On the 23rd of June, British voters will decide in a referendum whether their country remains in the European Union
Frequently discussed in recent years, the idea of Britain’s leaving the Union is by no means a novelty. Ever since the European Union was first created, the British have been among the most euroskeptical among the Union’s citizens, while its leaders had many reservations about the European project from the very start. Professor Daniel Daianu explains.
Daniel Daianu: “Political insularity and a certain geographic position, which has also influenced Britain’s geopolitical positioning, have survived in time and can still be seen today. In fact, the British even negotiated their accession differently and benefited from privileges that have not been awarded in other cases, such as the special rebate of Britain’s contribution to the EU budget, which depends less on wealth, on the overall potential of the British economy. Under the circumstances, the state of mind of the British should not be a surprise. Let us not forget that Britain’s accession itself was not an easily foreseeable outcome. The opposing sides were both vehement and continued the battle in the years that followed. This battle has now taken a new guise and can very well lead to Brexit, the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, amid a certain lack of confidence in Europe in the European institutions and the ability of the national governments to continue the European project. We are seeing some difficult times.”
The latest poll commissioned and published by The Telegraph shows, however, an increase to 53% in the number of pro-EU voters, 2% more than in previous polls. At the same time, the number of Brexit supporters dropped by 3%, to 41%. The poll was published one day after a Treasury report saying that Brexit would cost every British family 4,300 pounds a year, while the country’s economy would shrink by 6%, figures which have been denied by the opposing side. The situation remains uncertain and worrying, both in economic and political circles, with Brexit being described as “a leap into the unknown”.
Daniel Daianu: “This is a very, very delicate moment, because the UK, Great Britain, is the oldest democracy in Europe. If they say NO to staying in the EU, this will be a major blow to the Union, because, no matter how we look at it, it will be an indication of disapproval for the Union. Not necessarily a deserved one, but nonetheless one which is rooted in the fact that governing flaws have led to fractures, to fragmentation processes, to distrust in EU institutions, to what has come to be perceived as a disease. And this disease is not easy to overcome by the European Union, which is struggling with an economic crisis, with a refugee crisis, with tensions between the North and the South, the East and the West. So this is a very difficult situation, which Europe did not need right now. Britain continues to have a vital role to play. It is a strong economy, one of the strongest in the EU. And it also plays a central role in geopolitical terms, in the Union’s foreign policy and security policy. Together with France, it counterweighs Germany’s economic power, and a balance of power is necessary on the continent.”
Daniel Daianu believes that Britain’s leaving the EU would not only entail problems within the Union, but also generate serious regional and global effects.
Daniel Daianu: “By fueling these fragmentation processes, it would somehow provide more credibility, so to say, to those who question the European project. It would be a disapproval of this project, which would complicate the metabolism of the EU and the very functioning of the region. We should keep in mind that London is the financial centre of Europe and one of the financial hubs of the world, next to New York in the US. Moreover, this would take place in a year when Europe is yet to reach a reasonable degree of effective control of the migrant influx, in a European Union with fragile economic growth, on average, with a significant part of the voters rejecting traditional parties, with radical right or left-wing groups that are getting closer to power or even get to power, which is not a good thing for the EU because most of them are highly euroskeptical.”
Brexit might entail similar referendums in other European countries, analysts fear, and this would strengthen the risk of EU implosion. According to Daniel Daianu, this would force in a “damage-control approach” to make sure that the Union does not collapse. But it will still be substantially weaker, precisely at a time when it needs more strength.