Impact of Brexit and the future of UK’s relationship with the EU

From the perspective of a small EU member state, it is indeed very difficult to understand why one would want to disconnect the ties so thoroughly as a fully-fledged Brexit. Finland found its solid place in the Western world mainly through its integration with the European Union. Every Finn pays 25 euros a year for the UK rebate, but even so very few welcome Brexit.

Would Britain be more secure outside the union and its common foreign and security policy? I hardly think so. On the other hand, the departure of Britain would certainly be a major loss for the EU, not least because of the able British diplomatic corps.

Perhaps the most rational reason why Brexit happened is the failure of the prevailing economic models. Neither the EU member states nor the EU as such has done enough to cope with the inequalities in societies which are exacerbated by the rough forces of globalisation. Those who feel there is no future for them in the European society have voted for the option, which may eventually render them, more vulnerable.

Brexit could indeed happen in other countries. It is easy to see why many in Scotland look towards the Nordic countries in which active politics towards welfare for all still prevails. Brexit is a serious warning, which should lead to rethinking economic and social policies

Week after week, both parties of the divorce are increasingly treading on a completely unknown territory. The ties formed during 42 years are so complex that Brexit has rightly been compared with amputating a leg without anesthesia. The British government has now realised that even planning such a surgery will be much more demanding and will take much longer than thought. The European Parliament´s legal affairs committee will soon start exploring the legal ties and what it would mean for both sides.

According to Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty the future relationship of the exiting country with the EU can be considered only the exit negotiations. The so-called Norway model has appeared as a possible option. However, whatever is written into statute books of the European Economic Area, membership effectively excludes all influence on decision-making on future EU legislation. It is hard to see how such a status would satisfy the loud demands to take back control from Brussels. As for trade agreements, one could note that the new generation free trade agreements such as TTIP are increasingly based on harmonisation of legislation and not so much on reducing customs and tariffs.

A lot will happen until the end of 2019, which currently appears to be likely end date of UK’s membership in the EU. The exit treaty will be subject to thorough examination by all EU member states and the European Parliament. This will also dominate the next European elections, which will be held in May 2019.

It is truly saddening to think that the first attempt to create transnational democracy would fail and fall apart in this manner. I suspect that Brexit will not just be Brexit. At the end of the day, it may look a lot like the present relationship between the UK and EU but with some exemptions, in a European Union which has reformed some of its failed policies.

Published in Government Gazette September 2016

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