The Brexit curtain goes up

The Brexit curtain goes up

For those who thought the curtain had come down on Brexit now that UK has decided to leave, bad luck. It has only just gone up. We are barely into Act 1 of a drama that will play for years. There are many excellent, deep analyses of the outcome and a Daily Paradox is not long enough to do justice to the complex issues raised by the events unfolding before us.

However, there seem to be four questions that really matter. 1. Will the EU survive? If so, in what form? 2. Whatever the result of Brexit, how will Europe fare economically, politically and socially? 3. Will European security be compromised by Brexit and its consequences? With what result? 4. Will the United Kingdom survive?

There are so many forecasts and they are at such odds with each other that making more appears foolhardy. We have never shied away from the difficult – in this case, the impossible – and see no reason to do so now. So the following are offered with a huge caveat. We don’t know. Unfortunately, nor does anybody else. What follows is based on the thesis that, as Antoine de Saint-Exupery said, “…our highest accomplishments still have the single aim of bringing people together”.

The EU will survive but in an increasingly feeble form. The mismanagement of integration, the out-of-touch bureaucracy, the many different levels of sovereignty retained by members, all contributed to participants’ dissatisfaction with the institution. There will be so many renegotiations of the terms of membership that the outcome will be quite changed from now. The EU will be unrecognisable when compared with the aspirations of those for whom it was a vision of hope and cooperation.

How will Europe fare economically, politically, socially? Germany will be the first to suffer when the next economic / financial crisis hits, probably before 2020. The open-door policy for migrants has already bred a lot of extreme right-wing feeling. When Germany becomes angry the rest of Europe needs to watch out. Feelings of defeat always end up as feelings of persecution. There are no more disruptive sentiments. The Southern European countries will negotiate an economic distance from the EU that will cause severe distress. The current migrant problem will look mild in the face of disillusioned poverty.

European security will be no more compromised than it is going to be anyway. All our security is at risk. New weapons and a build of armaments are the answers being applied but they merely precipitate more and more dangerous forms of assault. The weakening security of the internet will be as serious, possibly more serious.

The United Kingdom will probably not survive in its present form. It depends on whether the members of the EU want so much revenge that they are prepared to admit Scotland on its own. The current anger with the UK will abate in the face of the need to maintain trade. How much is anyone’s guess. Never underestimate the power of “Non”. It kept UK out of Europe for many years. It could become “Oui” for Scotland all too easily.

Could the UK have prevented all this if it had voted Remain? Not at all, but it would have been at the centre of reshaping the EU with a better-than-evens chance of leading it. Had we done so I think we could have taken the community back – or forward – to something very similar to the European Economic Community for which most of us voted. A community based on trade where economic integrity comes first may not be the ideologically most desirable institution. It would be the most durable.

And a hundred or so years of that would lead to more social cohesion.