I can think of no ‘happy ending’ scenario to this unfolding saga: like malaria, it is a malaise that has nested since British accession back in 1973, and erupts from time to time, though the current eruption is potentially of fatal proportions.
One cannot overstate the damage that a full-fledged exit of Britain will inflict on the EU. The importance goes well beyond the specificities of the functioning of the Union. It will survive and continue to function, even perhaps in some respects with less engine-room screeching. But as a global presence in the world, shaping and reshaping the impact will be huge, and to the detriment of the UK, the Union and the world. And internally, though not much might change on the surface, it will at the deepest spiritual level of European integration – and make no mistake, at its core the European construct has always been more than a functional, utilitarian enterprise – the damage will be equally shattering.
There are many in Britain who are sceptical about the benefits of British membership. But if Brexit results from a referendum vote, it is quite likely that it will be an English exit majority, with the opposite outcome in Scotland – almost inevitably leading to a Scottish exit from the UK, a catastrophic result by all accounts for the UK.
This MAD-like scenario assures at least one thing – that there will be no facile poker-playing in any future negotiations, the stakes are simply too high.
Allowing Scotland a referendum on its status within the UK was, in my eyes, the best of the British mature democratic tradition. Many express doubts whether the decision (for what it is) to allow a referendum for continued EU membership would justify such accolades. It was, according to some, holding the country hostage to the internal politics of the Tories. I don’t share this view. The fact that the EU issue has remained for so long – forever – a potent part of UK politics, together with the recent impressive successes of UKIP, means, in my opinion, that at some point the people should be able to express themselves, on such a critical ontological issue, directly. Be that as it may, a referendum was promised and to withdraw it at this point would undermine even further the fortunes of the Union in the UK and would be grist to the mill of the most populist of voices. Read the rest of this entry…