BREXIT: A better EU without the UK?

There are three key factors that unite the interests of most EU members: proximity, interdependence and scale.

1. Tens of millions of Europeans live within an hour’s journey time of a border with another EU country, say 100km, and the EU has enabled the significance or borders to be minimalised on a day by day basis, much as regional governments define areas of administrative responsibility rather than physical barriers to travel, or economic activity. The EU provides a framework of immense value to the people of Eastern Europe, whose freedom of movement was minimal throughout the Soviet dominated era of the Warsaw Pact, while cross border movement between Germany, Holland, Belgium and France has been part of their character for centuries despite the ambitions of national government. Whatever the disagreements about the Schengen Agreement and migration, even the bilious far right are in no way proposing to restrict citizens’ freedom of movement. At local level, open borders are essential, productive and it would be extremely foolish to constrict the movement of people or goods to, or from any part of the EU. Similary, there is no real reason to suppose that a border between England and Scotland need be imposed were the UK to break up and Scotland to reapply for EU membership. Nor indeed need UK borders be any less open. There is no legitimate reason to suppose that travel, or trading restrictions would follow a Brexit. Parting British drunks from their money seems to be a well established tourist tradition worldwide and every large corporation simply obeys whatever local laws apply without worrying about the political interests of governments. Surely the EU would be told by industry and business to take a similar stance.

2. The EURO has been enormously successful as a working currency and is likely to endure, simply because the alternatives such as a return to numerous local currencies is unworkable. Though the politicians who work on economic policy have thus far failed to cope with the contrasting regional development issues, ie Greece, this is a reflection of the intellectual and analytic inadequacies of economics and contemporary political economy, rather than the Euro pe se. The policy makers are purveyors of failed ideas. For that to change, a UK exit from the EU might make it possible for policy makers to concentrate their thinking on the key issues which demand attention. Full employment, rebalanced social provisions and pensions and the motors of wealth creation within the EU. Having the UK lurk on the fringes as a murky voice for neo-liberal free trade is a brake on development at best and a blocking presence at worst. The EU’s economic policy making would benefit from a British withdrawal.

3. Many EU countries are actually too small to govern themselves and maintain a full range of public institutions. For them the EU, or something very like it, is a necessity for the long term. The UK is large enough to run its own affairs and provide a useful voice in international and European debates through the range of existing European organisations, Council of Europe, WTO, or UN. The framewok of ideas about public administration and government in the UK are at odds with the largely Napoleonic tradition in Europe and that can be a useful contrast.

So, why shouldn’t BREXIT be welcomed from all sides?

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