The Brexit is a classic example of a referendum with a zero sum loss at least in the immediate future.
There is little to rejoice over and ultimately there will be no winners, only losers. We elect politicians mostly because we trust that at critical junctures in a nation’s history they will reason and judge right, taking the hard decisions. David Cameron failed in this test, but it will be wrong to attribute all the blame to his individual actions.
There is a larger background behind all these developments – a careful plan that has been set in motion for quite some time. Partly with a notable contribution by the Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has focused on destroying the EU and NATO. Luckily, for now NATO seems immune to the aftermath of the Brexit.
Putin’s plan is very simple – divide and rule – and certainly not an innovation of modern geopolitics. It is not the first time Europe has been threatened from the East with large masses of migrating people used as a geopolitical lever.
The results of the British referendum proved Putin’s rationale in using the migrants as a scarecrow reviving the isolationist fervor in British islanders’ minds. Mr. Putin has scored on all counts – he has shaken both the EU and the UK to the core.
Do not expect him to rejoice and award highest state honors to the hybrid generals at a ceremony at the Kremlin as he did after the annexation of Crimea. Quite on the contrary – expect dovish talk from Moscow and a low profile, at least in the immediate future.
Russia managed to translate its influence over the former Iraqi Sunnis – former Baathists and army officers – to launch and navigate the Islamist State, generating mass refugee and immigrant flows to Europe. The scare tactic worked not only on the merit of the numbers of migrants, but the terror and threat perceptions unleashed by Kremlin’s media power in the EU and the UK. Nationalist and populist, often financed directly by Moscow’s banks and secret services, triggered a natural emotion defense reaction in the hearts and minds on British citizens. Divorcing the EU was the natural outcome.
Judging from voters’ reaction in Scotland and Northern Ireland there is little doubt that Britain itself would suffer a serious blow with strong centrifugal forces let loose that might lead to the disintegration of the United Kingdom. On that front – Mr. Putin has won too – fair and square.
The ‘leave’ vote is likely to provoke fresh nationalistic and populist hysteria with referenda demands across the EU, threatening the core existence of the Union.
Crisis management policies will follow both at EU and national level. Calls for reform and change will ensue. For good. But if not focused or tainted with aggressive anti-British talk efforts to contain the damage might inflict more pain. This will lead us into the next traps of Mr. Putin – permanent loss of faith in relations between Britain and the EU. The EU will invite Scotland and Northern Ireland to remain, while England will be seeking ways to retain the integrity of the UK.
The process triggered by the Brexit is reversible – both in part or in whole. It is relatively easier to shock the world in a protest vote – much more difficult is to sustain the energy through time and translate it into pragmatic divorce agenda. Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage would hardly be able to strike a good deal with the EU leaders at the level of mutual trust, not before they are elected to govern the country. The parliamentary elections in the autumn might produce a different array of representation in the House of Commons and henceforth in the UK Government, that stems from the Brexit’s logic.
Whilst the future is a matter of guesswork, the vote of the British people will dramatically raise levels of uncertainty both at home and in the EU. Attempts to limit volatility on both ends could hardly emerge as solidarity action, given the fact that trust is not in excess supply. Anti-British sentiments at EC and EU countries’ level might result in unjustifiable prejudice against Britain – which will be a grave mistake. Chancellor Merkel is right – until they leave we should treat our English, Scottish, Welsh and North Irish partners with full respect as family of.
We should not let bitter feelings reign in as this will add insult to injury, spelling long term consequences for both the EU and Britain.
Britons were led by the Leave campaigners to believe that Brussels is the source of all their problems. By removing the EU bond, so the story went, things will be easier to sort out and money will be saved. Apocalyptic scenarios on both sides of the Brexit campaign were far off the mark from what is likely to happen in a potential EU-UK break up, yet the negative fallout can hardly be overestimated.
It is true that the EU economy and finances, including the ECB and banking sector, are in a downward spiral dooming the union to new lows in the already chronic crisis. The EU needs a profound shake up and we have to be grateful to the British for the shock wave that the Brexit has generated.
The pound provided for a solid shield against spill over of irrationalities at the ECB or Brussels. Yet Britain has not been a model of stability or an island of best governance practices, neither in the public, nor banking and financial sectors.
This certainly holds true for most national governments in the EU, including the British government, that Brussels is neither the center of evil, not the ultimate excuse for unresolved national problems. If you remove the EU from the UK political and governance equation, little would change. Neither Boris Johnson nor Nigel Farage hold universal keys to resolve complex issues.
The return to 19 century reasoning on the primacy of the nation state and futile attempts to reverse regional integration is a sure sign of cognitive dissonance. Countries get together and merge their policies not because leaders are struck by sudden providence on what needs to be done but because they respond to objective needs of navigating their countries through the globalization conundrum at various levels – regional, continental and supra-continental. To claim that one can simply detach a country from the mainstream of integration processes, go back in history or provide strict national scripts on the road to welfare and prosperity is a pure delusion.
Russia has been left out of European integration process because it was too big to be handled, with internal gravity and values too difficult to harmonize. Putin’s rule gave ample evidence to that effect.
Britain has been leading Europe in its globalization drive in many aspects – with exceptionally high profile in the financial sector.
Divorce has never been a happy moment – never will.
It will be easier to get Britain out of Europe, than to get Europe out of Britain.
The game is not over. Yet.