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FEBRUARY LEADER – The cost of independence is solidarity

 
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As I sat down to write this, news rolled in of Trump’s ban on refugees and migrants from seven mainly Muslim countries. I’m reading about Iranian scientists barred from returning to work in their labs and Yazidi refugees from Iraq who can no longer look forward to the new lives that was promised to them. I’m thinking about friends who were born in these countries and who can no longer visit their families.

And for what? How does the policy protect American lives? Ryan Gallagher, a journalist from the Intercept, summed it up nicely on Twitter: “Since 9/11 fewer than 100 people in US killed in jihadist attacks. In the last 3 years alone 41,086 in US died from gun violence”.

It’s terrifying and sad to watch a mighty country be lead to precipice. And I can’t help but wonder whether this is what’s in store for Europe? I’m scared. Twelve months ago I didn’t think the UK would vote to remain in the EU, or that Donald Trump would win the Republican nomination. But their isolationist messages won, and is winning ground across Europe.

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But why? What I see in common with the supporters of both Brexit and Trump is the belief that the UK and US can remain respected, wealthy and influential countries even after they withdraw from international commitments. Brexit campaigners talk about creating ‘Global Britain’ that major economies will clamour to forge trade partnerships with. Trump seems to believe that erecting trade barriers with Mexico and China will usher in a renaissance of American manufacturing.

But in both cases the countries want to eat their cake and keep it too. They want everything that global trade offers, but to be isolated from the burdens of the problems the world faces. They want to cherry-pick from the international commitments that create a stable world order, while also wielding influence over the direction the global community takes.

The cost of independence is solidarity. UK PM Theresa May cannot condemn the US on the bigoted travel ban – “I do not agree” is all she could muster – she needs a trade deal when the UK leaves the EU. Brexit campaigners promised to invest 3.5 billion kroner into the UK’s public health service when it left the EU. But now privatisation beckons after she suggested opening it up to US investors.

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The cost of stability and prosperity, on the other hand, is compromise. It requires accepting small risks for a much larger payoff. But the problem is that humans are risk averse. We prefer to avoid losses, than acquire a gain.

It’s why some political parties are so opposed to giving up sovereignty to the EU, even when it ensures prosperity, peace and influence. The Danish People’s Party, the Red-Green Alliance, and New Conservatives all dream of a more sovereign Denmark, and support a referendum on leaving the EU.

But once they get their sovereignty, then what? MP Pernille Skipper from Enhedslisten dislikes the EU’s rules on public spending, and believes that outside the EU it would be possible to create a broad left wing alliance with a greater focus on public investment.

But MP Holger K. Nielsen from the Socialist People’s Party rightly points out this would make Denmark incredibly vulnerable.

“The multinational companies and finance will still exist. They will simply be operating in a Europe where all politics is returned to the nation states. It will most likely result in a free trade zone but without the EU’s political structure. This is the right wing’s wet dream,” he wrote in Information.

There are forces promoting isolationism and nativism around the world, and I’m really not sure how to fight it. Watching the news, I feel rather helpless – I’m sure it’s a feeling many people are having.

I know the world is a better place when we compromise and work together, and I know many others agree. I see them protesting outside US airports and marching for minority rights around the world. There is a resistance brewing. I just hope that we realise what we stand to lose in Europe, before it’s too late. M

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