The EU Referendum: A Disorders Forum

In exactly one month, Britain will hold a referendum on its membership of the European Union, its first since 1975. So far, the debate on ‘Brexit’ has been risible, reflecting both the narrowness and myopia of contemporary politics, and the fact that the debate is being ‘led’ on both sides by conservatives lacking any positive vision of the future. Project Fear reigns supreme. Will your shopping be £4.32 more expensive or £3.16 cheaper if we leave? Will leaving the EU make it more or less likely that your granny will be killed by a criminal immigrant? Will leaving the EU send Britain’s ‘booming’ (!) economy into recession, or plunge Europe back into war and chaos?

This is particularly lamentable because the referendum is the most significant political decision that most British citizens will face in their lifetimes. Given the EU’s enormous influence, the referendum’s consequences will vastly outweigh that of any recent general election.


 This Disorder of Things forum tries to raise the tone, offering a detailed discussion of the pros and cons of Brexit and ‘Bremain’. Importantly, on the ‘Brexit’ side, you will not find the usual patriotic bluster of spitfire nationalism, but rather a progressive case for leaving the EU. Indeed, all of our contributors engage with the truly significant political principles at stake: democracy, sovereignty, accountability, peace, security, and freedom.

Our posts will be published daily over the coming week. Links will be added when the posts go live.

Chris Bickerton kicks off the forum by arguing that today’s EU is not a powerful, supranational body but a network of states that have been transformed from ‘nation states’, deriving their authority domestically, into ‘member states’, deriving their authority from transnational, inter-elite relationships. He argues for Brexit to intensify Britain’s ‘crisis of authority’, forcing a change of political direction.

Building on Chris’s work, my own two cents follow. I suggest analysing the EU through the lens of the politics of scale and state transformation. The EU, I suggest, emerged through the rescaling of governance to inter-elite networks insulated – by design – from popular control. Restoring that control has to involve leaving the EU and revitalising national democracy in an internationalist direction.

Next, Toni Haastrup tackles the Brexiteers from a postcolonial perspective. Taking aim at the spitfire nationalism of the Brexit campaign, she argues their suggestion that UK power and influence would be revivsed by Brexit is based on wilful ignorance and delusions of imperial grandeur.

Next, Ana Juncos and Gilberto Algar-Faria argue that the UK’s security interests are best served by staying inside the EU. Brexit would only weaken the EU’s capacity to deal with the very problems that Britain is trying to escape, like irregular migration and the instability created by the Eurozone crisis.

This view is disputed by Philip Cunliffe. He offers a trenchant critique of the claim that the EU has created peace in Europe and weakening the EU will revive conflict. Nationalism and war have been elite-manufactured problems, he maintains, not the result of popular will. ‘Vote remain or return to war’ is simply blackmail from an elite that, even today, just loves warmongering.

Finally, Catherine Goetze responds to the pro-Brexit posts by warning of the dangers of restoring national democracy through a campaign led by right-wing forces. Drawing on historical parallels, she warns that Brexit might strengthen nationalism across Europe, with very negative consequences.


13 thoughts on “The EU Referendum: A Disorders Forum

  1. So, three arguments in favour of Brexit, one in favour of Bremain, and one critique of the “spitfire nationalism” which is adopted by the right-wing proponents of Brexit? If you’re going to have a forum on this important topic, how about at least pretending to take a balanced approach?


    • Your snark is really unwarranted. I worked extremely hard to get a balance in this forum. I wrote to over 25 leading scholars to ask them to contribute a pro-Bremain position. I also asked friends and colleagues repeatedly for suggestions, as Facebook friends will testify. Almost all of those I approached either did not reply, or rejected my approach, saying they were either under purdah (for funding reasons) or too busy. I found this remarkable, given how most academics seem to be pro-EU — but then I know how overworked everyone is. In the end we got 3 pro-Brexit and 2 pro-Bremain pieces. I would have preferred 3 each, but I just couldn’t find another person willing to contribute. It didn’t make sense to drop one pro-Brexit post just to achieve exact numerical equity. All in all, I think we achieved a reasonable balance. If you or anyone else wants to contribute, feel free to drop me an email with a pitch.


      • I think the forum is shaping up really nicely and you’ve taken an admirably balanced role in this venture Lee. I have my critiques of other established forums in other sites and their pretensions to balance (or manufacture of debate). But we are talkign about DoT and you. And you have done your best to provide for us an excellent balance of arguments in absolute good faith. thanks.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Why has no one challenged Cameron about not negotiating an Exit deal over trade, migration and immigration.
      When asked today about the benifits of an exit he replied you’ll have to ask the leave campaigners.
      This has to be the greatest letdown of power for the UK this millennium. Someone highlight this please.

      Their is a new petition about getting clarity on this issue on the Parliament Petitions website:

      This is a serious issue. In the Seventies we had a choice, we knew what trade deals were in place already and what we were being offered if we joined the EU. This time we have another choice, more of the same or take a guess.

      Terrible politics and even worse leadership. You would never get away with this in business, but steer the country through blindness. That’s OK.

      Hoping that someone will highlight this topic.


      • No one touches on this issue, but it’s a good point. Two responses:
        1) Partly this is due to the process of leaving the EU: the departing member-state must negotiate with the rest to set the terms of departure/ what the future relationship with the EU would be. Hence it is not possible to specify in advance what that would be.
        2) This is very convenient for Bremain forces because it adds to the uncertainty, fear and sense of risk that they wish to promote in order to convince people to stay in. So Cameron never had much incentive to try to clarify would Brexit would look like.


  2. Pingback: EU referendum debate – Warwick, 6 June 2016 | Progressive Geographies

  3. Pingback: Canada’s no model for countering xenophobia in the UK | Jasmine Chorley

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