As a believer in the creation of a federal Europe you may expect me to be disappointed with the result of the referendum. On the contrary however, I am really quite pleased – and impressed.
Many heralded yesterday’s Brexit vote as the death knell of the European project; the end of the 50 year attempt to unite the continent after 30 years of war. It was assumed that with Britain’s departure, other states would follow and the EU would collapse. Of course, this is a distinct possibility, but if Europe can weather the current storm (and from the looks of things, it can), then Brexit might just have been exactly what the European Project needed to finish the job.
Since it joined in 1973, Britain has been a constant thorn in the side of the EU. Eternally opposed to further integration and constantly demanded special treatment and concessions, Britain was responsible causing a great deal of stress for the union. At the turn of millennium, it seemed as if these days were in the past – Blair and Labour were fully committed to the European project. However, this feeling quickly died with the financial crash of 2008 and the euro crisis. British nationalism returned in force, and combined with anti-establishment rage from the working class Britain has finally left the EU.
Firstly, this lifts a great weight from the shoulders of the EU. If they can weather the storm of the coming French presidential election then it’s likely that they will find further reform and integration a great deal easier. Continental Europe has always been more united with each other than with Britain, and without us holding them back we will see some real progress towards the EU’s eventual goal – the formation of a Federal Europe. The effect that Brexit will have on Britain will also likely act as an effective incentive to deter other countries (most of whom will be less able to bear the impact) from leaving. By leaving, Eurosceptics have allowed their worst fear to become a reality.
But if a federal Europe forms, at least the UK won’t be in it. Right? Not quite. By insisting that the UK leave the EU as quickly as possible, the EU knows that they will be able to secure half of the British Isles immediately. It is ‘highly likely’ that Scotland will vote for its independence and remain a member of the EU as England leaves. It is also a distinct possibility that Northern Ireland will vote to re-join their southern brothers. This will give the EU control over a large portion of the British Isles already. These states will also be much less impactful than the original GB – they will be less able to delay and prevent EU legislation. By leaving, Eurosceptics have handed the EU half of our country.
The other effect of this referendum was to create a generational divide within our country. Young people feel betrayed by their country. Young people who may previously have preferred remain to leave (but not specifically supported the EU) now feel much more passionate about the union. The alienation of having your future decided by the elderly who wont have to live with the consequences has changed what was once simply a preference towards remaining into full-fledged support for the EU. As the ‘Brexit Generation’ begins to die off this new generation of Europeans will take the reigns. If we had remained in the EU it would have been likely that indifference and mistrust for Europe would have continued, but now that we have left this indifference has been replaced with calls for European unity. By leaving, Eurosceptics have turned the younger generations into full-time Europeans.
Even in England, there are geographical divisions. The north has always hated the south and now the south hates the north. The Welsh and Cornish hate the English and London hates everyone. There is even a possibility that –in further protest against the government of Westminster- the north will choose to join Scotland, who they believe will be more willing to spend money on them. Wales and Cornwall, though they voted to leave, will get a nasty shock when they loose their EU funds. They will also turn against Westminster in the end. There are even calls for London to declare it’s independence, and though this is unlikely, it still shows the contempt London holds for the rest of the country. By leaving, Eurosceptics have turned the United Kingdom into the most divided country in Europe.
So what does all of this mean? It means that when we eventually return to the EU, we will no longer be powerful enough to resist further integration – indeed, we may no longer want to. The EU has used the oldest strategy in the book – divide and rule.
On top of this, the referendum may have turned the British people off of nationalism for good. Believing empty nationalist rhetoric was what got us into this mess. Once again, British hubris has lead to disaster – and this time fatally so. The aftermath of this referendum will be a clear demonstration of what blind nationalism does to a country and it may have the same effect on Britain as it had on Germany after their defeat and division. On top of this, the lack of any real English national identity will prevent much of this nationalism from returning. In leaving, Eurosceptics have destroyed the nationalism that won them the referendum.
The decision to leave had done so much more to aid a federal Europe than remaining ever could. It had the potential to turn the English into Europeans, and has removed one of the only things holding back further integration. As the leave campaign begin to admit the lies they told in the campaign, people will lose their trust in Eurosceptics and instead choose to believe in Europe.
Is this what Europe hoped was going to happen? It would explain the lack of any real concerted effort from the EU to keep Britain in. The best part of this whole plan is that the people of Britain were the ones who voted for it. In the immortal words of DJ Khaled: ‘Congratulations, you played yourself.’