All of Europe has watched the UK’s General Election unfold and most people across YEM are now hugely sleep-deprived watching each constituency announce its results. There are mixed feelings abounding right now with some people already predicting a Euro-calypse for the UK in the next five years. Regardless of which party you support there are a couple of messages that all those campaigning for a better Europe must take away from this election.
1. Who is to say we’re screwed?
We all knew that the Conservatives wanted a 2017 referendum on EU membership, and it would be naive to think the referendum genie could be forced back into its bottle once uncorked. As YEM we should embrace the oncoming referendum and use it to rally the troops and make the case for the Europe we want. It’s not a sad thing the British people get a vote on the EU, it’s sad that the media and the political discourse has been so eurosceptic in the last few years.
2. The British electoral system is broken:
Of course this has been the case for a long time, and the push for an AV referendum was an attempt to move things in the right direction. However, the 2015 General Election has made even the regular Joe in the street understand things need to change. No longer do we have a two-and-a-half party system. The SNP have a virtual monopoly on Scotland and the popular vote of the Liberal Democrats and the Greens has little bearing on their seats as usual. This effect also extends to UKIP. While as pro-Europeans it would be expected that we would be happy at UKIP not doing well, it is in fact far more atrocious that all those people’s votes are now being ignored. There needs to be a push by all the parties (with a possible exception of the Conservatives who clearly benefit from First Past the Post), by key actors in civil society, and by the YEM to reform the UK so that it is more federal and has an electoral process of proportional representation. Every vote should count, regardless of who is voting.
3. Ding-dong Farage is dead – should we be celebrating?
Again, the instinct of pro-Europeans everywhere has been to rejoice at the retirement of Nigel Farage from UK politics. It’s true that without him, much of what makes UKIP a political force is probably going to evaporate. However, UKIP was a better tool than any to inspire those who support Europe to take up arms to defend it. Now there is not an obvious enemy against which to unite and the challenge of inspiring pro-Europeans to get more active could get even harder.
The European Parliament can rejoice however as there is now likely to be a collapse of some sort among the EFDD group which Farage co-chaired.
4. It’s an uncertain world – we need to prepare for it:
Things are different now with every party except for the Conservatives coming out of this election feeling weak. We cannot yet know what changes are going to take place within the Labour and Liberal Democrat parties. We don’t know what the single-party state of Scotland is going to do now with its significant power. We do not know what the Conservatives are going to do regarding our relationships with the EU and with the ECHR (different things!).
[bg_faq_end] What we do know is that pro-Europeans cannot breathe anything like a sigh of relief. The YEM must grow, and every member has a duty to do their bit to grow the organisation. No party is convincingly pro-European on the basis of the merits of the EU alone, and we are the only force in the UK able to occupy that space. With the support of our friends across JEF Europe, I am convinced the YEM will continue to grow in strength, and hopefully by the time a referendum campaign does begin in earnest, we will be there to fight it.
Young European Movement UK