UKIP’s threat to peaceful international relations
I’m sure far too much has already been written regarding UKIP and their potential allies’ successes in the European Parliamentary Elections. A lot of it seems to focus on either economics or race relations, but perhaps less on what it means for the countries of Europe as a whole.
The fact that the European Union has been either in development or an actual reality for most of the mere 70 years since World War 2 ended is not a coincidence. Those 70 years have been unusually stable for Europe in modern times. Aside from the Balkan Wars and the Irish and Basque campaigns, the continent has been unusually quiet. None of the big players in European geopolitics has used its military against any of the others. Its something for which we should be thankful.
The EU also has another effect. It brings together around 350million people – similar to the United States and around a third to a quarter of the population of either India or China. Its a sizeable and meaningful population block with which to work. This gives the EU a level of clout that it’s member nations wouldn’t otherwise have, not just economically but also politically.
For all UKIP has presented itself as anti-establishment and ‘of the people’, its entirely in keeping with the Thatcher/Reagan ‘Atlanticist’ thinking. On the one hand, this makes it rabidly neo-liberal – policies to strip workers of their rights and minimise taxation and regulation of business are at the core of what UKIP stands for even if the media covers them over. The party manages to extend this by pursuing policies such as legalising handguns – basic National Rifle Association policy to be adhered to by all Republicans.
That Atlantic-looking mind-set appears to stretch itself into a very backward way of thinking, based on 20th Century assumptions about our most natural allies and enemies. Its also unsurprising that a party pushing for a smaller state with less powers over big business is looking to increase the scale of the military – to the tune of 3 aircraft carriers. One assumes we can add to this the supporting ships, aircraft and relevant munitions – the sort of increase that only makes sense if you have war on your mind.
Its easy to see the European Union as a project designed to help capitalists bypass national governments. But that ignores the immense stabilising effect that the EU has had on European politics. If we left the union, we wouldn’t be leaving European politics – we’d be moving to a more hostile position towards our neighbours. We would be even more at the mercy of America for our sense of security – its hard to see how this would make the world a more peaceful place.
In fact, America would gain from a divided Europe. It would be able to play us off against each other, leaving it to focus on China, Russia and, to a lesser but growing extent, India. Whilst trade deals would have to be made with each country separately, the power imbalance between US and European negotiators would be crippling to the European side, in much the way African and Latin American countries have found for decades.
The European Union does a lot that we don’t hear about because its not convenient to those who try to angle the debate towards just a very few issues. Its interesting, for instance, how little we’ve heard about agricultural subsidies and fishing quotas recently. But the impact of the EU on our lives has been far deeper, and very easy to take for granted. The EU is far from perfect – it needs a lot of work on it internal structures and some long, hard questions about the value of future expansion. But its stabilising effect on International Relations is something we should celebrate and cling on to.
UKIP are a threat to all of that – whether intentionally or as a by-product of their other policies, they threaten to make Europe, and thus the World, a more dangerous place. if we consider peaceful international relations to be important, their success needs to be a shot in the arm to argue for the importance of good International Relations before we find ourselves needing those three new carrier groups they’re proposing.