This article was written on the 18th of October, and the British government had reached a deal with the European Union. As we know, anything can happen during the Brexit process in the House of Commons...
The European Union is one of the largest integrated unions in world history.
It stands at 28 member nations, with over 513 million people, and is the second-largest economy in the world after the United States. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War was a major gift for Europe and the EU, which was in a celebratory mood throughout the 1990s and early 2000s.
Currently, we are seeing an integration success story in Asia. but not necessarily in the EU. Deeper integration can mean lower barriers to enter a new market, which opens new opportunities for growth. Fewer restrictions and lower costs. Goods, services, capital, and citizens can move more freely, and this can create new ideas, wealth, and wellbeing.
Integration by default does not mean automatic success, wellbeing, and prosperity. The question is: what sort of integration are we talking about? In some regards, integration can turn restrictive, and it can slow down deeply required reforms and economic growth. Being trapped in stagnation in deep integration is a deadly combination. The European Union requires a new launch, and Britain's membership is much needed.
The global financial crisis, which happened in 2007, is still haunting the EU. The EU has confronted the rise in increasing debt, economical problems, and populism and an economic recovery has happened but its stance is fragile. Global trade wars and conflicts are not helping the situation. The EU is to some extent scattered, and because of political dissidents (exemplified by Hungary, Italy, and Poland), it does not have a common grand strategy. All are increasing light stagnation. Despite light stagnation EU’s approval ratings are high in all member countries. The EU is also lucrative for struggling Ukrainians but wealthy Norwegians, Icelanders, and Swiss citizens are heavily against joining the EU.
Britain’s possible departure from the EU is a part of a long and bitter relationship with Europe. In 1957, Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and West Germany signed the Treaty of Rome, which created the European Economic Community (EEC). Britain stayed outside of the community until 1973. During sixteen years the EEC became heavily a project between France and Germany. Both countries have been known as countries which have promoted heavy welfare policies and soft power in foreign affairs, while the UK has been a promoter of free enterprise and trade and power politics in foreign affairs. Two different worlds collided in the beginning. A Brexit vote, for many, was the final strike to end the EU’s “red tape policies”. We must remember that Britain was one of the EU’s economic powerhouses with a small group of countries before the Brexit vote. Other member states were struggling with economic stability.
Political economist Francis Fukuyama has said that Brexit vote was a part of identity politics, which is on the rise around the developed world, especially in the West and also elsewhere. A part of identity politics is that values matter more than rational arguments. Voters can vote against their economic wellbeing because values matter more than rational economic and social arguments and short-term economic wellbeing. Visions, feelings, and values matter - fact-based or burst with propaganda. Typically a mix of everything. However, both Leave and Remain voters have rational arguments and many of them argue in economic terms.
Every union has its downturns but it does mean that countries should leave because suddenly they can create new momentums. Britain is a global force in the EU. Only through Britain's membership, the EU can more easily generate new economic growth and to be a powerful political force in world affairs.
This is the first of two blogs by Jukka Aminoff FRSA on the topic of the United Kingdom's departure from the EU. The second blog will focus on 'recovery'.