As I start drafting this I note glumly that, though I support a Leave vote in the forthcoming EU referendum, I don’t think the British will vote that way. The UK electorate is, on the whole, small-c conservative and most of us are quite used to EU interference and perhaps even enjoy being able to grumble about it. Not enough of us get agitated enough about issues of national sovereignty to swing it.
But I also think the EU is going to implode, possibly catastrophically. Not because of its poor performance as a customs union, the disastrous effects of the single currency on the eurozone southern states or even its appalling democratic deficit. These are all symptoms, rather than causes.
The reason the EU will implode is because it is run by people who not only don’t understand ordinary voters with ordinary lives, they actively fear and despise them. In EU circles, ‘populism’ is code for ‘democracy’ and seen as a bad thing. Electorates should be kept in the dark as much as possible, fed simple stories and coaxed along with a mixture of bribes, fearmongering and good old-fashioned obfuscation.
This is all very well in times of peace and plenty. Everyone rubs along and no-one really notices that the ruling elites don’t give a stuff what the electorate want, or indeed that this elite has put in place a system that ensures they don’t have to give a stuff what the electorate wants as they don’t need a popular mandate of any kind to implement it.
But what happens when things start getting a bit hairy? When, for example, contractionary eurozone policies result in 50% youth unemployment in Spain? Or democratically elected governments in Italy, Greece and (arguably) Portugal are deposed for not agreeing with the EU? Or when Juncker decides it wants to force quotas of migrants onto EU countries against the wills of their electorates? (As it happens, this last plan more or less fell apart because numerous EU countries simply refused to go along with the plan; but the technocratic indifference to popular opinion was clear.)
Eurosceptic parties are on the rise across the continent. A significant contributor to this phenomenon is a growing, and in my view well-founded suspicion on the part of electorates across the EU that they are not being listened to. Worse still, even if they are being listened to by their elected leaders, the power to make changes has been taken away from these leaders and is now above their pay grade.