Brexit is especially worrying in a time where democracy worldwide is in retreat

Op-ed by Xabier Macías, President, and Ignasi Centelles, Coordinator, of the Coppieters Foundation

News / 18.4.19

Op-ed by Xabier Macías, President, and Ignasi Centelles, Coordinator, of the Coppieters Foundation.

Initially published on 7 April 2019 by The Sunday National.

More than two years after the Brexit vote, the outcome of the negotiations is still unclear. Next week, the European Council will need to consider an extension of the no-deal Brexit deadline of April 12. The decision will possibly depend on having a credible withdrawal agreement plan on the table and might include a second vote or snap elections in the whole of the UK.

As seems plausible, if Brexit is delayed after May 23, the UK will then take part in European elections. This will certainly broaden the scope of the talks and the potential outcome.

This will have consequences beyond Scotland, Wales or the UK, since it in the past two years, many have used the Brexit vote to delegitimise referenda and weaken legitimacy of our systems of governance.

This is specially worrying in a time where democracy worldwide is in retreat and political rights and civil liberties are threatened and undermined like never before in the 21st century.

We celebrate democracy and giving people the choice on strategic decisions for the future of their nations. Referenda do not divide societies, referenda help to manage divergent opinions, they constitute an essential democratic tool for decision making.

However, in the case of the Brexit vote, we are critical of the current interpretation of the result because it disregards the opinion of the different nations within the UK. With largely more than 50% for remain, both Scotland and Northern Ireland expressed clearly their democratic will to remain in the EU. Their voice should be heard and respected.

Hence, in case of a Brexit, the EU should be open to solutions that facilitate partnership with those nations that aspire to remain connected to the European project. The EU should seriously consider welcoming an independent Scotland at the table, if that is Scotland’s will.

Denying sovereignty to the peoples of Europe, and neglecting the will of Europe’s nations, only helps to advance the unsettlingly dangerous opportunistic agenda of political parties like the UKIP.

They have pioneered a new wave of parties and forces that use the many crises that Europe struggles to resolve to their advantage. Much to our regret, they have successfully managed to mainstream populism, switch media attention towards them and shaped political debates of the last years.

On top of that, the EU’s appalling response to the refugee crises, the sustained inequalities between richest and less developed regions in Europe with strong north-south and east-west socio economic divide, and lack of courageous leadership and vision have helped to the discredit of the European project.

To counter those crises, to counter the rise of extreme right populism and to counter Euroscepticism we champion a Europe of all peoples.

It is a Europe that respects the right to self-determination and satisfies the demand for more transparent, empowering, and engaging democracy.

It is a Europe of peace and freedom that show unconditional respect for human rights, sustainability, all forms of diversity, linguistic justice, gender equality, social justice and international solidarity.

For this reason, we stand together with the vast majority of the people of Scotland, Northern Ireland and very relevant part of the progressive forces in Wales in their demand to remain in the EU.

Whatever the result of the negotiations, we stay committed to those values of solidarity and brotherhood between the peoples of Europe and will stand next to our friends in Scotland in the defence of their right to decide their own future.

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Coppieters Foundation is financially supported by the European Parliament. The European Parliament is not liable for the content of the conferences, events or the opinions of the authors of our publications.

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