Brexit will cause Europeans to rethink the whole project

The prospect of Brexit will cause Europeans to reconsider the shambles an unelected elite has made of the continent. They will open their eyes and see that the EU is the continent’s past, not its future

Europe
Lights going out on the EU, starting in Britain
Timwork
Tim Hedges
On 10 April 2016 07:24

Still a long time to go before the referendum and the voters have been treated to some pretty fantastic stuff from the Remain campaign. We are still getting quite extraordinary exaggeration of the value of the single market and nonsense about international influence.

At least after the fiasco the Belgians have made over the recent atrocities in Brussels and Paris, no one is suggesting any more that we might be safer inside the EU.

A new suggestion, however, from a distinguished former soldier, is that we should stay in because of what the EU would suffer if we left. It has been picked up a couple of times in the press. At first sight this seems to be about the daftest ever reason for staying in: that we should act against our own interests because the others need us.

But wait, the effects of Brexit at the very least warrant some analysis: not just the effects on Britain, but on the rest of the European Union. Yet, astonishingly, to date, there has been almost none.

A recent survey conducted for Le Parisien magazine shows that 62 percent of EU members want Britain to remain. This is lower than it has been (although directly comparable figures are not available) and lower than you might think. The number is low, partly in frustration at Britain and partly because the French, at 54 percent, seem even keener on Brexit than the British.

That frustration is in part because the British referendum has forced people in Europe to think about the EU, something which most of them would rather not do.

European commentators are now casting the early glimmers of thought not just about how Brexit would affect Italy or Finland or Romania, but on what life might be like outside the EU. That it might exist.

Just think, until the Lisbon Treaty, which became effective in 2009, there was no provision at all for leaving the EU. Outside Britain and occasionally Denmark, the idea was in no one’s head, the prospect unwhispered in the corridors of power.

And here, as a Eurosceptic campaigner, I must pay tribute to the news management of the Brussels elite. It has been akin to the counter reformation of the 16th century, restricting literature, even private discussion, by bombarding the populace with propaganda, at times sugary, at times threatening.

I confess I am amazed that even with their well-resourced ‘information’ division they have kept the lid on the European disaster so long.

Consider: almost every fair referendum held on Europe this century has gone against the wishes of the elite, including on the Lisbon Treaty, which had been going to be the unanimously acclaimed European Constitution. The rulers and the people are singing from different songsheets.

The pillars of Europe are crumbling around the eurocrats’ ears like a Greek temple in an earthquake. The Single Currency will not withstand another shock.

At around $1.14 the Germans don’t want it to fall in case of inflation, whereas the Italians need a devaluation of more than 20 percent to get their economy off its knees. With already negative interest rates, there are no more bazookas.

Sky high levels of youth unemployment, 25 percent in several countries but 40 percent in the poorest areas, will soon translate into a whole generation which has never worked. The Lisbon Agenda, to make the EU the most competitive area in the world by 2010, saw it become less competitive. Share of world trade is steadily declining.

The ‘Fortress Europe’ single market protected by tariffs has been shown up by the Chinese steel crisis. It faces destruction from the TTIP agreement with America and from the World Trade Organisation. It was intended that Europe should trade with itself; so now it trades with other, recessed Europeans.

The Schengen Agreement is all but dead, killed by the migrant crisis. People forget that with Greece, Europe embraced a country which was not just bankrupt, but which had porous borders. Nobody seemed to care about this in the creation of the European Dream.

And Europe’s woeful neglect of its own defence, dependent on Britain, France and a now unenthusiastic America, has left it exposed to Mr. Putin and Islamic State. It is not equipped to deal with either.

Much of the disaster could have been avoided if there had been a Europe of concentric circles: an inner core, some associates and an outer circle of trade only including Britain and perhaps Turkey. But they wouldn’t have that.

Now, the prospect of Brexit will cause Europeans to reconsider the shambles an unelected elite has made of the continent.

They will see that the EU is the continent’s past, not its future. Brexit is the best thing that could possibly happen to them. Their eyes have been closed for too long.

Tim Hedges, The Commentator's Italy Correspondent, had a career in corporate finance before moving to Rome where he works as a freelancewriter, novelist, and farmer. You can read more of his articles about Italy here

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