I greeted the outcome of the last year´s British referendum with great joy because I do believe that its outcome has opened a new chapter in the European history. I am convinced that Europe needed it very much. I am also aware of the fact that this position of mine is a minority view here, at this panel, at least among the speakers. To my great regret, there are no Russian participants here with us today.
We have to start with saying that the UK is not leaving Europe. There is no need to panic. The British islands will not move farther to the West, North or South. The UK is leaving the European Union. This distinction is of crucial importance, which is in many of our discussions – deliberately – neglected.
I disagree with the intentionally misleading interpretation of the Brexit referendum which suggests that the main topic of the referendum was the issue of immigration. No, the dominant reason for the majority of Brits voting Leave was their conviction that decisions about the UK should be taken in the UK. Their approach was based on their long-term experience that the nation is (and should be) the primary political entity, the only possible embodiment and guarantor of democracy.
The vote was about freedom (against political correctness), about democracy (against post-democracy), about sovereignty (against multinationalism and global governance), about economic prosperity (against long-term stagnation and relative decline), about traditional cultural and civilizational values and life-styles (against its denial).
The outcome of the British referendum was important for all of us in Europe – not just for the Brits. It represented a radical rejection of the faulty project of undemocratic, centralistic, dirigistic, unnecessarily unified, harmonized and standardized European Union. It had and has an important external effect. It confirmed the feelings of millions of ordinary people all over Europe who are similarly critical of the contemporary version of the EU institutional arrangements, of the EU policies and of the doctrine – I call it europeism – behind them. People in other EU countries didn´t get a chance to say that. The institute of referendum is not popular or welcome in many places in Europe these days.
The people in Europe – not only in Britain – have been witnessing an evident decline of Europe in many fields for a long time. This decline wasn´t caused by the Islamist terrorists, by the recently started mass migration, by the rapidly growing China, by the awakening and resurgence of Russia, by the allegedly not hard-working and debt easily-accumulating Greeks. It was caused neither by globalization, nor by the incorporation of ex-communist Central and East European countries into the elitist EU-club.
This decline was caused by us, bythe European political elites, by the originally flawed and continuously worsening design of the European integration process, by the unproductive economic and social policies and – last but not least – by the progressivistic civilizational and cultural doctrines which emerged in the 1960s and gained momentum in the last twenty years.
I have to confess that in the moment of the fall of communism I didn´t expect to ever again experience such a loss of sovereignty as we experience in the more and more centralistically organized EU. I didn´t expect such an extent of government interventionism in economic life (in the fields such as agriculture and energy it is not much different from communist central planning). I didn´t expect such an extent of political manipulation and of democratic deficit. I didn´t expect such a massive media manipulation, such a degree of mediocracy. What I say now is the same I am repeating in Europe day by day. This is not any special message for the Russian audience.
Thank you for your attention.
Václav Klaus, Panel Discussion “Europe after Brexit”, Gaidar Forum 2017, Russian Presidential Academy of National Economy and Public Administration, Moscow, January 12, 2017.