Neoliberalism Infects the EU Debate

Chris Shaw

Neoliberalism Infects the EU Debate

As a libertarian anarchist, I will most likely vote to leave the EU on June 23rd. The EU, with its supranational corporatism and affirmation of legislation writ-large, goes against my fundamental principles, that of popular litigiousness expressed through common law and a belief in freed markets and radical decentralism. However, none of these principles are captured in the prevailing debates and discourses that currently surround the question of whether the UK should leave the European Union.

Instead, both the Leave and Remain campaigns are infected with neoliberal ideology, and both argue for some version of the economic status quo. The Remain campaign talks of the success of the UK economy, with extremely high levels of private debt and a developing housing bubble just waiting to burst, and how such success would be jeopardised if we were to exit the EU. Equally, the Leave campaign talks of similar economic successes but instead makes them out to be a sign of British economic strength that would last if the UK were to leave the EU. Thus both campaigns believe in the economic track the UK is on. The continuation of highly indebted individuals and businesses, and of highly leveraged banks who are not loaning capital. There is no radicalism in this debate, and little in the way of anti-establishment sentiments. Under this regime, if the UK were to leave things would be broadly the same, with Boris Johnson as the potential Prime Minister (a frankly frightening thought).

Further, the kind of individuals and groups that are backing both campaigns represent the crème de la crème of corporate capitalism. On the Remain side, you have the Confederation of British Industry, the definition of corporate vested interests. If there are onerous regulations (such as the minimum wage, restrictive health and safety codes, workplace ‘liberalisation’, etc.) you can guarantee this group fawns over it and pays good money to see it implemented. However, the Leave camp has an assorted list of hedge fund managers and multinationals backing it as well. The kinds of policies Leave campaigners are pushing include things like continued farm subsidies (which subsidise large, inefficient farming and land ownership), R&D investment (which is usually funnelled into corporate research and IP monopolies) and the development of a TTIP-like “free trade” agreement with America and assorted other countries.

The referendum debate has been moulded round these status quo policies. Unfortunately, many voters will go to the polls not with an ideological clarity of what they want to see in their communities and nation, but rather with the muddled lies of these campaigns which hold very similar opinions on most of the major issues. If we were to leave the EU on the current terms, government legislation (much of it being in line with European law) would dominate over common law. The regulatory harmonies that exist between the UK and the EU would not be removed, thus maintaining the entry barriers to a whole range of new firms and ownership regimes.

On June 23rd, I will be voting to leave, because I hope that if we were to exit the EU it could potentially kickstart a whole raft of decentralist ideas, moving toward community empowerment, voluntary taxation and freed markets. This is already being expressed in the Flexcit campaign. However, this debate over the EU is farcical, and proves that power is vested in the elites of both the UK and the EU. Neoliberal establishments won’t be brought down by one vote, as this referendum blatantly shows.


  1. Thank you Chris for something a little bit more positive than the other libertarian doom-and-gloomers. I have to admit that to ask the great unwashed to vote in this highly complex issue is folly. Now that we have this folly let us do our damnedest to win it. every vote counts.

    As I wrote to someone else, “if we can exit the “non-elective” part of the dictatorship we still have the “elective” part to deal with so that we can try to return the system to a more people orientated system as is Common Law. Very soon I hope to be posting (next couple of days) a more detailed explanation of what is wrong with the “elective” part on my Facebook which confirms my website in that THE PARTY SYSTEM IS THE REVOLUTION AGAINST OUR ENGLISH CONSTITUTION and we continue to play party politics at our peril.

    It is the party system which has trashed our legal constitution in that we unwittiingly authorise a government with a majority to do just as it wishes and thereby ignore the law, as did Heath and the others. Then we wonder why “they are only in it for themselves”. With this “democratic”power which WE have authorised through our vote, they can and have ignored the laws of England which should have been enough to stop this mess re the EU. This has made a mockery of the idea “be ye ever so powerful, ye are not above the law”. Oh yes? We can go on having repeated abuse just as long as we like afterwards by refusing to think and look at the solutions or we can start to fight back. Fighting back does not include arm-chair warriors of which there seem to be plenty in this site..
    The solution and resotration of our legal constitution is incredibly simply to understand. It may well be slightly more difficult to implement given media control and socialist inclinations etc.but general disgust with PARTY politicians ought to make things a bit easier. May I end by saying that you can preach liberalism all you like from your arm chair, but if you don’t tackle the mechanisms of your slavery then nothing will prevail and servitude will continue.

    • Thanks for the kind words Martin. I agree that by leaving one system of centralised power we can hopefully then begin a movement against the parliamentarian side.

      I myself have been trying to do this, reaching out to anti-EU left-wing groups and using whatever speaking engagements or debates I’m involved to push the message of decentralism and a return to the traditions of law and community which shaped this nation.

  2. Chris, forgive my ignorance as I’m very new to these parts – but can you (or have you, elsewhere) explained what you’re defining as “neoliberal”, and (if not obvious after your explanation), why you’re against it?

    Neoliberal to me simply means a resurgence of classical liberal ideas, and therefore almost interchangeable from an economic point of view with what others simply call libertarianism, free market capitalism, laissez faire etc. and therefore Hazlitt, Bastiat and then Mises, Rothbard and so on.

    I’m interested to know why you either differentiate “neoliberalism” from this school of thought, or why you object to it whilst still being a libertarian.

    • I see neoliberalism as a system inherently related to and funded by the state. Most definitions of neoliberalism recognise a significant position for government in being a lender of last resort and being the minter of money. In believing in freed markets, I see this as antithetical to my ideas. I wrote this last year which talks about some of the main features of neoliberalism which I object to, and which show it is not actually libertarian in any meaningful sense:

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