Political Damage of the Brexit Referendum

Commentary by Fiona GESKES

With the date for the in/out referendum now set for May/June 2016, the debate on whether the UK should remain in the European Union or leave is likely to heat up. Given the relatively short referendum campaign (compared to the prolonged Scottish referendum) this debate is set to be one which will shape the political landscape in the UK no matter what the outcome. The monumental responsibility of making this decision is, unfortunately, not likely to be debated in a rational and truthful manner -but rather driven by the perceived threat of the thousands of illegal migrants who will descend on the shores.

David Cameron has promised a referendum on Britain’s EU membership, but his official Conservative Party policy is to stay in – Valsts kanceleja, licenced under CC BY-SA 2.0
David Cameron has promised a referendum on Britain’s EU membership, but his official Conservative Party policy is to stay in – Valsts kanceleja, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Many of the polls indicate that the UK will in fact remain in the Union.1 Yet even if this is the outcome come summer 2016, the damage of the referendum campaign to the UK relationship with its European neighbours may be harder to overcome. The EU is currently, much as the Eurosceptics would like to deny it, more than a plain economic union and still sui generis in its nature – it is a political and cultural union. Even if we ignore the potential economic danger of a Brexit and focus on the political and diplomatic dangers, it can be argued that these are just as serious. The fluidity of the political and diplomatic relations between the member states is facilitated by the differing political arenas, from the Commission to the Parliament and the Council at the highest levels. Leaving these arenas for the political discourse and discussion, means shutting a door. There is a whole list of issues that dog the EU – from the lack of accountability to the democratic deficit – and some of these are without a doubt issues that need to be addressed. Yet the question that needs to be asked is, are they worth risking the relations with our closest neighbours over? As we enter into the in/out debate, one hopes that the enormity of the situation is understood and respected.

In a speech given at Schloss Bellevue, Berlin in 2013, the German President Joachim Gauck, directly addressed Britain with the words: “We would like you to stay with us! We need your experience as the oldest parliamentary democracy, we value your traditions but we also need your pragmatism and your courage! During the Second World War, your efforts helped to save our Europe – and it is also your Europe. (…) More Europe cannot mean a Europe without you!” Despite speaking in 2013, the message of this speech seems tantalizingly accurate today – more Europe cannot mean a Europe without the United Kingdom.

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5 thoughts on “Political Damage of the Brexit Referendum

  1. Sorry to say, but having foreign politicians vote on our laws is in no way democratic. And Juncker and Tusk were not elected, nor democratically appointed or any convoluted argument you are trying to make.

    The EU is 100% undemocratic simply because there isn’t a “European people” or “EU-people” in the same way that there IS a “British people” or even a “German people”. Even if a tiny fraction of Brussels-wannabees believes that there is, the vast majority says that it is not.

    Having Merkel tell Hungary they cannot do X, Poland that they need to do Y, and demanding that Greece’s government subjects itself to German dominance is not democratic, no matter how you try to argue that it is.

    Britain, much like my country the Netherlands is better off out. First of all, a country would regain its national democracy. It would regain its monetary sovereignty and would regain exclusive control of its fishing waters. Both countries would also regain their net contributions.

    Yes, the rest of the world exists. And that is precisely why we do not need the EU.

    Question: do you like your neighbours? Likely you do. And you live alongside them so you have some mutual interests.

    Next question: do you have a shared household budged and common credit card with your neighbours and do you let them vote as to where you should go on holiday? Of course not. And so should it be with countries.

    And then there are the facts on the ground: Greece was told by the EU it couldn’t deviate from hard right wing economic ideology. And today, the EU mandates hard right wing economic ideology. Same seems to be true for Portugal now, where the EU, Draghi and Merkel likely pressured the president in denying the majority in the new parliament from forming a government. Conclusion: economic policy cannot be changed.

    The EU therefore clearly expresses that it thinks the interests of financial markets are more important than those of the people. The Euro is a massive disaster for 95% of the people who are not rich and yet the EU does anything it has to to keep the zombie currency alive. Austerity for the poor, bailouts for the rich.

    Facts don’t lie. And they don’t go away.

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  2. The UK will leave and the EU cannot stop us as we are the most powerful country in the member states! Be good riddance and hello fresh start without morons in Europe telling us what to do.

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    1. Hi Craig, thanks for your comment! We’re always interested in discussing different opinions – not all of us here at YEN are 100% pro-Brussels and we welcome debate. However, we disagree with your comment on two grounds.

      First, you imply that the EU is in some way controlling the UK, or ‘telling it what to do’. The EU is a body created by the Member States, and any EU-wide policy that could somehow ‘tell a Member State what to do’ would have to pass through the Council of the European Union, which is made up of ministers from each European Member State. Contentious issues tend to require unanimity (or in some cases QMV) to be passed, which means that every single head of state would have to agree to the adoption of a certain policy for it to be passed. Therefore, if the UK – or any other Member State – is unhappy with a certain policy, it will simply veto it and the EU cannot impose it. Furthermore the UK is actually a special case in the amount of opt-outs and opt-ins it holds with regards to EU policy – meaning that in areas such as economic and monetary policy, and migration and asylum policy, the UK can decide whether or not it wants to ‘opt in’ and adhere to any new policies (much as current political rhetoric would have you think otherwise!). The UK is one of the only Member States that holds these tools.

      Secondly, should the UK leave the EU, it will still be affected by EU policies since the EU will remain a major partner in all matters to do with trade and international security. The difference will be that the UK will lose its right to veto policies.

      We’ll have lots of articles and opinion pieces on these topics – they’re highly salient at the moment as you know – so do stay tuned!

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      1. Actually 95% of the UK economy won’t have to pay a blind bit of attention to the EU when we leave as it has no interaction with the EU. The EU will have to abide by UK & WTO trade rules if it wants to access the UK market place just as we will have to adhere to EU standards to sell to that market & you are wrong to say we will have no say in the rules of the market for the simple reason most standards are now agree at WTO level & the UK will have an equal seat at the WTO table as the whole EU does as an equal. We also have a permanent seat on the UN security council with a VETO that works unlike your mirage of an effort that you suggest we have on EU policy so if the EU wants to do deals on the international plain it will have to come to London & seek our approval & vote. The EU doesn’t have a military or global footprint, the UK does in both respects. The EU costs the UK net £13 Billion a year even after all the rebates & we get nothing back other than interference. We have in the last twelve months been forced to take 330,000 EU migrants seeking Asylum from the Eurozone economy & are then being given diktats to take another bunch of refugees that Merkel invited (but doesnt want) to the EU. We are being abused day in & day out the only way to get away from this bad marriage is to vote for brexit!

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