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The EU and European Politics

On 17 June 2016, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) International tweeted: ‘We cannot accept funding from the EU or the Member States while at the same time treating the victims of their polices! It’s that simple.’ The decision is a vivid example of MSF’s political engagement, this time in reaction to EU policies aiming to deter immigration. However, MSF’s actions sit uneasily with the organisation’s politically neutral and impartial public image. The political aspects of its work are not well-captured by the principles of independence, neutrality and impartiality that MSF celebrates, an issue that may hinder members of the public from being fully informed about which humanitarian charities best align with their beliefs. Two notions help to illustrate the political nature …

The vote to leave the EU was an outcome which surprised most commentators, bookies, and even those who voted for the winning side. In the aftermath of the result, John Gray, a popular political theorist, wrote that ‘voters inflicted the biggest shock on the establishment since Churchill was ousted in 1945’. It is hard to think that he is wrong. The only social classes which predominately voted Remain were ABs (affluent and middle-class voters), whereas C1 C2 DE (lower middle-class and working-class) voters all delivered majorities for Leave. As I predicted on this blog in January and contrary to many commentators’ expectations, the referendum engaged more voters than recent general elections. It generated the highest turnout in a UK election …

In the spasms of defeat following the EU referendum, some Remain commentators have suggested that Brexit was a fundamentally racist choice. Indeed, one of the most forceful was Richard Elliot’s assertion on this blog that Brexit supporters are ‘the Cecil Rhodes of the twenty-first century’. Elliot’s article reflects the stifling academic consensus which cannot even comprehend how ‘good people’ could vote to Leave. This breathtakingly simplistic analysis amounts to little more than the assertion that clever, open-minded people voted to Remain whereas stupid, backward people voted to Leave. It echoes the debate over joining the Euro fifteen years ago when, as Larry Elliot reflected, ‘People who liked the Euro were civilised, supported the arts, went to Tuscany or the Dordogne …

Following the vote to leave the European Union, there has been a sudden upsurge in racist incidents in Britain. The wave of hate has taken many people by surprise, and has laid bare some of the tensions and divisions eating away at the heart of the United Kingdom. It has also called into question Britain’s claim to be a liberal and inclusive multicultural society, leading to considerable soul searching. A state that has often spoken out against identity politics and prejudice abroad is now facing up to the reality that these issues need to be addressed back home. Predictably and understandably, much of the recent commentary as focussed on the divisive referendum campaign and the fact that the UK voted …

The EU looks, walks and talks like an empire. After extending its borders into Central and Eastern Europe, the EU has just created its third protectorate in the Balkans. From now on Greece will effectively be run by the EU the way Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina already are. Empire is not a synonym of evil despite some bad historical connotations, especially from the colonial era. Power can be exercised in noble ways, and peripheries often prefer to be “conquered” than abandoned. However, the EU’s ambition to run dysfunctional countries by decree is doomed to fail and will represent yet another blow to the project of European integration. Formal involvement of the UN or the IMF in running the protectorates will not …

In a letter published in The New Statesman, a number of Oxford academics argue that the current government position is bad policy, bad politics and a betrayal of a proud British tradition. Dear Prime Minister and Home Secretary, We the undersigned are dedicated to creating a socially just world.  We spend our working lives supporting and promoting research, initiatives, and projects which will create a fairer and more equitable society for everyone.  Among our number are many leading experts on community cohesion, asylum, refugees, migration, politics, public opinion, policy and law.  We believe the Government’s current position on the European refugee crisis is misguided and requires urgent change. Britain has a long and proud tradition of providing sanctuary to those in …

The forthcoming article in the American Journal of Political Science “The Externalities of Inequality: Fear of Crime and Preferences for Redistribution in Western Europe” by David Rueda and Daniel Stegmueller is summarized by the authors here: Many politicians would agree that an individual’s relative income (i.e., whether she is rich or poor) affects her political behavior. Income differentials and the increase in inequality experienced in the recent past have become an important part of electoral politics in most industrialized democracies. If income matters to individual political behavior, it seems reasonable to assume that it does so through its influence on individual preferences for redistribution. The relationship between income inequality and redistribution preferences, however, is a hotly contested topic in the comparative political economy literature …

Bloody clashes in front of the Ukrainian Parliament have reminded us about the EU’s tormented neighbour. Ultra-nationalists were not successful in the last parliamentary elections, but the tragic situation in Donbas has allowed them thrive. At stake this time were planned changes to the Ukrainian Constitution that envisaged a territorial decentralization as stipulated by the Minsk Agreement. For Ukrainian radicals these changes “imposed” from outside amount to a partition of their country. Is Ukraine unravelling? I do not think so, but much depends on Europe. European leaders said many times that the future of Europe and Ukraine are entangled. The last thing they want is to have a huge failed state on their eastern border. This is why President Poroshenko …