This article is slightly conservatively biased.
Contributor on The Bipartisan Press and The Swamp
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I confess that, while I was never really on board with Brexit, the breathless warnings from the pro-EU camp were enough to push me into the pro-Brexit side. I thought that the Remainers’, rather condescending, argument boiled down to little more than “PANIC! Without the EU, Britain will fall into the sea!” I am no great fan of the tremendously elitist European Union either and also thought the Leavers’, similarly condescending, argument amounted to little more than “Brussels is the 4th Reich and we must resist now or lose our identity as Britons!” At the end of the day, I argued, Great Britain will do just fine whether or not she is a member of the European Union. There is too much money to be made on both sides of the Channel, too many financial and cultural threads connecting the United Kingdom and Europe, for a real, permanent disruption. The people voted, I said, quit the fear-mongering and get it over with: whatever the hell you’re going to do, just do it so everyone can get on with their businesses and their lives.
I’ve changed my mind. Brexit is a terrible idea and a new referendum is more than justified and prudent, it is absolutely necessary.
I misunderstood the nature of the Brexit risk. The EU is not the union I should’ve been watching. I understood the problems posed by the Irish border, and even that reunification of Ireland with Northern Ireland was becoming more of a political possibility. What took me by surprise was how seriously Scots are discussing independence. Splitting from Europe now means the potential dissolution of Britain itself.
The EU has for 20 years been an overly bureaucratic organization, with remarkable disregard for the local political and cultural challenges of member states. But it is also a demonstrably effective organization when it comes to helping out the smaller states. My home of Malta has grown more in the fifteen years since joining the European Union than it had almost in the four decades since independence from Britain. I barely recognize some parts of the island; so much development, so much investment, so many people living and working there from all over the continent and world. I love it.
But I lived in Germany during the EU transition, I remember the cleaning we got during the Deutsche Mark to Euro changeover. We called it the Teuero (teuer is German for expensive). The Euro was supposed to be exactly twice the value of the Mark, what cost 2 DM should now cost 1 Euro. Instead what we got was a bunch of storekeepers (especially gas stations, restaurants, and supermarkets) just changing the DM sign to Euro, effectively doubling the price. German politicians took way too long to acknowledge it was happening and never held the EU to account for the inflation obvious to everyone except economists in Berlin and bureaucrats in Brussels. Ever since I’ve had a love/hate relationship with the EU. I understand why Brexit happened.
Even with my misgivings on Brexit I found the the apocalyptic Remainer rhetoric distasteful. Britain has been around for centuries, she is integral to the global economy, her culture is one of the most recognizable, loved, and marketable the world has ever seen. Britain’s economy may lag a bit (probably lag a lot) for a while but she’ll emerge just fine. There’s too much money to be made in and with the United Kingdom for any economic slump to be anything but temporary.
However, I now think that Brexit is not merely a bad idea but is a phenomenally, unprecedentedly, historically bad idea. I didn’t understand the threat. Brexit can end three hundred years of a united Britain and that is unacceptable for this Anglophile and Commonwealth citizen (I know, not technically a thing but it’s how I feel).
Scotland is quite ready to tell the rest of Britain to piss right off. I didn’t get that. I didn’t understand that the Scottish independence referendum five years ago failed largely because remaining British was thought to be the only way to stay in the EU.
I was in Scotland last month for the Fringe Festival (if you haven’t been you’re missing out. I’m already planning to be there again next year.) and I’ve since been reading up. The Scots are fed up and willing to go it alone. They’re ready to join a different union as an independent nation and are preparing for a second independence referendum. The Scottish conservative party is in disarray and London can in no way count on their support in such a referendum.
And that should be scary to anyone with a love for Britain. I don’t want the Kingdom to no longer be United. Not being part of the EU will cause temporary economic problems in GB, definitely. Which is nothing compared to the lasting cultural, political, military, and economic consequences of a less great Great Britain. The Kingdom has been United since 1707. Risking that is insane.
I have few real doubts that Scotland would do just fine by itself. I have few real doubts that what remains of Great Britain wouldn’t eventually also do just fine. But I don’t want Scotland out, I don’t want the Union Jack to have to be redesigned: I don’t want one of the most influential political institutions in human history to dissolve over something as silly as this.
The Remainers stoked a bunch of unnecessary fear about how poor Britain would become without the EU, which was bollocks. But the Leavers are bullshitting everyone now about what else may happen. If there is any chance at all that Britain will fracture and weaken itself (make no mistake, Scotland leaving will make Britain weaker. For years to come.) then they should reject Brexit.
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