Things you don’t learn in school. Episode 1.
Why it’s a bad idea to hold a referendum to leave the E.U.
I’d like to start off by saying that while I personally feel that the UK and the EU are better off in a cold, bitter marriage, I do not doubt that there may be some merits to taking a break from a dysfunctional relationship every now and again. Therefore, I will leave the IN/OUT arguments aside and ONLY explain why the referendum was a bad idea. That being said, let’s begin.
Quick question: What do you have to do in order to keep your job ?
For most people the answer to that question is “Nothing much, really … I just show up to work and do my job and try not to get caught masturbating to my boss’ daughter’s Instagram feed”. If you’re one of those people I can only say “Congratulations to you !”.
- The worst job in the world.
But let’s talk for a second about people less fortunate than you. Let’s talk about people who have to go through the craziest of shenanigans in order to keep their jobs. Let’s talk about the people who’s daily lives consist of constant criticism and ridicule at the slightest chance of error. Let’s talk about politicians.
Now don’t get me wrong. I hate politicians as much as the next bloke, and would happily toss a frag grenade in my country’s parliament while in session without risking long-term damage to my country’s well-being aside from giving the news channels something to talk about for about 2 days until the next celebrity sideboob captures the nation’s attention. Even so, one must acknowledge that, in order to stay in office, politicians need to lie, manipulate, belittle themselves and possibly perform fellatio just to get re-elected.
Regardless of how you feel about your favorite political figure, always remember that their number one job is to get elected, and their number two job is to get re-elected.
2. Quick history of the Brexit
Politicians aren’t stupid, despite their constant efforts to prove the opposite. When David Cameron promised the Brexit referendum that ultimately led to the UK leaving the EU, the London stock market crash and the rise of the Terminators, what he wanted was to get elected. So in order to get elected he promised the people of the UK a chance to vote on leaving the EU sometime in 2016. Using this little trick he won the vote of euro-skeptics within his party’s base and …
In 2015 David Cameron’s Conservative Party won a majority in the British Parliament. (The legitimacy of which is thoroughly discussed in this video by CGP Grey that I could not recommend more).
Fast forward to June 23rd 2016 : Britain votes to leave the EU. David Cameron resigns as PM. Stock market crashes. British Pound get’s obliterated. People in the UK finally wake up from a collective hangover and start to Google what EU is. And, worst of all, the next British Prime Minister is most likely this guy :
<sidenote> Americans reading this, just apply an orange filter to that photo and put on your tinfoil hats. </sidenote>
So here we are. What’s next ?
3. Why this was a bad idea.
There have been a total number of 0 wars between major European countries after the second world war and the EU is part of the reason why that is. In spite of that, the EU sucks. It’s cumbersome, intensely bureaucratic, hard understand how it works and, most of all, has little accountability. What I’m saying is that I get why some people think they’d be better off without it. So, hey! you know what we could do this weekend ? Let’s leave the EU ! Easily said, but …
The EU is an economic union first and foremost. So any country leaving the EU will lose a big benefit of being part of the EU which is : free trade. “No problem” I hear the euro-skeptics shouting “We’ll just sign a new trade agreement ! We’re a fancy-pants country, with a fancy-pants economy and Europe will love to trade with us”. And that’s true BUT there has to be a negotiation of the trade agreement first.
The thing about negotiating is that nothing is ever WIN-WIN. At best you get WIN-kinda-win and most of the time you get WIN-kinda-feels-like-win-but-it’s-really-meh.
So now the EU and the UK will have to decide who gets the “WIN” and who gets the “not-so-much-win”. Say you’re the guy in the EU who has to strike a trade deal with the new British government and negotiate the new trade deal there are 2 things to know:
- 50-something% of the UK voted to leave the EU. So if the new British government doesn’t respect this vote, there’s a big chunk of these votes that they’re never getting again.
- 48-something% of the UK voted to stay in the EU, so they pretty much hate the guys that wanted to leave in the first place and are never voting for them again regardless of what happens next.
Truth is that the EU negotiators can now exploit the fact that the UK government has it’s back against a wall and charge them an arm and a leg for access to the single market and the preservation of UK’s economic interests in mainland Europe.
<sidenote> There are more complex geo-political factors here, which I’m certain the UK can use to get more favorable terms. Remember that politics is always dirtier than a 15 year old’s browsing history </sidenote>
People like a good-vs-evil story and each side in the UK Referendum sold this story to their base. Social, economic and geo-political issues are not good-vs-evil stories, unfortunately, and are too complex to tackle in a couple of paragraphs.
Grey arias aside, remember this :
Getting out of the EU may seem like a good idea, but an idea is something intangible and uncertain. Getting an idea is the easy part. Bringing that idea to life is a messy, sweaty process that takes time.
There’s a lot of uncertainty ahead for both the EU and Britain.
Here’s hoping for the best. And here’s hoping that the next country that’s had enough of the EU now knows that they should negotiate first, and vote on the plan afterwards.