These coming EU elections are tempting. You might decide that election of a representative to Europe is an exercise in futility, and the election campaign one filled with sound and fury, signifying nothing. How else would you describe an election to a parliament, organized by a member state who doesn’t want to be a member? Truly Alice in Wonderland stuff.
However, temptations are sent to try us, and there are at least two very good reasons why you should get out there and make sure your voice is heard, particularly on election day.
The first and obvious reason is that we need representatives in Europe who will make it clear that a majority of us in this twisted state want to stay part of the EU. Yes, they’ve been told that already but it’s a message that must be sent again and again. Just as Scotland voted by a thumping majority to stay in the EU, we in the north voted by a decisive 56% to do likewise. We need to keep hammering that message for the same reason Guinness keeps advertising its beverage: not because people haven’t heard about Guinness, but because the message needs to be reinforced constantly or sales may drop. We believe in the EU, and given that England doesn’t, we need to be tireless in underlining our difference.
However, this EU- positivity has its dangers. You’ll get people who’ll happily point out the deficiencies in the EU – the puny power of the European parliament, the way the EU can be brutal with smaller states (witness its treatment of the south of Ireland and Greece, when they found themselves floundering in 2008. “We’ll save you but you’ll pay a price” was the message. And they did. )
But there’s a difference between being a critical friend and being a nay-saying enemy. A friend wants to make the European institutions better, an enemy wants to break its windows, hammer down its door.
The other reason is that two out of three EU seats here in the north are currently held by parties who think Brexit is a good idea. And they don’t just stop at thinking – they work actively to make sure Brexit happens. The DUP leader Arlene Foster said recently “What people want is to see democracy being respected”. Quite, Mrs Foster. A clearer-than-clear majority of the people that you represent have reminded you that they are opposed – totally opposed – to Brexit. So where does democracy fit in, when a political leader is actively colluding with the mad right-wing of the Tory party, to see that Brexit happens?
The danger is that the many unionists who are unambiguous in their opposition to Brexit will still vote to put an MEP in place who is from a party which wants to tie us tight to the Tories as they prepare to jump from the good ship EU. If two of our three MEPs are pro-Brexit, the EU might conclude that the populous here are pro-Bexit. But if two out of three MEPs from here are opposed to Brexit – that is, they are in harmony with the wishes of the people in this warped state – then the EU would get the message: don’t be deceived by the DUP Brexiteer MPs. The people here know that their destiny is inextricably linked to Europe.
And if that means voting tactically to get a second pro-EU MEP on the plane to Strasbourg, so be it. There’s an important truth in old sayings: my enemy’s enemy is my friend.