After the UK Brexit, politician Nigel Farage appeared at a Donald Trump rally in Mississippi. Hillary Clinton lashed out at Farage and the campaign to the leave the European Union. She accused the opposition to the European Union of “having fuelled anti-immigrant sentiments” and “being a brand of extreme nationalism.”
Regardless of whether or not these accusations are even true, there are many reasons why people like Hillary Clinton wants us to like the European Union: it embodies in itself all the aspects of government growth and overreach that mainstream politicians are pushing for.
The Unaccountable European Bureaucracy
The European Union is governed by three main political institutions:
The Council, represented by the heads of state or government of the member states who try to defend their own interests.
The Commission that strives toward more federalism and is a group of unknown ex-ministers who make all legislative proposals.
The European Parliament which votes on the proposals but has no right to suggest legislation and is merely the arm of the major parties.
This triangular force has done nothing but accumulate power over the years: the European Union has a common agricultural policy, common food safety standards, and a myriad of common regulations of social behavior such as smoking bans. The EU power structure is at times so complicated, containing numerous presidents, vice-presidents, co-presidents, permanent presidents, rotating presidencies, chairmen, and high commissioners that it’s difficult to really keep track of who is in charge and who decided on what. This has made the centralization of power very easy for politicians.
The EU Was Sold as a Free-Trade Organization
When the British electorate was asked in 1975 to vote on the membership of the United Kingdom of what was then called the European Economic Community, they approved of the concept because they thought it was all about free trade. Free trade in Europe created economic opportunity all over the continent and is a liberal value (NB: the word “liberal” has kept its original meaning in Europe).
Yet the growing centralization of power and the growth of influence and intrusiveness of EU bureaucrats has made the British electorate skeptical of this so-called European integration. The principles of limited government and free markets have been values that have been a part of British culture, and that resonated in the Brexit vote. The country of John Locke, Adam Smith, and John Stuart Mill was always the rebellious member of a group that wanted to act as one union.
What Is Behind Anti-EU Sentiment?
Now, have there been anti-immigrant sentiments sparked in the Brexit campaign? Yes, but only a quarter of Brexit voters are supporters of Farage’s party UKIP, which means it’s safe to say the claim that anti-immigrant sentiments lead to this vote overstates the role of the immigration issue.
It’s more likely that what really concerns mainstream American politicians about the Brexit vote is the fact it sends the message that political institutions can be decentralized, and decisions made at a local level. After all, if a member country of the EU can leave in a peaceful, democratic fashion, it stands to reason an American state could do the same.
And this is why Hillary Clinton wants you to like the EU. If Europeans start questioning the big government bureaucracy in Brussels, why shouldn’t Americans start questioning the big government bureaucracy in Washington? For a politician like Clinton, power slipping away is of grave concern and a threat to the bureaucratic status quo.
Bill Wirtz is a law student at Université de Lorraine in Nancy, France, and local coordinator for European Students for Liberty. See his blog