Whether or not Brexit proves to be a victory for the British people in the long run is something none of us can say with any certainty.
We won’t concern ourselves too much with the implications for Britons here. Enough ink has been spilled on that. If you want real analysis on Brexit, and how it will affect you, check out what Markets and Money editor Greg Canavan had to say .
Instead, we’ll focus on the political implications of the referendum, and what it means for the European Union looking ahead.
The EU, as we’ve been reminded of time and again over the past couple of days has, supposedly suffered a crushing blow to its reputation. Analysts have even gone so far as to predict that Brexit could be the spark that sets of a fuse of referendums across the old continent, threatening the entire 60-year long European project.
But while it may appear as if the referendum was a fatal blow to federalisation in Europe, it may have been anything but.
In the aftermath of the shock decision that swept the world, one thing has become patently clear. European leaders aren’t going to sit idle, twiddling their thumbs as the EU breaks apart. That explains why they called on the UK to not waste any time triggering Article 50 that would kick-start formal proceedings of divorce from the EU. Considering it may take years for that to play out, this show of solidarity was symbolic more than anything. But it sent an important signal to the rest of the EU.
So how quickly will Britain head for the exits? Not quickly enough.
Britain is likely to disappoint the EU on that front. There seems to be no rush in starting proceedings anytime soon. Not least because David Cameron, the man that instigated the referendum in the first place, is washing his hands clean of it now that the vote didn’t go his way.
In resigning from his post as PM in the wake of the referendum, Cameron left that decision in the hands of the next incumbent at 10 Downing Street.
At this point, it’s almost guaranteed that Britain’s next PM will be Boris Johnson, the one-time mayor of London. I don’t know enough about British politics to gauge whether or not this decision is wise. But I’m assured that by no means will he be a popular candidate, particularly among liberals. He appears, from an outsiders view, as Britain’s answer to Donald Trump. Depending on which side of the spectrum you sit, that’s either brilliant…or horrific.
For European leaders, though, Brexit paves an opportunity for greater integration. Without the UK throwing its (often unwanted) weight around, the EU will have an easier time to do what it’s been trying to do; that is, continue laying the building blocks for greater cooperation.
There is every possibility that Brexit rallies European leaders to press ahead with political integration. And while easier said than done, this is exactly the type of crisis that lends itself to such ideas and notions that may not otherwise have popular backing.
It is possible the European public at large is in favour of the benefits of monetary union and free borders, and not much else. But there was a time when that too would have been unthinkable. Things change, and people do too.
But just what is the likelihood that EU leaders can prevent a wider disintegration? Well, even in Britain, the margin between leaving and remaining was slim.
Despite the fact that we’re frequently reminded of the EU’s shortcomings, there are hundreds of millions of Europeans that do support the project. The French and Italians may want a referendum. But polls suggest less than 40% of them would vote to leave given the opportunity.
Granted, we can’t take too much notice of what opinion polls say, as Brexit highlighted, but the groundswell of support for leaving isn’t there.
For Europe, Brexit doesn’t have to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back. It should be the catalyst for the very thing the continent needs — political union.
Contributor, Markets and Money