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A torn United Kingdom after the Brexit vote. The British reflect on a – hard or soft – divorce from the EU

The referendum of June 23 certainly has not solved all the problems. Theresa May’s government will now have to negotiate the exit from the European Union, but nothing can be taken for granted. What is the future of national economy? To stay or not to stay in the single market? What is the future of foreign workers? What will happen to the City? In the meantime political parties are facing internal divisions. The opinion of four experts.

Now not only the sea separates the European continent from the United Kingdom. After the outcome of the Brexit referendum a wall of misunderstandings and retaliation between London and the EU is replacing the bricks. The conservative government headed by Theresa May is considering limiting the entry of EU citizens. Interior Minister Amber Rudd asked to list foreign students and workers present in the Country, to the extent that Labour accused her of compiling “blacklists.” Despite ensuing “adjustments” by 10, Downing Street, the British position worries the EU. In fact, from Germany, voicing European interests, German chancellor Angela Merkel, on October 6 confirmed that single market membership requires guaranteeing free circulation of people and goods.

 

Lack of unity of intentions. Unity of intentions appears to be absent inside the United Kingdom – where past June 23 by a close margin the electorate voted in favour of a divorce from the European Union. The Country is divided in terms of the ways and the deadline determining an exit from the EU. National parties are marked by internal discord, starting with the Tories, which had won with David Cameron the national elections of 2015 promising a referendum. Cameron had later declared his pro-EU stance, lost the battle, and ultimately resigned. Internal lacerations are experienced also among Labour. Different factions have equally divided UKIP’s pro-independence Party, the true winner of the Brexit vote. After the resignation of historical leader Nigel Farage, Diane James had taken the reins of the movement, but resigned 18 days after the election. This week in Strasbourg (where the plenary of the European Parliament was under way) an altercation broke up among UKIP MEPs. After the row with his colleague, Steven Woolfe, candidate-leader of the pro-independence group, suddenly collapsed and was taken to the hospital.

Divided, disoriented political Parties. “The next two years are bound to be difficult, but the British Parliament must respect the popular will expressed in what was the third referendum in the history of the Country”, said Ivor Roberts, President of Oxford Trinity College, ex-British diplomat.

“At this moment in time Westminster is experiencing equally serious problems as those currently faced by Brussels and Strasbourg.”

“The Labour Party in Scotland is breaking up and its survival in England and Wales is at risk because of the behaviour of one of its leaders”, Jeremy Corbyn, “that most of his Party colleagues don’t consider a viable candidate to be Prime Minister.” Moreover, for Roberts, “the UKIP party, established to bring Great Britain outside of Europe, has no reason to exist.” The leader of Scottish nationalist party SNP Nicola Sturgeon is making threats of a second Scottish independence referendum, as the Scottish majority population had voted to remain in Europe. To this regard, the ex-British ambassador believes that he risks biting off more than he can chew because “the outcome will be the same as the previous referendum: namely , not to leave the United Kingdom.” What about Liberal-Democrats? “They have always been in favour of Europe and against the Brexit, a very difficult stand given the present situation.”

Scotland won’t stand for it. For Ronnie Convery, spokesperson of the Catholic archbishop of Glasgow Philip Tartaglia, a second referendum on Scotland’s separation from the United Kingdom, at the end of 2017, is a possible scenario because two in three Scots have voted to stay inside the European Union.

Scottish people are culturally and politically very different from the Scots”, Convery said.

“They don’t feel a bond with the British Empire, which is still thriving in the memory of the Brits, nor to they consider the fact of having won the Second War as a reason to be superior to the rest of Europeans. The Scots also feel very close to the French for historical reasons.”

 

Protection-risk. “A rigid Brexit will benefit British economy in the middle period”, claimed John Hulsman, expert in international politics, president of the international business company “John C. Hulsman Enterprises”. “A small nation can take quick, efficient decisions without suffering the negative consequences of a slow-paced EU with 28 Countries”, Hulsman said. “Nor is the City in London exposed to risks, for banks will not leave and an agreement will be reached. Great Britain will be free to do business with China, India and the United States.” How about the surging degree of xenophobia following the Brexit vote? “Tolerance, that is very strong in this Country, will prevail”, Hulsman said. “Provided that Great Britain refuses the protectionist model proposed by UKIP, as is happening right now.”

Staying in the EU market. Nicky Morgan, ex- Minister of Education in Cameron’s government, dismissed by Theresa May past July, now chairs the moderate “Conservative Mainstream” group, which claims that Tory p risks loosing the centre of British politics along with the trust of its voters if a hardline Brexit should prevail.

“I think that it’s wrong to abandon the free European market only because the EU said that Great Britain should accept free circulation of people in return.”

Morgan added: “It’s too risky for our economy to leave the EU market.  Although it’s hard to prove, Britain would be damaged by this step.”

 

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