The EU has embraced vaccine nationalism.

I’ve never been more certain it was the right decision to leave the European Union. The events over the last 48 hours have shone a light like never before on the true nature of the project, underneath all the progressive posturing and lofty rhetoric, it’s just a greedy, exceptionalism embracing, imperialistic neoliberal bloc that no progressive should want any truck with.

Above all else I struggle to fathom why they’d shoot themselves in the foot like this; coronavirus hands them a chance to make a success of their response and rally their member states around them, but first on economic aid, and now on vaccines, they’ve made the most eloquent case for Euroscepticism across Europe that you could ever hope to make. They’ve showcased why their institution is antiquated, useless, and beyond hope. The thing is a sinking ship.

They really clearly aren’t as cunning as we often think they are, what with the Article 16 U-turn and the whole mess these last few hours have been for them; they’ve butchered the politics in front of the whole wide world, and it’ll reflect poorly on them when they make the case for EU membership for decades to come. They’ve put being spiteful and vicious above their entire future viability, just to settle scores with the British government; bizarre.

The rightwing paper will have a field day with this, making it a purely nationalistic battle, feeding into the conflict, and invoking sentiments like “KEEP YOUR HANDS OFF OUR VABS” “EU CAN’T HAVE OUR VACCINES” etc etc, which’ll do little else but make people take out their anger towards any random European, something we really, really, really don’t want. But of course, they won't care, since it pours fuel on the fire of their nationalist authoritarian project that merely began with Brexit.

We’ve seen the EU behave disgracefully in the past; it’s practically the norm for it. We’ve seen for years its treatment of migrants and refugees, and its capitulation to the demands of the hard right on immigration and asylum policy, invoking the harshest of harsh policies in the form of what we now call Fortress Europe.

We’ve seen its contempt for democracy, having referendums on constitutional changes rerun until “the plebs” change their minds and vote with them. And last but certainly not least we’ve seen the vengeful hideousness with which it punishes any nation that dares to make a change in policy against their neoliberal shock doctrine.

This is why we should have no truck with Rejoin, and this is why in the years to come, progressives should learn to like our departure from the EU. It is an irreformable mess. Seeing pro-EU voices tie themselves in knots over this the past 24 hours has certainly being a sight to behold, as their worldview shatters around them, but I do have great respect for the people who’ve breached party political and ideological lines from the (now over) Brexit battle and condemned this for what it is; reckless and selfish from the EU. What people see as the EU in their idealistic conceptions isn’t real, this is, and always was, the real EU.

Some people are now claiming this is why we should have stayed in the thing; that’s true in the sense that this specific inconvenience to us would be avoided, but that mindset is based on the premise of “let it do this to others, just not us” which is a posture I could never sign on to, and is one of the least solidaristic propositions I’ve ever heard come from the mouth of any self professed progressive. Fortress Europe doesn’t become OK once we’re inside, because others far more vulnerable than our nation would perpetually remain outside, and suffer the dire consequences as such.

This is clearly first and foremost the EU throwing caution to the wind in order to enact revenge on the British govt for daring the leave the project. Politics, posturing, civility, all gone out the window, because for the first time in a long time a member state did something it wasn’t supposed to, it shock Brussels to its core, and they’ve completely lost the plot. Vindictiveness has come first, thoughtless vindictiveness over all other political calculations.

Once and for all we know concerns around Northern Ireland were weaponised, and not genuine, when uttered by the EU. I took it at face value at the time (it was a very legitimate argument made by many other stakeholders in the situation) but clearly it was just a political stick with which to beat us. The invocation of Article 16 was almost a claxon triggering a trade war, it was a middle finger to the Good Friday Agreement, and it was a complete lack of regard for the continued political stability of Northern Ireland. Why on Earth would they do that?

I really hope that over the decades to come this begins to sink in, and we don’t fall into the chasm of Rejoin. I hope the benefits of departure become clear if and when we have a progressive government that can radically reshape the economy in ways it never could within the EU. This is a long term thing, a slow burner, but if no such benefits are felt, and the left refuses to engage with a post-Brexit settlement, then we will surely fall prey to the folly of Rejoin, realising our mistake once it’s too late.

Those very same Lexit voices who were sneered at very recently can now hold their heads high in the knowledge they took a principled stand, and it has been vindicated. Anyone saying otherwise is saving face. I have deep respect for my comrades who supported a Remain and Reform posture, but I hope after this we can all realise that agitating for a Rejoin proposition down the line will always be a waste of political energy better spend on saving the world, and transforming this country. We must, must, must, come together and fight, since right now we’ve got a rightwing govt and a toothless opposition.

Shame on the European Union for these disgraceful actions. Solidarity with those nations far more damaged by the vaccine-nationalism they’ve unleashed than we are. And onwards, for a better world, and a better Europe, outside the EU, building new structures of internationalism, cooperation, and solidarity. If we want a Social Europe, we have to build it from scratch.

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Toby Lipatti-Mesme

Toby Lipatti-Mesme

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Insightful and innovative UK journalism and commentary, from Toby Lipatti-Mesme.