Since David Cameron announced a referendum on whether Britain stays in the European Union, the debate surrounding Britain's role in Europe has triggered a flurry of conjecture regarding the likely outcome of the referendum and the consequences of a vote to leave the EU.
Gordon Brown is the latest to come out in support of the campaign to stay in the EU, claiming it is "not British to retreat to Europe's sidelines" and arguing that Britain needed to be in the EU to shape the continent's responses to terrorism, immigration and climate change. The Economist published a story this week outlining security concerns and questioning whether Britain is safer in the European Union, or outside of it.
Whilst the narrative of opposition to the EU is largely dominated by the right, we've put together an essential reading list of books that critically engage with the debate from a perspective of internationalism rather than the xenophobia that is so common amongst EU critics. Additional books on the list analyse the refugee crisis, the Syrian civil war, the Greek debt crisis, and the nature of the contemporary British far right.
Also new on the Verso blog is an exclusive extract from John Gillingham's The EU: An Obituary, in which he comments on Brexit, the EU’s democratic failures and offers cogent predictions of the European Union’s decline.
(image from The Economist)
This essay first appeared in Public Seminar.
(via Friedemann W.-W. on Flickr)
The process of European unification is undergoing a deep crisis, certainly the deepest since it started at the beginning of the 1950s. In less than a year, the EU faced two major tests — first the Greek quarrel, then the refugee crisis — that revealed its true face: a mixture of impotence, unwillingness, egoism, arrogance and cynicism. It is not a pretty spectacle. No illusions can remain about this entity that, far from embodying the federal ideal, has become an empty shell, an object of shame and deserved sarcasm. Those who still ritually proclaim its virtues are the representatives of a highly discredited political elite who seem to no longer have any culture or values. The more they assert their belief in the EU, the more they disqualify it, even in the eyes of the millions of people who have never felt any sympathy for conservatism, nationalism and xenophobia.
In the wake of the terrorist attacks in Brussels Antonis Vradis warns that such actions are being used to facilitate the securitisation and growing authoritarianism of the EU 'supra-state'.
There’s no doubt, a lipogram is an acrobatic literary exercise — that is, depending on the letter that’s sacrificed. For precisely the skill that a lipogram requires is to write a text without using a certain letter even once. It took all Georges Perec’s talents to confront the the mother of all lipogram challenges in the French language — to write without using the letter ‘e’. His three-hundred-page book La Disparition [“The Disappearance”, published in English as A Void] — naturally — did not feature a single ‘e’. (For reader who wants to get a measure of his achievement, just try and form a single sentence that meets this criterion). Faithful to the Oulipo tradition [of which Perec was part] we could generalise the exercise, and pose the challenge of composing a sentence that is not allowed to use certain words or groups of words (a lipolexy? A liporem? A liposyntagma?). For example, let’s ask [TV presenter/journalist] Yves Calvi to write a sentence without “reform,” or [Libération editor] Laurent Joffrin to write one without “modern,” or [L’Express editor] Christophe Barbier to write one without “software” (“the Left has to change its software”… we will note in passing this index of the mediaocracy’s relentless desire for the Left to become the Right — after all, no one ever enjoins the Right to “change its software”). The great silence that would then fall over the public arena would finally give us the measure of Perec’s exceptional talent. “Alter-Europeanist” language also faces its own lipolexical challenges. Try forbidding it from saying “retreating into the national box,” and its own wheels will soon come off.