by Pedro Madeira Froufe, Editor
We are a short time away from the European Parliament Election. We are also just over two months until the date of the formal implementation of Brexit. If all were going as desirable and planned, the United Kingdom would cease to be a member of the European Union at eleven o’clock of 29th March – if all were going as intended, as it was thought, after the no vote (to stay in the EU) in the referendum. But it is not! In fact, we don’t even know how the European elections will be disputed: with or without British candidates; how many MEPs to elect.
The political standoff in which the UK and the EU are immersed is the result of a classical democratic practise in its original context and dynamics. A national border-limited state, closed in itself and its people (its nationals), follows the idea that it holds a non-influenced sovereignty. Such un-limitedness would mean that nothing beyond its borders matter. Absolutely nothing could interfere with its presence as under this traditional and sovereign-ist political cosmovision nothing exists unless it is subject to the autonomous exercise of such sovereignty. However, the autonomous political decision of ‘disintegrating’ is, as many others, no longer a strictly encircled affair to be kept inside a territorial frame of political national frontiers. Today world’s dynamics is not national nor even inter-national. It is transnational, if not a-national. And rigorously speaking a decision made in an internal referendum never produces effects confined in such frontiers. The political decision made after the referendum is not a British decision and regards only British citizens – it is now clear in practical terms given the standoff we are all immersed in.
It influences the institutional functioning of the EU, the economy of most member states, the life of non-British citizens who live in the UK (besides the life of the British citizens who are abroad). It unbalances a collective position, i.e., the EU itself, in several geopolitical arenas; it has financial effects that may far-reach citizens of a distant state. In sum, it has network effects: network of countries, networks of market (or networked markets) or networks of citizens in numerous states, including political communities that have never set foot in the UK!
Yet, if one intends to sacredly respect the principles of national democratic functioning, pro-sovereign-ist; if one invokes principles of political accountability and good governance for instance; if one claims for the direct participation as a factor of liveliness of democratic instruments, if all that is considered, then there arises an insuperable contradiction. Not all affected by Brexit were able to vote (of course, had the result been the opposite, the same would apply). When looking at it, a supposedly national political decision with those features – either made in referendum or election – in accordance with the foundational principles of classic democracy is, after all, very little democratic.
Theresa May is stuck to the mandate of ‘this’ people of hers – as any prime-minister would have to be. Nonetheless, over and over in crises like this, it becomes clear the maladjustment of institutional and constitutional frameworks of our old nation-state concerning the reality in which we live.
Picture credits: To be or not to be… by duncan c.