Brexit on the horizon – What’s next for the EU?
Britain has voted to leave the European Union. Now negotiations start and the process of restructuring the union begin. An example will be set, teaching us how to undo some of the effects of globalization – positive and negative alike – and whether this move will pay off for the Britons or not in the long haul. Certainly, the entire build-up to the referendum yesterday has triggered debates all over Europe as to what the future of the Union will look like and whether there indeed even is a future for the project going forward.
Nationalism is back
Born once as a peace project, the European Union has developed into a massive legislative and jurisdictional apparatus, which, especially in times of crisis, may seem too big to handle things in an appropriate and timely fashion. Since the economic crisis took hold of the Eurozone, the public opinion throughout the member nations has changed quite substantially, with doubtful voices and EU sceptics constantly on the rise. The recent wave of refugees, which seems to fan the flames of many right-wing conservative movements throughout all of Europe, is another contributing factor, effectively causing doubt among people whether their home country might need a higher degree of sovereignty to handle the situation properly.
Because there is a strong sense of doubt among many people, as to whether the EU, as a unified body, will be able to spread migration fairly amongst its member states, EU scepticism is no longer just a sentiment held by a small minority within the population. And it certainly is no longer a thought on the sideline for right-wing party leaders. It has become a view which is common among people from all parts of the political spectrum, motivating them to come out with a desire for more independence among the nations of the European Union for a variety of reasons.
Now that there will be a precedent set for a member nation leaving the union on their own terms, other countries will be looking at Britain very closely to see if leaving might be an option for them. The truth here seems to be, that for the first time in decades, a complete or partial breakup of the European Union might be a possibility. Again, it remains to be seen what that would actually mean. One possible solution could very well see a division between the economic union and the political union, such as creating a free trade zone with some shared policies, while abandoning all or most of the joint governing institutions.
Facing the challenges of a globalized world
Ever since the financial crisis put countries like Greece and Cyprus into peril, public opinion within the EU showed that solidarity is not as widespread of a phenomenon as we’d like to think it is. This will be one of the major challenges for the EU going forward: To rekindle a European sense of solidarity, which acknowledges the link between joint economics and growing prosperity, and a peaceful approach to facing the challenges of a globalized world.
Fear of terror is another major factor in the stay or leave debate – with the threat of a terror attack seemingly always looming, it’s an easy step to make a point for transitioning back to closed borders between nations and strictly nationally sovereign immigration and security policies. But the truth is that it remains yet to be seen, if such an approach would actually prove better than one combining joint and individual efforts among the nations of the EU.
Fighting international terrorism, dealing with an ever more fluctuant labor market, maintaining a strong, future-prone currency and finding a proper means to create a just distribution of wealth among nations and people – these will be the pressing challenges for European countries going forward. And whether they decide to keep up a politico-economic union in the process, no single nation will be able to face these challenges on their own and in isolation.
For British expats around the world, it remains yet to be seen how things will change for them. It largely depends on how the negotiations between their government and the EU leaders go, but judging from the sentiments expressed by both, leaders of the UK and the EU alike, the process will be approached with great care and caution, making it safe to assume that it will take a while before actual changes start affecting Britons abroad.
Image: Jeff Djevdet CC BY 2.0