Which way for the UK? / Columns / The Foreigner

Which way for the UK?. COMMENTARY: It might be too late to recall the 1981 The Clash punk rock hit “Should I Stay or Should I Go”, but should the UK now pray and should she bow, post-Brexit? The day after the referendum on the UK's future in Europe, Viviane Reding, a Luxembourg MEP and former Vice-President of the European Commission, said on Twitter that a successful divorce is better than a failed marriage: “The United Kingdom has always been a fierce opponent to further integration, hence this result seems perfectly coherent to me”. To be honest, the basic elements of Britain’s European debate – questions of history, identity and sovereignty – haven’t changed much since the 1960s. Many British people still cling to outdated terms of a vanished past. What Brexit-campaigners Boris Johnson and Michael Gove really said, was that Britain should unshackle itself from Brussels to regain its former glory.

brexit, eureferendum, cameron, johnson, britain, uk, brussels, eu



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Which way for the UK?

Published on Tuesday, 28th June, 2016 at 17:39 under the columns category, by Jan Erik Grindheim.
Last Updated on 29th June 2016 at 14:01.

COMMENTARY: It might be too late to recall the 1981 The Clash punk rock hit “Should I Stay or Should I Go”, but should the UK now pray and should she bow, post-Brexit?

David Cameron and Boris Johnson
The United Kingdom has always been a fierce opponent to further integration.David Cameron and Boris Johnson
Photo: The Kremlin/Stephen Lock/The Foreigner


The day after the referendum on the UK's future in Europe, Viviane Reding, a Luxembourg MEP and former Vice-President of the European Commission, said on Twitter that a successful divorce is better than a failed marriage: “The United Kingdom has always been a fierce opponent to further integration, hence this result seems perfectly coherent to me”.

To be honest, the basic elements of Britain’s European debate – questions of history, identity and sovereignty – haven’t changed much since the 1960s. Many British people still cling to outdated terms of a vanished past. What Brexit-campaigners Boris Johnson and Michael Gove really said, was that Britain should unshackle itself from Brussels to regain its former glory.

Their views are certainly not shared in Brussels. Ms Reding’s view is that “for too long, this referendum has prioritised the interests of a single country over the necessity, for the Union as a whole”.  She is one of the EU’s harshest critics of British behaviour in European politics, saying bluntly that Post-Brexit Europe should move forward with those who are committed to it and “certainly not with those who fatally toy with it”.

But is it just the UK that is to blame for this indecisiveness? Or is there a bit of truth in the words of The Clash that “It’s always tease, tease, tease – this indecision’s bugging me – if you don’t want me, set me free”. FT commentator Martin Wolf gave a personal and passionate explanation for why he wanted the UK to stay the day before the EU Referendum. But he also said something quite interesting for those of us who disfavour a Brexit and believe Britain should stay: “Our quiet decency and democratic traditions offer our neighbours something irreplaceable”.

I do not want to punish the British by sending them out into the cold, or make them pray to stay and bow to know-how. Such behaviour is not the EU worthy. Neither do I want this indecisiveness from British politicians to continue at length. Hence, it might have been the right decision by Prime Minister David Cameron to call a referendum on this issue, even though it could jeopardize Europe’s future.

Holding a referendum is not exactly an example of quiet decency in a century-old tradition of representative democracy. But to say that Mr Cameron fatally toys with the future of Europe could be seen as a way of disregarding the will of the British People.

Having experienced two referendums on the same topic in Norway, I am not particularly in favour of it when it comes to complicated issues such as a country’s membership of the EU. I rather agree with former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, quoting Labour’s Clement Attlee approvingly, who once referred to referendums as “a device for dictators and demagogues”.

But the regarding way the debate on Europe’s future has developed in all its member states over the last decade, maybe this was the paramount case needed for a change?

The future of Europe depends very much on how the EU leaders and Europe’s heads of state and government treat Mr Cameron and his fellow politicians in the weeks to come.

There is room for manoeuvre, as a Brexit has not yet been decided by the British Parliament.

When I saw French President Françoise Hollande, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi talking about Brexit yesterday, I thought: Why did the UK choose to leave Europe and not to lead it?

Jan Erik Grindheim PhD is a Political Scientist at think tank Civita and President of the European Movement Norway.




Published on Tuesday, 28th June, 2016 at 17:39 under the columns category, by Jan Erik Grindheim.
Last updated on 29th June 2016 at 14:01.

This post has the following tags: brexit, eureferendum, cameron, johnson, britain, uk, brussels, eu.





  
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