The events of the last few days highlight the huge problems now faced in the European Union. The UK has voted to withdraw from membership and this has triggered demands for similar referenda in France, Italy and Holland. Only time will tell if this is the type of problem that can be fixed in due course, or whether it represents a more existential crisis to the EU itself.
What is clear is that there is an ugly anti-politics emerging in which traditional political institutions, and in particular the European Union, are acting as the lightning rod for dissent and dissatisfaction. These problems are grounded in people’s experiences in the years since the economic crash. Austerity has driven fierce cuts in public services, and in particular education. Many are without work, but for those with work wages are at best stagnant, and often falling. Employment is commonly short-term, casualised and precarious. These are the conditions in which the free movement of labour, one of the great achievements of the EU, can be seen as a threat and the source of a developing hostility to migrants.
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This blog was first published on the ‘Unite for Quality Education‘ blogsite.