William Hague has written an article in today’s Telegraph entitled “As Itay has shown, the Euro is a far bigger threat to Europe than Brexit”. To which my reply, even before reading the article, was “No shit, Will”. At the heart of the intellectual case for Brexit was the idea that faced with Britain leaving it, the EU would start to disintegrate. What is fascinating to me is that even though the precise opposite thing has taken place – Brexit has given the remaining EU members something solid to rally around, strengthening the union, at least for the time being – Brexiteers still insist this really is taking place, against all available evidence. The Hague article actually had some sensible things to say about the EU, the single currency and Brexit, but then had to toe the line in the final paragraph:
“None of this, unfortunately, will help the UK with the complex process of negotiating Brexit. The more the EU feels threatened, the less ground it will give. But it shows our departure in its proper perspective – not a one-off event, but as the beginning of a long, slow disintegration.”
The latest political shenanigans in Italy are yet another red herring Eurosceptics are clinging to as proof their faith in the EU’s inevitable disintegration is valid. Guys, it just isn’t happening. Brexit has backfired at least in one very crucial way: it isn’t going to lead to a mass exodus of countries from the EU any time soon. In fact, I think watching how difficult Brexit has been has made most countries much wearier than they would otherwise have been about leaving themselves. Ironically, British Leavers may have been the ultimate saviours of the European Union.
The Italian Euroscepticism that Leavers in this country are clinging to until their fingernails start to bleed needs to be put into perspective. At its most extreme it is about Italy leaving the single currency, not the EU, and definitely, definitely not the single market. And what if Italy did leave the Euro, what would happen then? It would likely be a lot like Brexit: a hideously complex process that leaves Italy poorer and thus acts as a warning for other countries not to leave themselves, no matter what. In other words, Italy leaving the single currency could end up saving the Euro.
The main thing that has always made me worry that Brexit would turn out to be a disaster is how much Leavers had invested in the European Union falling apart. As if they knew the whole thing wouldn’t really work as intended if the EU managed to survive a major nation leaving it. Well, chaps, I think you may need to start seriously thinking about what a UK outside the EU does when a newly revamped EU sits only 22 miles across the channel.
nigel hunter says
Europe was ravaged by War. They know that Unity is strength. They will have difficulties but they know that in the end. their strength will prevail.
Yes Nigel!Yes Nigel!Yes Nigel!Yes Nigel!Yes Nigel!Yes Nigel!Yes Nigel!Yes Nigel!Yes Nigel!Yes Nigel!Yes Nigel!Yes Nigel!Yes Nigel!Yes Nigel!Yes Nigel!Yes Nigel!Yes Nigel!Yes Nigel!Yes Nigel!Yes Nigel!Yes Nigel!Yes Nigel!Yes Nigel!Yes Nigel!Yes N says
Paul W says
You say “Brexit has given the remaining EU members something solid to rally around, strengthening the union, at least for the time being.” Well, they would “rally around” wouldn’t they? At this juncture, it would be silly not to. But the operative phrase is “at least for the time being”. What happens after that?
The European Union is faced with great challenges: What to do with the poorly structured euro currency – backed by austerity measures – which has caused social and economic harm to the weaker Mediterranean member states; then there is the re-emergence of virulent forms of populist and nationalist politics in the states of central and eastern Europe. These are only two of the big problems that the EU needs to address.
But don’t expect the EU to disintegrate just yet. The EU will keep trundling (another operative word) along. Though I doubt whether we will see “a newly revamped EU” on the other side of the Channel anytime soon. I expect the EU will continue to launch (and re-launch) policies and programmes powered by the kinds of rhetorical guff about ‘European construction’ – as though it were a building site – that seems to go down well on the Continent, but which leaves level-headed British voters unmoved and unimpressed. But as we have seen with the Schengen zone, the euro and the premature enlargement to the East (including the association agreement with the Ukraine), the EU’s customary habit of putting declaratory political intent before detailed policy substance can lead to dangerous overreach.
Yet the trouble with such EU initiatives, though, is that, more often than not, they turn out to be less than the sum of their parts: lowest common denominator stuff. What can one expect from an organisation of 28 (soon to be 27) disparate member states that can’t even agree where the organisation’s parliament should meet? It’s a shame really and a disappointment to more idealistic souls. But there we are. We’re leaving. It will make things a bit easier for the EU to have one less (awkward) member to worry about.