The Road to Brexit

The referendum concerning the possibility of a Brexit is approaching and the debate is proliferating on many different levels. From a political perspective, there is the question whether the UK should leave the Union or not. Alex Salmond, on the Guardian, argues that British voters should see that the EU has not only substantially contributed to peace, stability, and economic progress among its members, but has also provided social benefits and secured social rights for working people and family life. On Conservative Home, Garvan Walshe argues that, given its risks and radical character, the decision to leave the EU cannot be considered conservative. In the end, it is important to note, as Melanie Sully writes on EurActiv, that a vote to stay in the EU is not a vote for the status quo: EU institutions are changing and the future of the Eurozone is unclear. So, the point is to understand whether the UK wants to be part of the change or not. Furthermore, it should be noted, as Anthony Salamone writes on Britain’s Europe, that this referendum will not settle the question of the UK’s relationship with the EU once and for all. It seems reasonable that another EU referendum will take place in the UK in the short or medium run, whatever happens in June. From an economic point of view, on the other hand, Linda McAvan on EurActiv notes that, with respect to development policy, UK membership of the EU has been mutually beneficial. Moreover, thanks to the EU, the UK has gained weight and extended its influence. Indeed, it is not a secret that all economists support Remain. As Tony Yates writes on The Telegraph, economic experts very often diverge in their judgments and disagree about their predictions and assessments, which cannot be taken to be certain. However, they all agree that the UK economy would be better off in the EU, and not out of it. Things are different for ordinary citizens. As Peter Goodman writes on The New York Times, the referendum is not a matter of economy, but of feeling, in particular concerning national sovereignty. In this sense, there is a collision between economic arguments and identity politics. Of course, the raise of identity and nationalist claims is exacerbated by the problems of migration and security. On this point, Mary Kaldor and Javier Solana write, on OpenDemocracy, that a Brexit could mean a reversion to nation-states that may make security coordination across Europe more and more difficult. Moreover, as Julian De Medeiros argues on OpenDemocracy, the referendum has aggravated the question about the relation between the EU and Turkey, which cannot help to be unstable, unsustainable, and contradictory at the moment. Finally, The Economist is skeptical about referendums in general, and warns about the dangers of looking for plebiscites, which constitute a perverted form of democracy. And Bulent Gokay, on OpenDemocracy, argues that the Brexit referendum is irrelevant for it represents a mere distraction from the real problems and complex issues the UK and the EU are facing nowadays, comprehending economic predictions about low growth rate; geopolitics; racism and populism.

EU austerity agenda

The austerity measures designed to tackle the crisis have been under dispute and are still a great matter of controversy among politicians, scholars, and citizens. Johnna Montgomerie, on OpenDemocracy, argues that austerity is a failed experiment and that its policies are useless, not to mention that their consequences are contingent and totally uncertain in the long run. The problem with the evaluation of austerity concerns the possibility of a Grexit in the next months. As Niki Kitsantonis writes on The New York Times, the situation is getting more and more complicated now that Greek lawmakers voted to approve some financial measures apt to reassure the Eurozone ministers in the face of the country’s third bailout. A provocative response to this problem comes from Jörg Bibow who, on Social Europe, argues in favour of a Gexit, namely the exit of Germany from the Eurozone. From his point of view, given the “stability-approach” Germany has fostered to solve the crisis – and its disastrous and damaging consequences – Europe should attempt to convince the country guided by Merkel to either change its way or exit the Euro.

This Ideas Monitor is by Giulia Bistagnino and Carlo Burelli

Photo Credits CC: Daniel Gimbert 

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