The decision by the people of the United Kingdom to depart the European Union (Brexit) could not come at a worse time. There are countless challenges which a united Europe is more fit to address than one divided. From economic challenges, to security challenges, the UK benefits from having strong partners across the channel. The better those partners are able to handle those challenges, bolstered by the UK’s participation in the Union, the less likely the UK will be forced to apply greater resources to mitigating these issues down the line.
Bottom line: The EU is stronger with the UK, and the UK is stronger with the EU.
While fears of refugees and migrants have fueled the desire to leave the EU, the UK’s absence from the Schengen zone means it has always had a greater degree of border checks in place. Even so, the UK is in a stronger position to address this crisis as member of the EU, than outside it. As with any EU policy, to have an effect the UK must participate. By giving up on participation, it will be unable to internally effect EU policy.
Leaving the European Union causes harm not only to the UK, but causes harm to the common cause of security in the region. Let’s face it, dealing with Russia and China is not merely a matter of military might—it’s about economics, it’s about policies, it’s about unity, and it’s about ideals. NATO alone didn’t assure the success of Europe during the Cold War, it was the strength of the international systems, including the agreements that led to the formation of the EU in 1993. This is not the time to forsake these systems. Russia is so afraid of a strong EU, that Ukraine’s interest in the EU prompted it to take action before losing its influence.
Yes, the European Union is a confusing behemoth, viewed negatively by much of the European population. No, this does not mean the EU is actually a negative thing, but perception matters.
The loss of the UK symbolizes a failure in the public diplomacy of the European Union to its member states. Research performed by the EU back in 2010 showed that the lack of knowledge about the EU in the UK was severe. UK citizens themselves indicated they would be more open to receiving information about the EU if it was easier to digest, but in today’s world of tweets and soundbites, explaining complicated subjects is a recipe for disaster. This is not a world in which policies can be reasoned out, they must be felt in a person’s gut. In this case, reason doesn’t always work, especially against misinformation like bent bananas.
But there are things about the EU that are not confusing. The EU has brought prosperity to Europe. The EU serves as a model for values that attracts people from the outside. It collectively serves as a counterbalance to Russia in a capacity that NATO cannot, by providing the basis of prosperity that allows NATO to exist.
Though the UK runs a trade deficit with the EU, exports to European Union member states runs at 48% of the UK’s total. Undoubtedly, the UK will have to renegotiate a great deal of trade deals, with significant impact to its overall exports. Job seekers in the UK will no longer be able to freely seek jobs in other EU countries, which is detrimental in a global economy. This will severely impact current and future generations of workers, especially those currently 18-39 who voted for the UK to remain. And beyond these economic consequences, leaving the EU could cause the breakup of the UK.
While the Brexit may not necessarily spell disaster for the world, the damage to the world’s economy, especially the UK’s at the moment, is readily apparent. While it may recover in the long run, we cannot underestimate the possible lost opportunities this type of damage can cause. Not just economically, but politically as other countries may consider ditching the international systems that have brought peace after the Second World War. These systems should not be abandoned on the basis of nationalism or xenophobia, but should be embraced for the real, tangible benefits we see right before our eyes. Abandoning them is bent bananas.