Good or Bad, the Brits Did It
Eventually, somebody had to do it, and that somebody was the Brits. Although I don’t know if that was what they’d intended, they managed to send a signal very much like the one in 1415 at Agincourt when they radically challenged the military orthodoxies of the day by using mere archers on foot behind wooden spikes to defeat the armored cavalry that was the tank and shock troop of the day. Perhaps the reason they opted for Brexit is that what we currently refer to as the European Union has long since stopped being a union in the sense that its founders had envisioned it to become and what we Romanians had hoped for when we joined it with the conviction that we will have “full membership”. For some time, the European Union has stopped representing the interests of its citizens or even its Member States. Slowly but surely, it has grown into an overly bureaucratized structure protecting the interests of large multinational corporations and of the German goal of becoming an authoritarian continental leader. The European Union could no longer claim to be a “monolithic” structure made possible by the uniformity of its policies, the stabilization of the Euro system and a real capacity to efficiently respond to the challenges of the crisis.
However we choose to tackle the topic of Brexit – either as cheap populism or outdated nationalism –, it cannot be separated from the disillusionment and dissatisfaction that the average European citizen holds towards the “un-European” evolution of the EU, given the democratic, unifying Europeanism sought by the founders of the European project in the aftermath of World War II.
To my mind, the consequences that the withdrawal of Great Britain from the European Union may bring about are more important on a global rather than a European scale insofar as the problems that European citizens, companies or institutions might encounter, though serious or quite dire, will either be mitigated or resolved via negotiations to come, or will turn into dramas on a personal or maybe sectorial level that time will eventually forget. This is the same manner in which the neoliberal theory of the single European market treats the victims of any change as “natural” collateral losses. Migration, Islamic terrorism and, to a certain extent, austerity were the main themes of the pro-Brexit campaign. They are also present throughout the entire EU and they appear unlikely to be solved through European policies or initiatives. On the contrary; the lack of unity in political thought has led to significant tensions and division among Member States.
If the EU is facing the danger of fragmentation or chronic social and economic recession, this does not consist solely in the resignation of Great Britain or even of more countries from the Union, but in the incomputable medium-term effects of the waves of Islamic migration and the emergence of damaging contradictions due to a rise in unemployment and a decrease in the standard of living. Any type of negotiation between the EU and Great Britain to make Brexit come true may take care of punctual, conjectural issues relating to migration and the conception of a policy for economic growth, but will not be capable of eliminating the root causes as these reside in the global geopolitical context.
Should Brexit eventually take place, the West (the United States and the European Union) will suffer an important positional defeat against its political (Russia) and economic (China) competitors, not so much because of the weakening of the European economic structure, but by its diminished contribution to the trust and stability that the West attempts to counterpoise against its competitors through military (NATO) and economic (the conclusion of the US-EU trade treaty) power.
From this standpoint, Brexit is an extremely important signal to the extent that it reveals the European incapacity to ensure the irreversible nature of what was once called “the most successful and important model of development of unity that mankind has known to this day”.