C Shannon

Britain after Brexit


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.

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  1. From the beginning of this article I sensed a pro EU Slant .
    Most authors on this subject tend to see Britain’s attitude from a political point of view .
    The British people do want to change Britain’s relationship with the EU , to not being tied in any way . Britain does not need to be a member of an EEC to carry on trade as now with European countries . Britain generally buys more than it sells , so tariffs could be negative from an EU point of view .
    No matter what a former British government has agreed to under the Treaty of Rome , I do not believe the British people would ever permit their government to tie Britain into an ever closer EU .
    As I see it , the European project of ever closer union is already dead . never mind Britain and Brexit , I believe that other countries might not find it so easy to join . A point that is overlooked , is that in a single federal state all financial resources may be pooled . Countries like Germany would put their money in the Kitty and the EU would share it out to support the nare-do-wells , such as Italy , Greece , Spain and Portugal . i do not think more prosperous countries are going to accept that .
    The idea that Britain may help with the Free Trade Treaty with the US is also a mistake . The EU needs to be very wary of this free trade agreement . The US will control all disputes and take grave advantage of the EU .

    1. If someone told you I was an impartial journalist, I apologise. I neither have a degree in journalism, nor claim to be impartial. I’m a Canadian who writes on EU affairs, with a Master’s in European Studies, and I don’t take any pains to conceal my federalist leanings. Pro-EU is part of who I am. However, I try to write in a manner that is both fair and interesting. So I hope my bias didn’t stop you from finding me as either.

      You make good points about the British vox populi. We are in agreement on the idea that Britons would not find a federalist solution to be palatable, risking the understandment. That is, after all, the whole inciting point of this article. However, it is important to remember that, outside of referendums, voters do not make policy. The last few months reminded us that, especially in the European context, the will of the people can and is ignored when formulating policy decisions. This is fortunate because the desire for the British people to “not be tied in anyway” is fantasy in the age of globalisation. Even if Britain cut all political ties with the EU and maintained economic ties, it would still be integrated (quite heavily) with Europe. Economic and market integration is still integration. Independence in an era marked by interdependence is a myth.

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