The Brexit Effect: Europe at a Crossroads

As long as the European Union fails to heed the clarion call of its members to start considering reforms, perhaps in such a manner that it would emphasize its economic and trade relations rather than its political ones, then the viability of its existence might soon be called into question.

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By Georgiana Constantin | September 27, 2016

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Immigration, terrorism, and economic strife have destabilized the European continent.

Although, for a country to question European Union policies is nothing new, the increased desire to actually exit the union has recently surfaced following the UK’s unexpected suffrage results. Now, France, Italy, Germany, Austria, Spain, Belgium, Sweden, and, the Netherlands are all witnessing a spike in interest for a possible EU exit. So are Poland and Hungary. Ireland has already started a leave campaign of its own. Even the Bavaria region of Germany is looking at its independence options. Apparently, “the call for independence in Bavaria comes as a study by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) revealed so-called extreme ‘insurgent parties’ are calling for a total of 34 referendums – with matters ranging from their countries’ membership of the EU to refugee policy.”

On June 23rd, the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. The so-called Brexit referendum (British exit from the EU) had been planned for some time and was eagerly awaited by the people of the UK. The result, however, was a surprise to many, indeed a shock, especially to the now former British Prime Minister, David Cameron, who was hoping to appease Euro skeptics by offering them the chance to express their grievances in this manner. “Whether out of partial agreement or crass political calculation, Cameron concluded that courting Euro skeptics, rather than confronting them, was the best way for him to gain and hold on to power, Vox Media reported.” However, the prime minister’s plan did not go as he had hoped it might. Instead of attenuating Euro Skeptics’ opposition to Brussels’ overbearance on issues such as burdensome regulations, open border migration, agriculture, and economics by proving that the people feel safer in the EU, the results of the referendum showed that the “safety in numbers” mindset was not enough to have anyone ignore the serious issues they were facing because of their EU membership. In fact, it seems as if even the numerous benefits offered by the EU were not enough to stem the tide of growing concern over the UK’s future.

There is one issue in particular that might have had more of a hand in putting an end to the UK’s EU membership than any other. I am, of course, referring to the immigration crisis. Former UKIP leader, Nigel Farage had been emphasizing the need for Great Britain to take back control of its borders and be able to issue its own immigration policies. Many immigrants were coming into the country in order to take advantage of its generous social benefit programs. However, in the wake of tragic, yet, perhaps quite preventable, terror attacks all over Europe the conversation on immigration took a different turn. It was now of paramount importance for the people of the UK to see the danger that loose immigration policies and the mass influx of refugees posed to their national security.

After the million-plus migrants had flooded across European borders, without proper vetting, EU countries were forced by Brussels to take in their so-called “fair share” of Middle East and African refugees. This made most Europeans apprehensive and concerned for their own safety. While many were simply thinking along the lines of migrant assimilation, the high number of terrorist attacks, only managed to force people into a survival mode and make them wish for a way out of the worrying obligatory quotas. This might have been the main reason why the British people were so eager to leave the EU. They wanted to be able to have a say in who could enter their country and what those who have entered must do to stay, instead of having to follow diktats from Brussels. And, we are now witnessing the effects of Great Britain’s choice to leave. Most of Europe seems to be contemplating the effectiveness of such an option in helping a country regain control of its own future.

Of course, one cannot ignore the possible negative consequences Great Britain might have to face in the wake of its decision. There has been talk of a new Scottish independence referendum. Even in light of Brexit, Scotland wants to remain a member of the EU, and, many are worried about Northern Ireland, which also voted to remain. Questions on whether or not the United Kingdom will, in fact, remain united after Brexit seem to gain legitimacy. Yet, even in the face of such potential outcomes, all around Europe, countries are still considering a referendum of their own.

As long as the European Union fails to heed the clarion call of its members to start considering reforms, perhaps in such a manner that it would emphasize its economic and trade relations rather than its political ones, then the viability of its existence might soon be called into question.


Georgiana Constantin is a law graduate who has studied International, European and Romanian law at the Romanian-American University in Bucharest and is presently a political science doctoral candidate at the University of Bucharest. Ms. Constantin, who is based in Romania, is also a contributor to SFPPR News & Analysis.