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Brexit as a blow to Eurosceptics

One does not simply leave the European Union

03.04.2019 18:45 Vasily Fedortsev, the Center for Special Mediametric Studies

Brexit as a blow to Eurosceptics

Until recently, the EU used to talk about Brexit in a largely tragic manner. Emmanuel Macron, for instance, called it a symbol of the crisis of Europe in early March. But amid the latest developments such a tone looks at least cunning. The crisis has long passed, and the tragedy has turned into a farce, clearly demonstrating to all those who remain that trying to get out of the European Union is an extremely bad scheme.

The fact that the withdrawal from the EU doesn’t bode well for Britain was an obvious thing long before the referendum. One cannot just give up free access to the second largest global market, which half of your entire economy hinges on. Saving on payments to the total budget (one of the main arguments of Brexit advocates) is not able to cover the losses looming in this case. Yet today Britain loses amounts exceeding these payments twice as much, but even those will seem pennyworth, if a customs regime is imposed on the border with the EU.

London is now preparing for the no-deal Brexit, which provides for an immediate establishment of customs, virtually like for a nuclear war. The government has already developed a plan for an extensive special operation in this case, and the Ministry of Defense found an air-raid shelter to command the troops.

Of course, this is an utmost option. But the alternative scenarios do not seem attractive either. In all the circumstances, Britain faces financial losses, and nearly all the cases entail a loss of control over its own economy. The very same control that Brexit advocates promised to return in 2016.

Access to the European market comes at a price, which involves integrating the EU-established rules and guidelines into your legislation. The more unhampered the market access, the more norms and the less control of their own law. And it is not for nothing that Norway or Switzerland, for example, are sometimes referred to as "vassals" of the EU – in economic terms they obey Brussels' decisions almost the same as the members of the Union, with the only difference of their having no say at all.

As is the case in practice, the British managed to get a feel of March 21, when the European Council discussed the issue of Brexit delay. They waited by the door while the other 27 countries were determining their fate. Then the British delegation was only briefed on the decision. And the procedure was over.

It is no wonder therefore that the British Parliament dismisses all the plans of further action submitted for its consideration, and on March 27, the "Norway" option has been slapped down. It is not surprising either that the most popular proposal among the deputies was the one to hold a second referendum – during both rounds of voting it came within just a few votes to be approved.

The Parliament intends to keep seeking for an appropriate option, but ultimately all these voting sessions are rather irrelevant at the moment. After March 29 saw the deputies refusing to accept the agreement with the EU for the third time, there are only two options left for London: either to leave until April 12 without an agreement, or to go cap in hand to Brussels and ask for a new delay. But this delay can only be obtained if Britain takes part in elections to the European Parliament. Then the Brexit issue will be postponed until the end of the year or even longer. Who knows, it may really come to a second referendum.

Across the English Channel, all these ordeals of the British are being looked at with interest, although there have been signs of impatience. Donald Tusk has already appointed an emergency meeting of the European Council for April 10, and by this date London should decide whether to host elections to the European Parliament or leave without an agreement. That is, Britain has a week to decide.

The European Union loses nothing in any case, and now it simply wants to quickly resolve the issue and digress into other subjects. Everyone has realized that even if Brexit happens, there is no way around it for the UK. The EU does not need the British to survive, but the British cannot live without the EU. Therefore, the existing ties will remain as they are, and this involves not only economy, but other areas as well, including sensible ones like defense. And London, if it loses the right to vote in Brussels, will no longer put a spoke in the wheel of European integration, which it has been doing nearly all the time.

But if Britain decides to stay, which looks quite likely now, its further existence within the European Union will hardly be as privileged as before. Brussels was ready to make concessions before the referendum, when Brexit seemed an incomprehensible and frightening thing, but now it is talking to London from a position of strength and under the "have it your way" principle.

On the other hand, the EU should be actually grateful to the British. They bravely undertook to demonstrate by their own example what an attempt to quit can lead to. The demonstration is still underway, but it has significantly reduced the number of those supporting Euroscepticism which was used by the European politicians to frighten each other over the last ten years. Ahead of the 2016 British referendum, a third of the EU population believed that the country should better live independently, while today only 16 percent are ready to follow the example of Britain. And judging by the way the situation develops, there will be even fewer of them soon.

Brexit, which in 2016 was referred to as the beginning of the EU collapse, has turned from a virus into a vaccine – those who started talking about the withdrawal, will be considered insane for a long time. So, the coming years are not going to witness the collapse of the European Union, that's for sure. Britain has done everything possible and is a perfect candidate for the Charlemagne Prize, which is annually awarded for work done in the service of European unification.

 

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