Paul's Column: Brexit - is this the future we want?

29 January 2019

Yes, I do lose my job if the UK goes ahead and leaves the EU.  You’d be surprised as to how many people are under the impression that the contingent of 73 UK Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) will continue to sit in the European Parliament in Brussels to represent our country’s interests after Brexit happens.  The reality is quite the opposite.  Instead of the UK holding around 10% of the seats in one of the world’s most influential parliaments our voice, our views and our expertise will be gone. 

If current demographic trends persist the population of France will continue to fall while the German population will flat line.  Meanwhile the UK population will continue to rise with projections suggesting the UK will become the biggest country in Europe by the middle of the century, if not earlier, a position currently held by Germany.  So not only are we set to diminish our influence in the world by walking away from a leading role in the EU, we are also walking away from the imminent opportunity of being the biggest player in the EU and everything that goes with it.  It is madness.

Meanwhile as the UK political class drive themselves into ever increasing degrees of Brexit frenzy, the French President and the German Chancellor were last week calmly signing a new treaty of co-operation.  One of the many reasons why our EU colleagues have always valued the UK’s membership of the EU is that it has acted as a counterweight to the dominance of the Franco-German axis. But with the English, and it is really the English driving Brexit not the Scottish, vacating the field of play we can hardly expect Macron and Merkel to simply give up playing as well. 

Speaking of Angela Merkel, she won’t fight another election.  With Macron’s grip on power visibly shaky the leadership of Europe may well be entering a state of great flux and all that goes with it. This was the UK’s opportunity to move into the driving seat, instead we are getting out of the car.  Theoretically this spells a moment of opportunity for the larger Eastern European countries who joined the EU relatively recently in 2004 - Poland, Romania, and Hungary can all be expected to play a greater role. For instance after the May 2019 elections Romania, rather than Germany, France or the UK could have the largest contingent of socialist MEPs putting them in a dominant position in the wider Socialist Group – currently the second largest political group in the Parliament. 

A tip in power and influence towards the Eastern European countries will be a mixed blessing. They may rise to the challenge, champion democracy and make great strides in rediscovering their pre 1945 European roots.  On the other hand the authoritarian anti-democratic stance of the current governments of Poland and Hungary might be built on bringing them into increasing conflict with the wider EU.

Meanwhile instead of being full Europeans we are going to … well, exactly what is the UK going to do?  To start with we will turn in on ourselves in a self-inflicted state of siege as we stand defiant (and unnecessarily) against the EU.  The Scottish National Party, led by Nicola Sturgeon, will then carefully pick their moment for a further Scottish independence referendum which this time they’ll most likely win. Maybe not by much, but then if less than two per cent of the popular vote is enough to take the UK out of the EU then it’s good enough to take Scotland out of the UK (and back into the EU).

Across the Irish Sea it will take a few years longer but a united Ireland will soon heave into view as Northern Ireland’s demographics shift towards it. Again a 52% majority in both the North and the South will be enough, the will of the people and all that.

I therefore expect in my lifetime that if the UK does leave the EU it will relatively quickly lead to the break up of the UK, will create an independent Scotland in the EU and a united Ireland also inside the EU.  Is this what we want, what we really, really want?

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