The United Kingdom will do everything it can to destroy the Union from which it has excluded itself. Hence the need for great clarity when it comes to the principles that will govern negotations.
Brexit is the biggest political upheaval that Europe has seen since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the most violent economic shock since the euro crisis. It exemplifis the disruptions that characterize our epoch – i.e. events that are as extreme as they are improbable. This is why they create confusion and why a clear analysis and strategy must be established to counteract the dynamic of chaos that they generate:
- Brexit is irreverisble. Although it is true to say that that only 36% of the British electorate voted for Brexit – after a campaign skewed by the exclusion of expatriates, dominated by lies and violence and ending with the murder of Jo Cox – Parliament had massively approved having a referendum and the votes of the 17.4 million Britons who expressed their rejection of the European Union must be respected. Petitions for a second referendum, the Scottish veto and the refusal of Parliament to apply the result are not credible. There is therefore no alternative to Brexit, which must be organized and not denied.
- David Cameron is a pyromaniac firefighter who has perished in the fire that he has set. He may well go down in history as the last Prime Minister of the United Kingdom before the split from the Union and the split-up of the Union itself. He will certainly be remembered as the man who took the most disastrous economic decision since the return to the gold standard initiated by Winston Churchill in 1925, and who adopted the most calamitous political strategy since Neville Chamberlain’s choice to pursue appeasement with Hitler.
- WInter is approaching for the United Kingdom. On the political front, Brexit has become a Tea Party which is devastating public life. After the resignation of David Cameron, the Conservative party is tearing itself apart, and Boris Johnson, who led the Brexit campaign without believing in it, has made a pitiful withdrawal. Jeremy Corbyn, who did not campaign and secretly supported Brexit, is seeing his leadership challenged by 172 MPs. The day after the vote, Nigel Farage explained that promises made about Brexit would not be held to. On the economic front, any bright shining future is being reduced to the collapse of the pound, a stock exchange crash, renewed threats to the banking sector and financial damage to the United Kingdom. With recession in the offing, the only option open in terms of economic policy is money creation, inflation and devaluation of the currency. Breaking with the partner who represents half of Britain’s external trade and with the monetary zone of which the City was at the heart, implies a fall of 6 to 8 points in GDP by 2030. On a national level, there is new threat of secession by Scotland. All those who loved the rage expressed by the British on 23rd June will adore their rage when the real accounts of Brexit are drawn up. The reconstruction of the “Disunited Kingdom” of Great Britqin will take a lot of time and energy.
- The divorce between the United Kingdom and the European Union can only be conflictual. Once Brexit is inevitable, there can be no excuses: article 50 must be triggered by the next Prime Minister in September. But the United Kingdom cannot expect a situation any more favourable than that which it had obtained: a predominant influence in European affairs, access to the open market and affirmation of the City as the financial hub of Europe, together with remaining outside the euro and outside the Schengen zone and benefiting from a 50% reduction in its contribution fo the Union (6 billion euros instead of 11.34). The United Kingdom will do everything it can to destroy the Union from which it has excluded itself. Hence the need for great clarity when it comes to the principles that will govern negotations: it cannot have acces to the open market without observing the four freedoms of movement (goods, capital, services and people), and without contributing to the Union’s budget.
- A political response to a political earthquake. The effects of Breixt can easily be contained and the financial functions of the City can be moved into the euro zone. But it is in other ways that Europe’s existential crisis is serious and difficult to handle. The Union is in no way responsible for David Cameron’s rabble-rousing. It must resist populists but listen to the message of European citizens who are expressing their despair in face of feeble growth, constant unemployment, the break-up of the middle-classs, anarchic immigration and a deterioration in their security.
- The Union must either rethink itself or disintegrate. Reforming Europe will not happen by blindly relaunching integration or by changing treaties, but by concrete policies. There are five priorities. Stopping constant extension and recentering on the management of collective risks and of services such as the Erasmus program for students. Democratizing and simplifying decision-making systems. Reinforcing the euro zone by coordinating economic policy and bringing about an alignment on fiscal and social levels. Making growth and employment more dynamic by investing in education and innovation. Re-establishing a balance between the economy and politics by creating a “Union for security” whose mission would be the fight against terrorism, the protection of infrastructures, and the control of external borders – particularly in the Mediterranean – by making Frontex into a real policing force.
- The United Kingdom is leaving the Union, but it remains part of Europe. There is no more a community that was destined to be, but there remains a community of values and strategic interests that must be preserved. It is up to the Union, more than ever the continent’s guarantor, and to the 27 member states, to avoid making the same tragic mistakes that were made in the 1930s which saw the divide of democracies when faced by totalitarianism, and to preserve the achievements of 60 years of integration which remains a major asset when facing the global challenges of the 21st century.
(Column published in Le Figaro, 4th July 2016)