July 31, 2015
If one thing the critics and the advocates of the EU can agree on is that more integration is needed, if the EU is going to survive. That seems like a sign of poor tidings for keeping Britain in the EU. So, let’s run with a hypothetical.
Hypothetically, let’s say that Hollande’s proposals go forward and a strong core for a European State is created. The UK, who wants the EU to be a economic club, gets frightened and the referendum goes sour. All of the sudden, the Brexit is a reality and everyone is asking what the relationship between the UK, Europe and the rest of the world looks like. Well, what would that look like? I have three ideas on said future.
First idea is that Britain doesn’t want to change the relationship between it and the EU at all, and the referendum isn’t a bid to distance itself, but rather to give itself a better hand in the negotiations (sound familiar?) It’s also the tactic that drove many voters in the the 1995 referendum in Quebec to vote for independence. It’s actually a very common reason for referenda. So, after leaving the EU, Britain would attempt to remain integrated in the common market.
The second idea is that the UK would seek economic partnership in an existing economic bloc, perhaps NAFTA. It would be highly unusual to permit a European country to join the North American Free Trade Agreement, surely; however, Anglo-cooperation isn’t the least likely of outcomes. The UK shares strong cultural ties with the USA and Canada and would be able to contribute to the success of the members without the political demands that come with EU membership.
Lastly, there is the opportunity to start something new. Depending on your perspective, it might be a very old idea. There exists currently a movement for establishing freedom of movement between the principle Anglo members of the Commonwealth (UK, NZ, Australia, Canada) called the Commonwealth Freedom of Movement Organisation which currently has a petition with, at writing, 78000 signatures. I’ve talked about the importance of “the Empire” in the Canadian national psyche prior and for many of us “these are the chains nothing can break.” It is somewhat ironic that the sentiments towards Anglo-reunification are least potent within the UK itself. However, it should be noted that in Canada, New Zealand and Australia that when the UK left behind our relationship to pursue European integration that it was a point of “national” trauma. This path would also allow Britain to assume a role of leadership, as well, that being Europe’s economic partner or NAFTA’s exception wouldn’t allow.
Personally, I think the best opportunity for Britain is still to remain in the EU and get over it’s phobia of Polish plumbers. It’s already in a leading position in the biggest economic bloc in the world. Its position is only diminished by antagonising European reformists. The threat of a Brexit simply can’t be used to compel Britain’s European partners into capitulating the European project. It will only imperil Britain economically and politically.C. Shannon