The BBC recently broadcast its documentary (or perhaps mockumentary) called the Great European Disaster Movie, an alleged prophetic vision of what would happen if the Eurozone and European Union (EU) broke up. The executive producer was Bill Emmott, the English journalist and former editor of The Economist.
Though it has some good aspects, the documentary still presents a utopian and one-sided view of the EU. The documentary predicts disaster, catastrophe, and horrors if the EU were to be disbanded. It is so bizarrely unrealistic and paranoid it is comical.
The opening scenes imagine Europe around 2017 to 2020: Greece is defaulting on debt, the abolition of the Euro has occurred, the far-right National Front under Marine Le Pen has taken power in France, national tensions are rising, mass rioting is in progress and the EU is formally disbanded. Some years later two people on a plane discuss the history of the EU, but Europe has collapsed into chaos at that future date – apparently all because the EU doesn’t exist. You can get a feel for the documentary in the trailer below.
It is also proclaimed that the fall of the EU would trigger a world economic collapse. That might well be true, but it would probably be no worse than the financial collapse of 2008 to 2009, and could easily be contained and dealt with by the right policy interventions.
In fact, in the event of EU breakup, newly independent, national European governments would have the space for fiscal stimulus, so that recovery could in theory be much faster than the one after 2009. There would be disaster only if grossly incompetent national governments pursued what the EU has already pursued all these years: austerity, budget balancing and neoliberalism.
But don’t get me wrong: the documentary does have praiseworthy aspects and good points to make. The documentary quickly shifts to focussing on some of the economic and social problems in the Eurozone and EU today, including the crisis of mass mortgage foreclosures in Spain, tax evasion by the wealthy, the failure of bank reform, and the dangers of austerity.
At one point, Martin Wolf appears and gives a Keynesian warning against austerity in the EU, and even Bill Emmott seems to propose a German-led Keynesian stimulus program throughout Europe.
But the documentary never addresses the question: what if a radical change in fiscal policy never happens? Why not break up the EU? Why should people continue to suffer under such a rotten system?
Totally missing is the understanding that the EU’s extremely anti-democratic nature makes it highly unlikely that elected governments can do anything to change it. Moreover, there is no central, democratically-elected EU government that can implement fiscal policy anyway, so how can anybody directly vote to change EU policies?
At this point, the Great European Disaster Movie just turns to scaremongering and fear-mongering about why the EU should not be broken up. The arguments presented are feeble, laughably irrelevant or plainly untrue.
Fortunately, the BBC had a decent discussion on Newsnight about the documentary in which some decent critics of the EU were allowed to speak and point to its faults, as we can see in the video below.
Sadly, it was mostly left to the conservative Peter Hitchens and the UKIP MP Mark Reckless to point out the serious flaws in many of the pro-EU arguments.
Where on earth is the anti-EU Left in this debate? Most recently, we just learned that Greece has fallen back into recession and I do not see any signs that Syriza has done anything but fold in its conflict with the Eurozone. When is the Left going to wake up?