Pro: Get Tough, No More Gifts
By Ruth Berschens
Britain has hit rock bottom.
Since voting to leave the European Union last week, the pound has nosedived, banks are shifting business to the continent, investors aren’t investing and tax receipts have taken a hit.
Now Scotland might leave the United Kingdom, millions of English are applying for Irish citizenship and young people feel cheated out of their future.
All the while, the major political parties blunder around in panic.
the times when continental Europeans catered to the United Kingdom are over
The disaster is on such a scale that you could almost feel sorry for the poor Brits – especially since they are afflicted with a prime minister who washes his hands of all responsibility for this incredible downfall.
A real statesman would have had the honor at the end of his career to admit his political mistakes and apologize. But David Cameron acts as if he had nothing to do with the conservative government of the last six years. The man is and always was a petty-minded, weak leader. He blames others for his own failings and the European Union was always his scapegoat of choice.
That’s exactly what Mr. Cameron did again this week at his last summit in Brussels. The E.U. was to blame for how the referendum turned out, he said, because it lets in too many refugees and because its citizens have free entry into all member states.
The E.U. will have to reconsider this right of workers to settle anywhere, if it wants to preserve good trading relations with Great Britain, Mr. Cameron lectured Tuesday night.
That sounded like a threat. Apparently the British government would prefer to dictate terms for working together in the future – condescendingly from atop the former world power’s high-horse.
But the British Empire has long since been consigned to history. And the times when continental Europeans catered to the United Kingdom are over. The European Union time and again conceded to exceptions and special rights for the British, to keep them in the community. The Brexit cancels this argument.
The European Union must now think of itself and hold its own house together. It goes without saying that leaving the bloc can never be allowed to be worthwhile. Otherwise the many euroskeptics in other member states would simply gain even more supporters.
The remaining 27 E.U. member states should have no interest in making it easy for the Brits now – given that the government in London certainly won’t do the same in return.
The negotiating skills of Britain’s top officials are feared in Brussels. They will now try everything to saw away at the freedom of movement of workers.
But the right to work in all member states is one of the most important achievements of the community. The E.U. cannot allow that to be destroyed – especially not by a country that doesn’t want to belong anymore.
If you leave a union of nations, you no longer have a say in how it is run. Whoever wants free access to Europe’s single market must respect its rules. Whoever wants to trade goods and services duty-free, will also have to open their borders for people.
This is a lesson many non-E.U. countries have had to learn. Norway had relatively little problems with it. Others, like Switzerland, find it difficult. That’s why the Swiss continually have a great deal of problems with the bloc.
Soon the British could face the same difficulties.
Con: No Time for European Self-Righteousness
By Jens Münchrath
European shock first turned to grief and then to anger. The only thing lost was thoughtfulness.
The defiant, at times maliciously gleeful reactions to the Brexit referendum offer deep insight into the European soul. “Hang the British,” resounded across the continent, after the island nation gave Brussels the brush-off.
The European soul feels offended and it wants revenge.
The head of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, decreed a suspension of contact: All commissioners and directors general are forbidden from holding secret discussions with representatives of the British government.
France’s President François Hollande called for resolve against the British. The eyes of the world, he said, are on Europe.
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte thundered that Britain “has collapsed politically, monetarily, constitutionally and economically.”
For the political elite, the British can’t leave the European Union soon enough.
What’s wrong with the E.U. establishment? Is it revenge or injured pride?
The European soul suffers because it suspects such a referendum would turn out the same in other E.U. countries.
And who does the political elite want to penalize? David Cameron, the British prime minister, who will soon step down anyway? Or all of the British people at once?
It seems like they want to make an example of the British to discourage copycats — as if the European Union were an artificial, involuntary community, instead of a club that needs to make itself attractive with meaningful projects.
The European soul suffers because it suspects such a referendum would turn out the same in other E.U. countries. So deterrence is all that helps the poor gullible citizens from being helplessly at the mercy of the anti-Europe populists.
But that is at once both self-righteous and tragic. And it means that the British — 48 percent of whom voted to stay in the E.U. anyway —will be taken hostage twice.
First by their prime minister, who is using his own people to win concessions from the bloc, and can’t even muster the courage to execute the results of a referendum that he himself called.
And second by the European Union, which wants to be tough for tactical reasons.
But that is precisely the Europe no one wants. For not every Brit that voted for the Brexit is a nationalist. Many used the vote as a protest against their prime minister because the hypocrisy was written all over his face.
The United Kingdom faces a huge crisis after the referendum: It needs help and not sanctions. If the Brexit really can no longer be prevented – and that hasn’t been established yet – it is now important to find an amicable exit strategy that at least retains some of the mutual benefits.
No one can want the British, who are the global avant-garde in freedom movements, human rights and market economies, to turn their backs on Europe.
And all those who act like a further shifting of power to Brussels is the solution, after the exit of perennial British obstructionists, haven’t understood the message. Just like those who believe more national self-centeredness would make Europe more democratic.
Of course we need a debate over what the European Union can and should do – and where its limits lie.
But Mr. Juncker has just again delivered proof of his hubris. He wants to smuggle CETA, the controversial trade agreement with Canada, past the national parliaments. The decision, he said tersely, falls within the jurisdiction of the E.U.
For anti-European populists, he could not have made his elite message any clearer.