To be or not to be within the European Union: That is the question.
To some extent, as the doubtful Hamlet contemplating the end of his life, the United Kingdom is taking into account the possibility to conclude the long-term partnership with its EU members.
On Wednesday 27th May, the proposal announced by the British Queen came as a bolt from the blue. The tough line taken by Elizabeth II and her resolute tone have impressed citizens, politicians and economists from all over the world, that have started to hypothesise potential outcomes and consequences of such an unexpected scenario. According to the ancient Albion’s monarch, the government is working on a law paving the way for an in-out referendum on the country’s membership within the EU, which is likely to take place by the end of 2017. Ultimately, the announcement has rocked the boat and the newly re-elected Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron, is primarily asked to take the reins in such an uncertain atmosphere. Aside from personal or political preferences, the reasons behind this stance and its effects on global economy require deeper considerations, as no one country has ever left EU before.
“Free us from the shackles”
This is what is claimed by those in favour to the so-called Brexit. According to their solicit, the UK will benefit from both the increase and improvement of trade with the rest of the world and will be able to take decisions independently, without feeling constrained by EU policy. Indeed, it could establish new agreements with non-EU countries and free the financial services sector, making its marketplace more attractive and innovative.
By issuing new reforms in the field of energy and immigration, the UK could release itself from EU’s impositions and act according to its priorities. The immigration issue is one of the biggest concern of the Conservative government. From the Eurosceptic – or, even worse, Europhobic – perspective, for instance, eastern European immigrants, who have increasingly crossed the country’s borders, are perceived as a threat to the welfare state and its stability. Accordingly, Mr. Cameron has already announced that he intends to renegotiate the terms with the EU in order to create better conditions for a more peaceful and less conflicting partnership. Hence, the following years are crucial: in the lack of any improvement, the EU will be more likely to lose one strategic piece of its puzzle. The first one.
Conversely, for those against the Brexit, there would indeed be more costs than benefits deriving from the UK’s way out. First, the country would lose its seat at the negotiation table with other EU members and would risk being left out of the European community. A deeper discrepancy between policies would arise and make it increasingly difficult for non-UK citizens to work and to move there. In similar vein, foreign partners might lower their investments, given the lack of any advantage deriving from the UK’s partnership with other EU members, and contribute to its isolation. According to the think tank Open Europe’s forecasts, its GDP could be 2.2 percent lower in 2030 if a real Brexit occurred.
Second, the passing referendum would awaken other countries’ requests of independence, jeopardizing a larger schema of relationships and triggering new conflicts. Most importantly, it would reveal the weakness and sham of the EU.
It is not the first time that the European Union is considered an aggregation of separated countries and the UK has often demonstrated its scepticism towards such. Going back a good half-century, it is worth remembering that it declined the invitation to join the European Economic Community at the Treaty of Rome in 1957. It occurred in 1961, but the request was rejected twice as the then French President Charles de Gaulle was concerned about its hidden hostility towards Europe and its lack of interest in the Common Market. In 1973, the UK finally joined the European Community; only two years later, the Labour Party issued the first in-out referendum for a first exit. Nowadays, the United Kingdom is currently out of the Schengen Area and the Eurozone.
The lack of a truly united Europe has always stood out and the spectre of an incoming vote simply provides further reasons supporting this argument.
After the World War II, when Italy, Belgium, France, the Netherlands, the Federal Republic of Germany and Luxembourg signed the Treaty of Rome, their aim was to create a platform to escape other global conflicts and to favour integration, by creating a common market and promoting new ideals of fairness and liberty. These were the pillars at the base of what would have been called the European Union. Perhaps, each EU country should reflect on the true reasons why they are currently members of this ambitious project. The results of the dreaded referendum, if any, could provide the right answer, at least for the UK.