I do not agree with the nightmare scenarios predicting the worst for both the United Kingdom and the EU. It is hard to see how a UK withdrawal would be extremely negative for economic activity and growth on either side of the Channel. There will be adjustments in terms of currency, financial services and property, but of a limited and short-term nature.
The real problems posed by the UK-EU split are three-fold
First, space and time. A new Prime Minister, a new majority, probably new elections. Already the triggering of Article 50 is being pushed back; the more it is postponed, the less likely it is.
Then there are the technical difficulties. Looking for example at the Common Agricultural Policy, Brexit not only involves cutting off thousands of EU regulations, but also creating new ones on a different basis: a return to world prices, like before EU accession? Something else? With a specific regime of support measures (which ones?) for every farm?
Finally, what sane person, wanting the best for the UK, can imagine Scotland and Northern Ireland seceding? Is it conceivable that the UK could be reduced to England and Wales? And what will happen to the Commonwealth? Seeing the end of ‘Rule Britannia, Britannia rule the waves’ forever would be the unthinkable end of a world, a culture and a model.
Keep repeating: the crisis is an asset, and so is Brexit
I place a lot of the blame upon President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, for making the bad choice to remain silent and forbid his services from any action that could have antagonised UK voters during the Brexit campaign. In fact, the very opposite – communicating, improving and proposing – was needed.
For years, every pro-European knows that the Member States are split into two camps: those who chose the Euro, this instrument that demands economic discipline and federal-style integration, and those non-Euro countries that expect to reap the benefits of the Single Market. The United Kingdom, in its historical genes, is part of this second circle.
Dividing the 28 between these two circles should start to be prepared now and be proposed first of all to the UK, then to others as a solution. The first-circle countries could mainta in the current system or even improve it by making it simpler and more operational. The European Parliament should be granted at least a partial right of initiative, and should meet in two configurations: one for only the first circle for ‘pure economics’ (Schengen, security, taxation, employment, etc.), and one for both circles regarding the organisation of the Single Market. The Commission would have a single college, but divided into two sub-colleges along the same lines.
Dear T.I.N.A. (There Is No Alternative): we are in the era of conventional wisdom. No imagination, no risk, no action. Nothing. Long live Europe à la carte. It is a symbol not of failure, but of adapting to new realities. With two circles, the EU will be stronger, not weaker.