By Archit Puri
A lot has been said about the economic implications of the British exit from the European Union. Both sides make compelling points, but the financial future of Britain mostly depends upon how it re-negotiates trade agreements with Europe and the rest of the world. The biggest concern after Brexit though should be the geopolitical situation in Europe.
Formation of the EU
The European Union began its life with the 1952 European Coal and Steel Community. European leaders wanted to prevent a repeat of the two world wars by giving European powers — especially France and (West) Germany — shared economic and political institutions. This gave way to the European Economic Community in 1967, and ultimately the European Union after The 1993’s Maastricht Treaty.
Four years ago the European Union won the Nobel Peace Prize. The Nobel Committee said that the EU had “contributed to the advancement of peace and reconciliation, democracy and human rights in Europe.” Announcing the award, Nobel Committee President Thorbjoern Jagland highlighted the EU’s work in sealing the reconciliation between France and Germany in the decades after World War II. He praised the organisation for incorporating Spain, Portugal and Greece after their authoritarian regimes collapsed in the 1970s.
Courtesy the EU, a generation of Europeans has been able to take peace in their continent for granted.
Repercussions of Brexit
Brexit is likely to stir and shake Europe up, with issues for the erstwhile colonial powerhouse beginning at home. Scotland, majority of which voted to remain with the EU is likely to have a second referendum of its own to exit the United Kingdom, with a possibility of independently joining the EU. Then there is the case of Northern Ireland. The British can safely give credit to the EU for establishing peace in the country. Irish nationalists laid down their arms in part because the common membership of the UK and the Republic of Ireland in the EU entailed free movement across the border, and the right of citizens of each to live and work in the other.
The European Convention of Human Rights was also incorporated into Northern Ireland’s law. Northern Ireland has benefited from EU membership in numerous tangible ways, from the open border with the Republic to generous payments from the EU’s European Regional Development Fund. (An example in the public eye is EU subsidies for filming HBO’s Game of Thrones there.) The British exit could bring back conflict to this region or a potential exit of Northern Ireland from the UK to join the EU due to the economic advantages attached to it. The Shepherd’s pie could be divided, and the queen might just be left with 2 portions instead of 4.
Many believe that the victory for the leave side is a victory for the bigotry and xenophobia of few sections of the British society. Post the vote, there has been a 57 percent increase in racist and anti-immigrant incidents reported to the police. A vocal number of those who voted to leave the EU will not be satisfied to stop there: they appear to want England to be rid of all immigrants and will cheer on politicians who tell them they can have their way.
Experts from around the globe have come out and said that Britain’s exit from the EU, will reduce British influence in decisions related to international security, undermine NATO and give succour to the West’s enemies. Former boss of MI6 – the British intelligence agency Sir John Sawers also warned leaving the EU would make the UK “less safe”. He said the UK would be shut out of decisions on the “crucial” issue of data sharing.
The Revolt Ahead
Elsewhere, emboldened by Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, nationalists across the continent are daring to dream big, saying they, too, should have the chance for an up-or-down vote on the unloved bureaucracy in Brussels.
From Finland to Denmark to the Netherlands to Austria, far-right politicians are salivating at the idea of exiting a club they blame for unwanted immigrants, economic squalor and a loss of sovereignty. And nowhere could the possibility pose a greater threat to the union’s future than in France, where the far-right National Front party demanding a Frexit (the phrase is catching on) is surging in polls a year ahead of presidential elections.
If this type of hyper nationalism causes other exits from the EU, we could see its possible dissolution. The EU, notwithstanding all its flaws, has helped maintain peace in Europe for the last few decades, and prevented what European countries have been doing for centuries – fight wars with each other.
Archit Puri is a business student by qualification but a plethora of other things by admission. He has diversified interests like behavioural economics, game theory, culinary arts, beer, startups, game of thrones and others omitted due to lack of space.
Featured Image Credits: Visual Hunt