So at last commentators are beginning to wake up to the fact that if the UK votes to withdraw from the EU, then while this might be bad news for the UK but it will be even worse news for the EU itself. The Italian finance minister, Pier Carlo Padoan, has said that Britain’s departure could cause a domino effect in which Eurosceptic parties and electorates feel emboldened, while the German finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, claimed an out vote would be “poison” to the EU and world economies. Catherine Mann, the chief economist at the OECD recently said, “a vote against remaining in the EU would be “bad for the UK, bad for Europe and bad for the global economy” while Dr Jenz Zimmerman, a German government MP said “The departure of Britain from the EU would deprive the union of a “strong voice” from across the English Channel, he said. “Also, it would be more difficult for us in Germany who are strong European voices because France and the southern states might become more powerful.” These sorts of concerns are now increasing as it dawns on the Europeans that BREXIT might actually happen. Expect panic to break out as we get closer to 23 June
Imagine if you are a member of a club, which has rich and poor members and is threatened by outside parties. You are known as the strongest member of the club and also the second richest member. You are also the second most generous contributor to the poorer members of the club. If you decided to leave the club, do you think the other members would just cheerily wave goodbye and let you go. Of course, not, they would do everything they could to persuade you to stay with them.
If we turn to the UK and the EU, the situation is that the UK is:
- the second biggest economy (GDP) in the EU after Germany
- the second biggest contributor to the EU budget after Germany (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/8036097.stm#start)
- the strongest military power in the EU
In this situation, why on earth weren’t the other EU member states prepared to do much much more to persuade the UK to remain in the union.
What I find especially strange is that the biggest difficulties to the UK renegotiations were caused by the EU member states from Eastern Europe who gave David Cameron a really hard time. Now let’s recognise the following:
- Economics - These eastern European states are poor countries and get huge amounts of EU financial aid. In addition, the size of the UK market and the free movement of labour, which enables their citizens to get work in the UK, assist them hugely. All of this will change if the UK as a major contributor to the EU budget were to leave and this will impact negatively on them
- Security - these states are threatened by a resurgent Russia. Last year I visited the Baltic States and noticed they were terrified about what the Russians might do. Equally the other Eastern states know, from recent memory, what it is like to live under the Russian yoke and should think a bit more carefully about their actions. The UK is the only military power in Europe that Putin would worry about. Why do think he send his bombers to test our air space? – he wouldn’t waste the fuel to test the air space of Holland, Greece Latvia to name but three. If the UK decides to leave the EU on 23 June, expect Putin to celebrate and to raise the stakes in Eastern Europe and the Ukraine.
What is amazing is that these Eastern European states are prepared to let the UK leave the EU over a relatively small amount of money concerning benefits paid to its UK-based citizens. A man from Mars would look at this and think they were mad.Let us hope they do not have cause to regret that action