The European Union is an “anti-democratic monster” or a “successful bloc of nations,” depending who you asked on April 5, 2018, at a nationalism versus globalism debate at the University of Maryland in College Park, Md. Brexit architect Nigel Farage said nations do best when they put their own interests first, while former Mexican President Vicente Fox said everyone wins when nations work together.
“Don’t be frightened by Brexit,” Farage said. “Don’t be frightened by Trump. Just recognize that the world changed in 2016, and in future there will be governments putting the interests of their own countries first, but equally wanting to work with friends and neighbors across the globe.”
He said the main problem with the European Union is that it transfers power away from citizens toward regional governments that operate beyond their reach. “I think it’s an anti-democratic monster that is crushing democracy, ruining nation-states and taking away liberty,” Farage said. “You cannot be an independent, democratic nation-state and a member of an organization like the European Union. Why? Because they make the laws that you have to obey. Their courts are supreme to yours. And they decide who is fit and proper to come and live in your country.”
Fox countered by pointing to the measureable benefits of globalism, which has lifted billions of people out of poverty in recent decades. “Globalization, technology, democracy and freedom brought us all over the world to the best-ever peak in development and progress,” he said. “Why should we destroy, disrupt the way we have proven to be successful?”
Fox held up the European Union as a model for what can happen when nation-states cooperate. “It is the most successful bloc of nations right after World War II,” he said. “They have enjoyed the best and highest standards of living.”
Despite his support for global alliances, Fox did not call for an end to sovereign nations. “We all have flags,” he said. “We all are patriots.” But he said the world community has discovered the power of teamwork. He said Brexit and more recent secession talks in California and Catalonia have moved people in the wrong direction.
Farage, for his part, did not call for an end to alliances such as NATO, NAFTA, the United Nations and the World Trade Organization — as long as member states retain their sovereignty. “While all of those organizations could do with reform,” he said, “I have no problem with any of them or the concept of countries working together.”
Besides Brexit and the European Union, Farage and Fox discussed immigration, border protection and trade. The event, co-sponsored by the Steamboat Institute and the Ed Snider Center for Enterprise and Markets at UMD’s Robert H. Smith School of Business, was the third in a four-part speaker series that started in Colorado and ended in Pennsylvania.
Mary Kissel, an editorial board member at The Wall Street Journal, moderated the debate, available on C-SPAN.
The debate opened with general remarks from Fox and Farage. Listen to their comments below.