“The vote to “re­main” would have been a clear win­ner if the ref­er­en­dum were about the orig­i­nal EU, the EU that Bri­tain joined and which was largely a cus­toms union de­voted to free trade be­tween mem­bers”

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

Im­mi­gra­tion:

Per­haps the most ob­vi­ous mis­in­ter­pre­ta­tion of the pub­lic mood had to do with im­mi­gra­tion and refugees. The sen­si­tiv­ity of this is­sue was ev­i­dent long be­fore the ref­er­en­dum, and not only in Bri­tain. An­gela Merkel found her pop­u­lar­ity rat­ings plunge in Ger­many shortly after she ad­mit­ted 1 mil­lion refugees into her coun­try. Its im­pact was nev­er­the­less greatly un­der­es­ti­mated.

Is this be­cause elites lead lives quite dif­fer­ent from many of their less well-off con­stituents? Or­di­nary cit­i­zens in­ter­viewed be­fore the ref­er­en­dum voiced con­cerns about dif­fi­cul­ties in find­ing places for their chil­dren at school, de­layed med­i­cal treat­ment, neigh­bour­hoods that have changed and made un­recog­nis­able un­der the im­pact of im­mi­gra­tion. Per­haps, an­other con­tribut­ing factor is the prac­tice of mak­ing politi­cians who send their chil­dren to pri­vate schools and visit pri­vate doc­tors re­spon­si­ble for managing pub­lic schools and na­tional health sys­tems.

The EU’s demo­cratic deficit was men­tioned re­peat­edly dur­ing the ref­er­en­dum as a ma­jor “leave” is­sue. De­spite changes made by the Euro­pean Union to bol­ster the demo­cratic as­pects of its gov­ern­ing struc­ture,

An Un­demo­cratic EU:

there is still a long way to go. The clos­est thing to an ex­ec­u­tive is the EU Com­mis­sion of 28 of­fi­cials who are ba­si­cally se­lected rather than elected. They are re­spon­si­ble for ini­ti­at­ing all leg­is­la­tion af­fect­ing EU cit­i­zens. Yet, few know who they are or what they stand for. This is in con­trast to na­tional democ­ra­cies where the ex­ec­u­tive is the head of state, elected by pop­u­lar vote on a plat­form set­ting out what he/she stands for.

Sovereignty and con­trol:

When a na­tion joins a multi coun­try or­gan­i­sa­tion, some loss of sovereignty is in­evitable. The “re­main” camp em­pha­sised the im­por­tance of stay­ing within the EU in or­der to be able to in­flu­ence its de­ci­sions. Oth­ers pointed out that the UK, al­ready in the EU, has been no­tice­ably un­suc­cess­ful in this. With the es­tab­lish­ment of the Eu­ro­zone, which in­cludes most EU mem­bers, Bri­tain has been in­creas­ingly less ef­fec­tive in in­flu­enc­ing EU de­ci­sions. Present leg­is­la­tion makes it clear that even­tu­ally all EU mem­bers will be within the Eu­ro­zone, ex­cept for Bri­tain and Den­mark.

Eco­nomic Per­for­mance:

Europe’s lack­lus­tre eco­nomic per­for­mance was also in the fore­front of con­cerns. Whether mea­sured in terms of un­em­ploy­ment and/or growth, Bri­tain

Brexit has served as a wake-up call for both Bri­tain and the EU. The day after the ref­er­en­dum, Bri­tish po­lit­i­cal lead­ers found them­selves in a deeply di­vided coun­try. Both ma­jor po­lit­i­cal par­ties are in dis­ar­ray, their lead­er­ship and even per­haps the fu­ture of the par­ties them­selves in ques­tion. The new lead­ers will face a her­culean task in managing an un­prece­dented exit from lit­er­ally thou­sands of EU reg­u­la­tions, some clearly good, oth­ers less ac­cept­able. They will also have to face the pos­si­bil­ity of Sexit, the exit of Scot­land from the United King­dom.

For its part, the EU faces is­sues hardly less daunt­ing. There were pre­vi­ous mes­sages of dis­af­fec­tion, but hardly on the scale of the ref­er­en­dum re­sult. Fol­low­ing this, some EU of­fi­cials have al­ready com­mented on the need to ad­dress what is seen as the EU’s in­creas­ing loss of pop­u­lar ap­proval. Ma­jor po­lit­i­cal par­ties in France, Italy, Hol­land, Den­mark and the Czech Re­pub­lic have al­ready is­sued calls for their own ref­er­en­dum.

Present in­di­ca­tions are that there is lit­tle con­ver­gence of views within the EU on how to ad­dress the is­sues raised by the Bri­tish ref­er­en­dum. Meet­ings be­tween EU mem­bers to as­sess fu­ture di­rec­tion will likely be split be­tween those favour­ing “more Europe” and those for “less Europe”. We live in in­ter­est­ing times.

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