
So the two great storm clouds meet. Yet what is perhaps most interesting is the fact that both agree on one big issue: our political system is in need of a great change.
For example, the average Brexit Party voter in Peterborough is likely to want electoral reform. You can bet your savings that they would support a proportional system that allows for new voices to be heard in Parliament. And you can bet with confidence that the Renewer thinks the same.
Do not be mistaken; this is not naked self-interest from new parties unable to gain a foothold at the highest levels of politics. Both Brexiter and Renewer recognise that the unfairness of our elections increase voter apathy and damage our nation’s democratic credentials. They know it needs to change.
But that is where similarities end. It is what these new politicians do after gaining power that really matters - and the Brexit Party lot want to retreat from our closest allies and pull up the drawbridge.
So, Peterborough becomes a clash of open versus closed, friend versus foe.
If you are a voter reading this, you must then decide - which party do I back to reform politics? Do I run from Europe, or towards it? Do I embrace my neighbour, or view them with suspicion? Do I open my arms, or do I close them?
These two grand visions are now being played out all over the world. Time to choose wisely.
If your homework is bad, you can't just keep handing it in hoping for the best. But that's just what Theresa May is doing with her Brexit deal, says James Dilley.
When you write a bad essay in school, your teacher hands it back to you. The red ink scrawled all over it tells you just how poor an effort it was. Perhaps you will get a detention; you will probably have to write it again.
Imagine your teacher’s ire, then, when you hand the same essay in again the next day, only with a few words changed. “Demonstrates” becomes “shows”, “explains” becomes “elucidates”. But no matter how many synonyms you swap in and out, the content stays the same (rubbish).
You can imagine what happens next. The teacher shoots you down and you have no choice but to go back to the drawing board. It’s time for another blank sheet of A4 and a rethink.
That will be the situation facing Theresa May when she brings her Brexit bill before Parliament one last time on June 3rd. Despite the red marker pen staining the previous iterations of her bill, the student still hasn’t got the message. The teachers want a complete redo, but May can only hand in a botch-job.
Never mind Theresa’s protests that this bill is different from the last. Sure, there are a few moves to better protect workers’ rights after Brexit in a bid to appease Labour MPs, but the fundamentals of previous bills are still there - most importantly that Irish backstop which prevents so many MPs from backing the deal.
It has been clear for some time that the jig is very much up for May’s Brexit. In the words of Gandalf the Grey, it shall not pass.
The responsible thing to do now would be to hold a second referendum with remain on the ballot, since it has become clear that Brexit is an impossibility without accepting the disastrous no-deal route. Many millions around the country can see that - indeed, those millions could now constitute a majority.
If you are one of those people, then be sure to back Renew’s Change UK candidates on Thursday’s European elections. Brexit deserves an F, and we must mark it.