“Leave” as “a vote against global governance”

By Lambros George Kaoullas (Staff Writer)

The impact and influence of mainstream media in shaping public opinion has been dwindling. More and more people receive their news from the internet, especially social media, which has in turn facilitated the dissemination of alternative viewpoints, ranging from the mildly impolitically correct to outright conspiratorial.

Most politicians, journalists, and academics alike usually bypass these channels of information and do not factor into their analyses how they have been powerfully shaping the undercurrents of public opinion for at least a decade. This starts to reluctantly change. A tangible example of their burgeoning influence is the fact that meetings of the secretive Bilderberg Group are now widely reported by mainstream press. In the past, the only way to learn about this group was to consult conspiracy theory periodicals.

A common theme which is highlighted in many such alternative narratives, usually stemming from nationalist and conservative vantage points, on one hand, and some strands of the left, on the other, is the perceived political consensus of Western elites towards globalisation. They are worried of a cosmopolitan, über-class usurping power and governing without democratic accountability. So for them, the support lent to “Leave” by Cameron, Blair, Obama, Merkel, Soros, JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Shell and BP, had exactly the opposite effect. The more the supporters of supranational and global governance models talked about “Remain”, the more those who ideologically disagree with these projects were convinced against it.

This is, in my opinion, the elephant in the Brexit room. For many people, a “Leave” vote was not simply about British funding of the EU and legal/illegal immigration. These were simply seen as the aftereffects of supranational governance. It might not even have been about Britain per se. A “Leave” vote was understood as a decisive blow to globalisation itself.

I am not claiming that everyone who voted “Leave” did so on this basis. Far from it. Xenophobia and racism surely played their part, but to crudely generalise sounds as simplistic and absurd as claiming that all “Remain” supporters are radical anarchists at heart. Such a totalising approach ignores the feeling of disenfranchisement by large segments of the British working and lower middle-classes. Besides, it is not entirely true as many members of ethnic minorities also supported Brexit, often as passionately as whites.

What I point out is that the ideas of national sovereignty and all that it comes with it, good or bad, benevolent or nefarious, not only have not waned, but on the contrary they are gaining fresh traction. Studying calmly and objectively the political agendas of rising Eurosceptic parties proves exactly that. For many, the way EU has treated its weaker member-states is alarming. And considering its obvious democratic deficit on the executive level, the prospect of a European mega-state with one currency, one army, and one judiciary is a dark conspiracy theory come true.

There is no frankest admission of the above than the statements of Donald Tusk, President of the European Commission, in May 2016: “It is us who today are responsible for confronting reality with all kinds of utopias. A utopia of Europe without nation-states, a utopia of Europe without conflicting interests and ambitions, a utopia of Europe imposing its own values on the external world… Obsessed with the idea of instant and total integration, we failed to notice that ordinary people, the citizens of Europe do not share our Euro-enthusiasm… The spectre of a break-up is haunting Europe…”