The UK and the EU Question: A Possible Case of Mutual Assured Destruction

By: Michaell Lange,

London, 17/02/16 –

During the campaign for the 2015 general election, David Cameron has promised a referendum over the United Kingdom membership on the European Union. At the time, it was a political strategy worthing the gamble. It would make a clear differentiation between the Tories and the other political parties regarding the EU. It worked better then most people would predict and David Cameron won a historic majority seats at the British Parliament. Now, Mr Cameron has a problem in his hand he didn’t really asked for. The Prime minister is feeling increasingly desperate to get his proposals approved by Brussels before the referendum to ensure Britain remains inside the European Union. However the effort, he is watching in horror the growing possibility of a so called Britexit become a reality and he knows too well the disastrous consequence it could be for Britain.  He has no choice but to be all in. If successful, Mr Cameron will go on as one of the greatest British Prime Minister in history. If fails, David Cameron will most probably have to resign and the Tories as well as Britain will have to take the blame for a possible breakdown of the European Union.

Historically, British relationship with Europe has been a case of love and hate. Yes, British people love to go on holiday to mainland Europe. We love many aspects of their culture and food, not to mention the weather and the extraordinary beaches and ski resorts. In fact, over 1.5 million Britons left the UK to leave in continental Europe, and who would blame them? Nevertheless, hostility, has for centuries kept Britain’s view of Europe one of skepticism.

In a couple of Month Britain will vote on a referendum to decide the future of its EU membership. The decision to leave or to remain will have a profound impact on the future of the country. Like the Scottish referendum, it will be hard to see beyond the campaign of information and misinformation promoted by both sides of the argument. Euro sceptics such as Nigel Farage, promote the idea that if we vote to stay, Britain will lose its sovereignty and its control over the borders. But, how much of it is really true and how much is just inconsequent nationalism? We live in a globalised world where no country has total control of their economic affairs. The world’s economy is interconnected and has no borders. We know how a default in Argentina or a broken bank in the US can take the whole world to a rollercoaster ride. We have just paid £1 billion pounds to HSBC to keep their headquarters in London, and Google has agreed to pay only £130 million pound in tax for the past 10 years which the labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, claimed to be only 3% of what Google supposed to pay. The British Government also failed to stop the invasion of cheap steel from China that is hurting the British steel industry.

The immigration question is an issue, but how much of the problem is really down to the EU membership? Mr Farage claim that 450 million Europeans can freely come to live in the UK is true to some extent though it is a very unrealistic assumption. Moreover, we haven’t been invaded by millions of Bulgarians and Romanians as predicted by Mr Farage when both countries entered the EU. On the other hand, Britain has big communities of Chinese, Australians, Pakistanis, Brazilians, South Africans and Indians for instance, and none of these countries belong to the European Union. So, is it a problem caused by the EU or is it a problem caused by our own Parliament? There is no doubt that immigration is a big issue for Britain, but it should not be the center of our decision to whether we should remain or leave the EU.

My biggest worry has nothing to do with the economy, immigration or sovereignty questions. My biggest fear is regarding the possible breaking down of the EU and its implications to the world if we decide to leave. If that happens, we will not be safe. A collapse of the European Union would be a disaster for the whole world and that is something even the most nationalist and EU sceptics must consider. The Euro crisis of the past years may have some lessons to teach us. The question of Greece caused great turbulence in the world’s economy and at the end, neither the EU or the World could afford the risk to let Greece leave the Union. In the case of Britain, the decision will not be in the hands of politicians. The Britons will make the decision. If the EU could not afford to lose a small, broken country like Greece, imagine the risks involving the exit of Britain from the EU could bring? One may argue that Greece was a special case because it’s in the Euro zone, but the reaction of the global financial market to a British exit is totally unpredictable. David Cameron may have gambled with the Greek case in mind thinking, if they can’t afford to lose Greece, surely they will agree anything we want to make sure we stay in. What Mr Cameron may not have thought is that the EU also realised that Britain has much more to lose than Greece. That is why the impasse between Britain and the EU looks increasingly more like a case of mutual assured destruction. Like the nuclear dead-lock between the US and the USSR during the Cold War, none of the two could afford to make a preemptive attack because of the mutual assured destruction. Deterrence worked well for the nuclear case and there were never, of course, any referendum during the cold war to decide whether to attack an enemy with the capability to destroy any attacker in the process. It would be ludicrous. The referendum over the EU might be a similar case where neither the EU or the UK have the capability to let the other one down without the risk of possible self destruction in the process.

But the worst is not even that. What will probably decide my vote on the referendum is the main reason for the creation of the European Union in the first place, which in my opinion still stands. The EU were primarily created to stop destructive wars in Europe. Therefore, we should never dismiss the possibility of war in Europe from happening again. We may not be able to stop far right groups from getting into power again if the EU falls apart. Nazi and fascist groups still operating underground all over Europe and if they have any opportunity to rise to power again, they will. The new and young generation of Europe may not believe European countries can go to war against each other again, but we should remember that World War I was supposed to be the war to end all wars. Nevertheless, we had the second World War and the Cold War after that. Moreover, like today, nobody really believed in another World War in 1939. So, we should never underestimate this possibility especially, if the EU collapses causing widespread economic depression with European countries going their own way. We must understand that Europe is safer if tied together in an Union like the EU. It’s worked well so far and should continue to work as long as European countries stay tied together. Although, Britain is not considered a historic hostile country towards Europe, it cannot refuse the fact that its position in the EU today is very important for the maintenance of the balance of power in Europe. The decision to leave, can start a disastrous process for Europe and indeed for Britain and for the whole world.

On the other hand, stay in the EU should not mean Britain has to accept the current structure of the European Union. The EU is politically and economically unbalanced and David Cameron is totally right to seek and to promote changes in the EU. It will also be easier to do these necessary changes and to fight for a fairer Europe if Britain stays in. If that is the case, Britain must make efforts to develop a better relationship with the rest of Europe. A better relationship with European countries is a matter of national security for Britain and indeed a positive step towards a more independent UK . However the way Britons decide to vote, we must remember that immigration and benefits are not, and should not be, the main arguments for Britain to remain or leave the EU. We should consider first, some deeper and much more important facts that has not yet hit the mainstream media debates, before we make our decision. It’s absolutely crucial that Britons have clearly in their minds that we will not be voting only in our behalf, but on behalf of the whole Europe. The British vote will decide the future of Europe. That’s why it’s so crucial to get it right. We must not only think about what is best for Britain, but what is best for all Europeans.


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