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The referendum in Britain is over. A total of almost 52% of those that voted decided to leave the European Union. The question posed at the referendum was clear: Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union? However, everything else is unclear and uncertain. What exactly did the British vote for?
The plain interpretation of the referendum result is that the majority of those that came out to vote, and that chose the formal withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU, no longer want to make joint political decisions with other EU countries. Accordingly, they would no longer like to contribute to the common budget. But, does this interpretation of the question answer all of the uncertainties? If one considers all of the rights that arise from being a Member State, and from being a citizen of the EU, the British seem to also support the payment of customs tariffs on their return from shopping in Paris or Milan. Or, perhaps, they are against the right to, in old age, buy a house and freely move to the warm coasts of the Mediterranean. Or, it may be that they support cuts in funding cuts for scientific research, as the country’s scientists will lose access to EU supported grants. Or, they perhaps oppose the right of the British youth to seek employment in other EU countries. Or they take issue with the banks and financial institutions – upon which the influence and power of the City of London rest – and think they should no longer have the right to freely conduct business and provide services in the world’s biggest market – the EU market. In addition, we can ponder whether they voted for the inability of British airline companies, and especially the low cost ones, to operate and fly between the European cities with ease. The voters, maybe, wanted to join the passport lines that are formed across Europe by the citizens of Pakistan, Turkey, Tajikistan, Bangladesh…. The uncertainties are countless, and the result of the referendum does not give an answer to any of them. The only conclusion that one may come to is that the UK cannot, de facto, disentangle itself from everything that the EU represents, because, after all, Britain is a part of Europe.
The British government is not in the position to request additional concessions in regards to the freedom of movement of people while demanding access to the single market. (It seems that 2.2 million EU citizens that currently live in the UK can breathe a sigh of relief.) Moreover, taking the example of Norway, which still has to pay into the common budget of the EU, it is almost impossible to expect that the UK will be relieved of this obligation in full. Even though Britain will no longer participate in the creation of policies that govern the single market, it will have to comply with EU regulations if it wishes to maintain access to it. Free access to the single market is, simply put, too lucrative – it creates jobs and opportunities for everyone, and increases government revenues – thus the „costs“ associated with the it are absolutely minor in comparison. In addition, around half of British foreign trade is conducted with other EU Member States. Thus, there is a possibility that a change in these trade relations might impact the UK labour market negatively, and especially those jobs that are directly or indirectly related to trade with the EU (especially in the private sector).
Unfortunately, what has been achieved by the leave vote so far is a drastic devaluation of the national currency, and a dramatic drop in the stock prices – specifically in the airline and banking sectors (so much that their trading had to be halted for a period of time). The Brexit vote also lead to a downgrade in the country’s credit rating and thus increased the level of interest rates the UK has to pay on future loans. At the same time, due to the drop in the value of the pound, the UK is in danger of losing its position as the fifth biggest economy in the world to France. Furthermore, the vote has split the country like never before, exposing a divide between the young and the old, the Scots and the English, the City of London and the less developed parts of England and Wales. As a consequence of the falsehoods used by the leave campaigners, as well as the absolute inability of the remain supporters to properly present the benefits of EU membership, the credibility of the political establishment has been (almost) completely eradicated. The leave supporters used the accession of Turkey, Serbia and Albania to intimidated their voters, thus managing, ironically, to put the UK in the same position – at the doorsteps of the EU, negotiating its relations with it.
The United Kingdom is now faced with serious difficulties, without allies, with a PM that resigned, with turmoil within its political parties. It is divided, impoverished and confused, and has experienced an increase in hate crimes towards those that look „different “. It is now confronted with an uncertain future. Those of us that did not cast a vote, the observers, can only come to the conclusions that the British population expressed its disappointment with Brussels and that the EU has a number of flaws. Nonetheless, we will now have the chance to clearly see what the alternative to the EU looks like and where it leads to.
The consequences of the referendum in Britain show that it is neither wise nor useful to leave the European project – a project that brought peace and order to the Old Continent, whose future was, at the time of EU’s inception, less than promising. The European Union is first and foremost a peace project. one that has had a positive influence on our lives and our welfare. It is a project that we must continue to develop, improve, innovate, and change for the better, making it more efficient and more beneficial for us, the citizens of Europe.