The European Union is living through one of its worse moment in history. After decades spent in uniting European economies towards the (partly) achieved goal of the common market, the world financial crisis, which begun in 2008 and moved to the real economic sector in 2010, led to a rise in anti-European feelings. Whether the fault for the decrease in production (and consumption) in many parts of Europe is entirely attributable to the lack of a fiscal and banking coordination inside the EU or to a more general failure of the libertarian concept of a market-led economy, is an argument alone to debate. Evidence, on the other hand, shows that politicians grab easy votes by condemning the Euro and the supranational organization that enforces it; Poland is in fact only the last example of an unfortunate series of elections for pro-EU parties.
UK’s recently re-elected Prime Minster, David Cameron, decided to allow for a referendum where British will be granted the opportunity to decide for the permanence of their country in the European Union. Cameron’s questioning of the effectiveness of the Union was one of the main reasons that led to his election in 2010, and the promise of a popular vote on UK European membership contributed to his re-election this year. Cameron assured his voters that by the end of 2017 they would have the chance to decide for their countries’ European future, alongside with the potential breakdown of the process of unification Europe is experiencing since the end of World War II and, later, the collapse of the Soviet Union. 2017 becomes therefore a strategic year, since also Germans will meanwhile be called to vote in order to judge upon Merkel’s third mandate.
There is, however, a great difference between the two leaders’ political bets. While Cameron is entrusting to his compatriots the weight of a decision that can potentially determine the end of the “United States of Europe” utopia, the German Chancellor will see whether her decision of letting hundreds of thousands of migrants into Germany made her Europe’s undiscussed political guide or not.
However, the focus of the discussion is another: do we really need United Kingdom in the European Union, or would we be stronger as a German-centric Continental Europe supranational organization?
The loss of UK’s membership fee will shrink significantly the already suffering EU budget.
UK is the fifth largest economy in the world, and most importantly, its capital London represents the biggest financial hub in the “old continent”. Most of UK’s trade is done with Europe, and this would lead to import-based UK industries to suffer from the scission, and to eventually look for other free-trade areas in the Northern hemisphere.
Politically, the loss of a nuclear-armed country, permanent member of the UN Security Council would mean a significant reduction in the negotiating power of the EU on the world stage.
On the other hand, the European Union’s political machine would benefit from UK’s estrangement, since lately all attempts of reaching consensus on foreign policies were abruptly interrupted by Cameron’s entourage.
When dealing with migration issues, following the Middle-East crisis of the last years, the EU found significant impediments coming from the United Kingdom, which decided to follow the Eastern European countries’ rigidity and unwillingness to cooperate by accepting refugees. Without the major political and economic weight represented by the UK, it would be much easier for the remaining “big three” (Germany, France and Italy) to act effectively and promptly on behalf of the smaller countries in the Union, thus providing efficient policies capable of managing arising crises.
What results interesting of Cameron’s decision to allow the referendum is the will to give the general public power on such an important issue. History taught us that when citizens were called upon to vote for European Union’s major changes the results led to a general disempowerment of the supranational organization.
In 2009, for example, the ratification of a European Constitution was abandoned following the refusal expressed via referendum of France and the Netherlands. The Constitution was later included in the Treaty of Lisbon of the same year, circumnavigating somehow the recently expressed popular will.
Whether British should decide to leave the European Union, they must be aware of the potential earthquake they could cause to Brussels, taking their responsibilities for a future where Europe as a whole would be partly deprived of its actual bargaining power on the world scene.