The time we all have been afraid of has arrived. The area
we have entered is totally uncharted. This is not a characterization that
promotes terror but it sure is a characterization that tries to figure out the
unknown. For the first time in its history, the European Union will say goodbye
to a member state. But is this goodbye forever?
I think it is not. Maybe this won’t be the very end of a long lasting
The participation of the United Kingdom in the European Union has always been questioned and judged by both the Europhiles and the Eurosceptics. The pro-EU supporters, including civilians, political parties and MPs in the United Kingdom have been supporting the European prospect of their country.
However, in 2008 the Britons have voted against the proposal of UK joining the Eurozone. How bad was it? Actually, it was not a strong sign of increasing Euroscepticism, but combined with the opt-out deal of the UK in the aspects of Social and Economic matters, something seemed to have been sealed - the potential scenario of developing further relations with the Union.
Since then, Euroscepticism started becoming a trend, both in the UK and among several other countries of the Union. Brown’s pro-Eurozone and strengthening the ties campaign in 2008 was the last hope for the country to achieve a stronger relationship with the EU. Or was it? In 2014, the UK has undergone the Scotch referendum about the continuation of Scotland being an indivisible part of the Union Jack Kingdom. And the outcome has been in favour of staying in the UK.
Although the outcome of the referendum was positive, there has been an important detail in that outcome. This was that the central government in London committed to the Scottish voters that as long as they stay in the UK, their access to EU; especially in the sector of trade and investments; will be granted forever. Two years after the Scotch referendum, the UK has been driven to a standstill. The majority of people have voted to opt-out 100% from the EU regulations and conventions. In other words, they voted in favour of cancelling the European integration process for the country.
After this, there are two options right now on the table; or maybe three. The first one is that the UK follows Norway's model and gets back to EFTA. In this way, it will have the opportunity to take advantage of the special deals that EFTA has with the Union but with slight changes of the current situation, since the UK has already opted out of the most federal regulations of the EU. This will make the EU weaker and may turn more states with opt-out intentions out of the Union. It will also mean that the European prospect of a country can now go backwards instead of forward.
The second scenario is that the UK stays neutral and does not join any Union or economic agreement. In this case, UK could negotiate deals with the European Union concerning every aspect of Economy, Finance, Trade and Banking regulations. This way, London will keep its position as the biggest finance and banking center in Europe, in comparison with the first scenario, that may harm the City’s golden sterling crown. Dublin and Berlin and Frankfurt are so ready for the succession.
The third scenario is the worst for the UK and maybe the better of the bad scenarios for the EU. According to the International Law, Scotland has the undoubted right to conduct a new referendum on the stay in the UK issue with the new situation. If so, Scotland will have the opportunity to apply for EU membership as an independent state. The UK will lose significant rights on the exclusive economic area of the North Sea, making the pound sterling drop as the majority of the gas sources will be in the Scottish exclusive economic area.
The UK, or better England, Wales and Northern Ireland may try to outweigh the situation by making deals with their old friends, whom they have not been close with for a while - the Commonwealth countries. However, it is very unclear how Australia or New Zealand could develop strong economic ties with their past motherland. Things could be fine with the United (?) Kingdom but what comes next for the EU? Well, the EU may be harmed because for the first time in history a member state has left but it may be an opportunity for a more federal EU and a more federal Eurozone. Maybe there will be a centralized ministry of finance and economics to help the Eurozone tackle the continuous debt crisis of Greece and the imminent situation of Italy, Spain and Belgium.
In the best case scenario, the EU, or at least the Eurozone, will get a common budget - meaning there will be a common public debt. This way, the North and the South will get the whole Eurozone or the EU out of the standstill. However, do the people identify enough as Europeans to help each other or will Scotland leaving the UK create several instabilities and make the EU tear itself apart with increasing opt outs or even concrete leaves?
The European Union will either make it out of this referendum stronger or weaker. That is all we know, but what we do not know is to what extent will the consequences of the result affect everybody's life. There is a strong possibility that Dublin and Berlin will absorb all the finance and industrial power and investments of London and that the EU will be the next economic tiger of the world. In this case, all the members will benefit from a common budget and a common fast growing European single market.