Thursday, 10 January 2013

Nationalism, Empires and UK exit

The debate has been raging over the past few days on whether the UK should exit the EU, as it does not assume the role its politicians think it should have. UK Prime Minister David Cameron is supposed to present a road map for the relationship his country should have with the other Member-States to which Ireland's deputy prime minister and foreign minister, Eamon Gilmore, stated "The European Union is not an a la carte menu. We're either a union or we're not. This is not going to work if we have 27 or 28 categories of membership."

The way I see this is that Britain still holds the belief that it is still the mighty empire that it used to be until WWII. It is only natural that people in every nation look at their past and feel nostalgic of an era which they were "rulers of the world". This issue has already been covered in an older post (which can be found here) where the conclusion reached was that the time for rulers, emperors, dynasties and monarchs in both the North and the South is long gone.

What most people do not realize is that an exit from the Union might not be so easy and it may even bring the exiting country to its knees. Why do you think that Greece did not leave? Because the consequences would have been much harsher than if it applied the austerity measures. It is tough to imagine anything harsher that these but trust me on this one. Now if the UK decides to exit it things would be much harsher on them than the Union. For example, British businesses can now aim at a public of approximately 450-500 million people for their products. If the UK exits, they would only be able to target an audience of 60 million. Still it is a substantial amount you might say. But think about the consequences of that: Less availability of public to sell their goods would mean less demand for the goods, which will in its turn mean less goods, meaning that a drastic drop in employment would occur. Any of those who believe that a country with an 8% unemployment rate and a 20% youth unemployment (not adding that even now workers are worse off than they were 5 years ago, before the crisis) can bear to suffer a sharp drop in demand and a sharp increase in unemployment should reexamine their criteria for decision-making.

In addition, one may imagine that things may only get worse if Scotland decides to become an independent State and seeks to join the EU... The only reason that the Scots have not done this already is because they will have to re-apply for joining the Union after their independence. If the UK exits then why shouldn't they exit the UK, enter the EU and take the North Sea oil along with a 5-6 million people market with them? Not to mention problems with Northern Ireland and Ireland borders which have not been an issue for some years now.

Others might propose that the UK should join the European Economic Area (EEA) like Norway has done, meaning that it would have access to the EU market without essentially being a member. Sounds good? But isn't every nation doing this then? Well, to become an EEA member you would have to give your contribution to the EU budget (Norway pays about €350m a year to fund projects in new Member-States like Poland) and accept almost every EU regulation there is. So in essence if the UK chooses to do this, it will drive itself away from the decision-making process while simultaneously having to obey to almost every law the EU regulators decide to pass. That is no power, and almost full obedience to Brussels decisions. Doesn't sound as good as we thought does it? Not to mention that Germany and France would be allowed to run the show if they exit.

I wouldn't know what David Cameron feels like Britain should be treated. Yet he has to admit that the world has changed a lot since the 60's, 70's and 80's when they were the dominant force in Europe. Empires rise and fall over time and yet people are still stuck to illusions of grandeur and glory. If the UK wants to be treated as an empire it can do so but not in the EU.

There is however a point which I do not fully grasp: the Irish do not really want to the UK exit the EU. Neither do the Scottish, nor the City businesspeople nor the British entrepreneurs nor does David Cameron himself. The only people who seem to want this is the Ukip party which appears to be the Golden Dawn analogue in the UK.

Now, there are two facts which we should remember:
1. Nationalism has reached its day of demise
2. We are Union now. Deal with it.


  1. You're painting a really bizarre and inaccurate picture of Britain's approach to the EU. It has nothing to do with nostalgia or delusions of grandeur, it has to do with the simple fact that Britain is not part of the union for the same reasons that France and Germany are part of the union. Britons have no affinity for the continent, they couldn't care less about the 'European Project', they're part of the union purely out of pragmatism. They want the best deal they can get out of it and are not shy about trying to get it. It's as straight-forward as that.