Sat, 25 May 2024

Sad day for Europe

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Sad day for Europe, but a chance to reform the EU

By Otmar Lahodynsky, AEJ-President

It is a sad day for Europe. For the first time in its history, a Member State has left the European Union, slamming shut a door which is unlikely to re-open for at least a decade.

In my view, irresponsible UK politicians – notably then-Prime Minister David Cameron – put their own political survival before the interests of their country.

Nor does the outcome of the Brexit referendum represent the “will of the British people”, as so many Brexiteers claim.

It was a wafer-thin triumph (now reversed, according to the opinion polls) which was based on the lies of British tabloid papers, on the kind of fake stories made up by my former colleague in Brussels, one Boris Johnson, and crucially on the manipulations of the sinister “Cambridge Analytica“ organisation and disinformation spread by Russian media and trolls.

Many British voters thought that their country would be better off outside the EU. No-one seemed able to explain why this might be the case, and the markets certainly disagreed.

The United Kingdom was the second largest economy in the EU, and remains a crucial geopolitical player, with a well-equipped army and an effective secret service. The EU will certainly be weaker as well as less politically balanced without the UK.

But I believe that it is the UK which will be the main loser. More than 40 percent of British exports go to the EU. And even with a favourable trade agreement – which 11 months are clearly too short a time to negotiate – British companies will inevitably face more hurdles in doing business with their former European trade partners.
It hardly helps them that, now formally out of the Union and committed to a quick trade agreement, the UK has little leverage left. Johnson has in the last few days explained that he is aiming for a loose agreement such as that between the EU and Australia. Foreign investment in UK will certainly go down. Why should a Japanese car-company invest in a plant in UK when it is not clear at all under which conditions these cars will be exported to the main market, the EU?

The EU’s trade partners have no reason to roll over their agreements to include a now self-excluded and isolated UK.

Along with some others who have been dismayed by this long, slow political car-crash, I do recognize one positive factor. The EU has lost a country which always tried to brake or veto further European integration such as the common currency, the Schengen Agreement, or anything suggesting a future federal Europe.

The European Union is now free to shape its future without paying constant attention to the nay-sayers in London. The EU has lost precious time to start a necessary  reform process – also due to the cumbersome divorce negotiations with Britain.

As AEJ President I want here to express my friendship and respect for our friends in the British section. Brexit will in no way hinder our future cooperation, above all  the common struggle for media freedom.  Stay with us and Good bye!

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