This is a Satellite event of the Battle of Ideas. We have four excellent speakers lined up and look forward to seeing you there. Please click on the following link for more information on speakers, venue, etc.: www.dublinsalon.org.
The UK’s decision to leave the European Union has had a seismic effect on the political landscape of these islands and Europe as a whole. Following the June referendum, any number of previously-assumed certainties appear to be in flux, and the result was so unexpected that even those who campaigned to leave were wrong-footed. Not the least of these was Boris Johnson, whose muted press conference on the morning of June 24 spoke volumes about how the referendum result disoriented official campaigners on both sides.
The questions – and the tensions – raised by the result are not confined to the UK. In Ireland, speculation about the impact of Brexit has been about much more than the economy – it has brought to the fore issues about borders, security and identity, with talk of the 32 counties once again prominent in the national conversation. As for the European Union, Brexit has occasioned predictions of a domino effect, apparently emboldening Eurosceptic feeling in the Scandinavian member states, Mediterranean countries, the Netherlands and even France. But another, perhaps more significant locus of contention has surfaced since the referendum: democracy itself.
Voices inveighing against the demos were not isolated, or lacking influence. Richard Dawkins and A.C. Grayling were among those who averred that many voters could not possess the insight to weigh such a profound question as the UK’s EU membership, rehearsing an argument that reaches back to Plato’s ‘Republic’, and has had, in a variety of forms, many outings since. And calls for a second referendum are so commonplace that eyebrows were barely raised when Owen Smith announced his Labour leadership campaign with a promise to fight to keep Britain in the EU.
Will Ireland benefit or suffer from Britain’s departure? Is the EU a busted flush, incapable of reform, or can it now surge ahead, free of its historically most truculent member? Does the EU even need to reform, or does its supranational arrangement better reflect our globalised future than sovereign nation states can? And has democracy itself had its day, sullied by demagoguery and the rise of the far-right? Ultimately, does Brexit prove Plato correct – is politics better left to philosopher-kings, or in their modern incarnation, experts?