Almost 60 years ago, post-war Europe started an experiment to see whether peaceful existence would be possible in the long term. I personally consider the result of this experiment, today’s European Union1, a tremendous success. Visa- and even passport free travel within most of the member states, cheaper vacations and reduced cost of doing business because there’s no need to pay FX fees, reduced and soon completely abolished roaming fees, passenger rights. Also, peace – for the longest consecutive period in centuries.
Today, the people of the UK decided to start another experiment to see whether they’ll be better off on their own, without the perceived dictatorship of Brussel’s bureaucrats2.
An important difference between those experiments is that the former is based on cooperation and consensus, while the latter is focused on exclusion and new borders – not only between countries. Consensus doesn’t mean everybody will be happy all the time – but it means that we’ll make an effort to consider different opinions and requirements. The campaign that led up to today’s referendum left Britain utterly divided – unfortunately it’s much easier to divide people than it is to unite them. Especially, if you do not feel bound by the truth3 and prefer to use racist and xenophobic stereotypes instead. Now Scotland will want a new referendum on its own independence and who knows what’ll happen to Northern Ireland. Worst of all, there’s a huge generational divide between old people who mainly voted to leave but won’t face the consequences for as long as the younger generation, the majority of which voted to remain.
So what about the EU? It’s still an experiment without any recent precedence, so – naturally – not everything is going perfect. I am still hoping that it will remain strong and united. Until yesterday, we tried to make concessions to the UK in order to keep them in. Starting today we’ll have to negotiate strongly for the remaining 27 members. Making the exit too easy, will result in further exits and eventually the decay of the EU. The UK had its say4, now it’s time for the remainder of the EU to have its own. The fact that Cameron wants to delay the formal notice until October shows that the UK is still trying to play games. Out is out, now face the music.
- officially, the UK is and will remain a member for quite some time. Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon has not been invoked yet ↩
- Even without EU regulations, there will be national regulations, it’s just that the Brits too often didn’t get their way in a pluralistic discussion of 28 stakeholders ↩
- Two of the main leave arguments were that a) Europe is too expensive (just have a look at today’s development at the markets and see where your money went) and b) there’s excessive immigration (a field in which the UK always made their own rules) ↩
- Though it seems some didn’t have a clue what they were voting on ↩