“Brexit: Britain’s Divorce from The European Union”, an article by Dr. Leonel FernándezJuly 4, 2016
The issue exerting perhaps the greatest influence in leading many citizens to reconsider their countries’ relationship with the EU has been the impact of the global economic crisis.
I arrived in London, capital of the United Kingdom, the day after the referendum in which 52 percent of voters expressed their wish for their country to abandon its membership of the European Union.
The immediate reaction was
bewilderment, upset, and confusion. Company stock values plummeted and credit rating agencies immediately downgraded British debt. Rumors spread that some banks in the City, London’s financial district, would move to other European cities, and within 48 hours after the holding of the popular vote, more than three million signatures had been collected to petition for an annulment of the first result and the holding of a second referendum.
In short, a day after
taking one of the most significant political decisions in its contemporary history, the United Kingdom had sunk into disorientation and chaos.
Suddenly, the country appeared fractured, in both territorial and demographic terms. England and Wales had opted to abandon the European Union, while Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Gibraltar chose to remain.
Voters over age 50 came out as Euroskeptics, while the youngest voters were those most inclined to choose
a world in which their nation united alongside 27 other European countries in a single market, with its freedom of movement of goods, services, capital, and labor.
REASONS FOR THE BREAKUP
Since 2013, British Prime Minister David Cameron had promised that, should his reelection campaign of 2015 succeed, he would call a referendum to define the future of the United Kingdom’s relationship with the European Union.
A segment of his
Conservative Party had long been clamoring to reconsider the country’s links with the regional body, and as Cameron needed to unite his party ahead of the impending elections of 2015, he had decided to placate them with the commitment to call a referendum.
But also to be reckoned with was the worry and apprehension of a significant segment of the population regarding migration, employment, salaries, and security, as well as the advance of far right parties like
the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP), which had been gathering ever-greater support at the expense of the country’s two traditional political powers: the Conservative and Labour parties.
At root, there was also a deep political malaise that had found no satisfactory expression for all citizens in national life. It had to do with the fact that, having signed the Treaty of Maastricht and integrated as a member of the European Union, the United Kingdom,
like other countries in the region, had renounced its national sovereignty in favor of a supranational entity, the European Union.
In doing so, many political decisions that had traditionally been taken by nation states fell within the remit of the European Commission, one of the three main bodies of the supranational Union, alongside the European Council and the European Parliament.
The adverse reaction of some member states, as well as the gains of
Europe’s far-right groups, lies in the mandatory character of some of the Commission’s decisions, such as, for example, setting quotas on receiving Syrian refugees, or outlining rules on matters as particular as transport, the environment, and consumer rights.
But the issue with perhaps the greatest influence in leading many citizens to reconsider their countries’ relationship with the EU has been the impact of the global economic
For Europe, the crisis has involved monetary upheavals for members on the Euro, an increase in fiscal deficits, and as a consequence an increase in the public debt. But at the same time – and fundamentally due to policies of austerity – growth and wages have stagnated and unemployment and inequality have increased, all of which have caused popular discontent in various European nations.
In the particular case of the United Kingdom, all this was
buttressed by its particular relationship, dubbed cultural exceptionalism, in which the country had never felt itself to be in full harmony with the regional body.
CONSEQUENCES OF THE BREAKUP
Prior to calling the referendum, the Prime Minister David Cameron had sought to negotiate better relationship terms for the UK with the EU. His efforts touched on economic governance, competitiveness, sovereignty, and the economic and social rights of
intra-EU migrants, with the aim of establishing a special status for the United Kingdom within the Union.
Underlying Cameron’s negotiations was a dual intention: Firstly, to show his fellow Brits that he had made all efforts to address their concerns and apprehensions over the UK’s EU membership. And secondly, to pressure the EU itself to concede ground on its rigidities, in the face of the possibility that it would otherwise risk losing the future
Cameron’s strategy had just one weakness: it did not seriously consider the high risk of a possible defeat, which would imply the UK’s abandonment of the most enriching experience of cooperation, integration, rights, liberties, and social cohesion in human history: the European Union.
As an immediate result of the referendum, David Cameron himself has announced his resignation as prime minister, to take effect in October
of this year. In like form, the ‘Brexit’ has sparked a crisis within the ranks of the main opposition, the Labour Party, with MPs demanding the resignation of its leader Jeremy Corbyn for allegedly having declined to carry out a convincing campaign for Britain to remain in the organization responsible for European integration.
Boris Johnson, the former mayor of London – who had been seen as Cameron’s heir apparent after having acted,
alongside Nigel Farage of UKIP, as the main spokesman for the Leave campaign – saw his ambitions quashed overnight due to conflicts within his own faction of the Tory party.
But where the decision to leave the EU has caused the greatest havoc is in the nation’s economy, its territorial unity, and its role in global defense and the international arena.
In abandoning the Union, the United Kingdom has put its prosperity on the line, as 20 percent
of its economy – the second largest in the European bloc, after Germany –depends on the common market.
The Leave vote has shrouded in uncertainty the UK’s trade relations with other states in the common market, which receive 50 percent of its exports and constitute a market of more than 500 million potential consumers.
It has abandoned the wishes of Scotland, which has no desire to surrender its European status, and Northern Ireland, whose
border with the Republic of Ireland will now, after the referendum decision, become the wall that separates the European Union from British territory.
It has left British workers in confusion, as they now no longer know if they may move freely throughout other nations in the region seeking work or business and investment opportunities.
Having initiated these divorce proceedings against the European Union, the United Kingdom, which holds nuclear weapons
as well as a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council and membership of the G-7 and G-20, has seen its stature as a global power reduced.
That, at least, is the sense in the air in London, where I happened to be present in the moment to serve as privileged witness of the unfolding scene.
Related Link: http://leonelfernandez.com