NEW YORK – Britain, I believe, had the best of all possible deals with the European Union, being a member of the common market without belonging to the euro and having secured a number of other opt-outs from EU rules. And yet that was not enough to stop the United Kingdom’s electorate from voting to leave. Why?
The answer could be seen in opinion polls in the months leading up to the “Brexit” referendum. The European migration crisis and the Brexit debate fed on each other. The “Leave” campaign exploited the deteriorating refugee situation – symbolized by frightening images of thousands of asylum-seekers concentrating in Calais, desperate to enter Britain by any means necessary – to stoke fear of “uncontrolled” immigration from other EU member states. And the European authorities delayed important decisions on refugee policy in order to avoid a negative effect on the British referendum vote, thereby perpetuating scenes of chaos like the one in Calais.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to open her country’s doors wide to refugees was an inspiring gesture, but it was not properly thought out, because it ignored the pull factor. A sudden influx of asylum-seekers disrupted people in their everyday lives across the EU.
The lack of adequate controls, moreover, created panic, affecting everyone: the local population, the authorities in charge of public safety, and the refugees themselves. It has also paved the way for the rapid rise of xenophobic anti-European parties – such as the UK Independence Party, which spearheaded the Leave campaign – as national governments and European institutions seem incapable of handling the crisis.
Now the catastrophic scenario that many feared has materialized, making the disintegration of the EU practically irreversible. Britain eventually may or may not be relatively better off than other countries by leaving the EU, but its economy and people stand to suffer significantly in the short to medium term. The pound plunged to its lowest level in more than three decades immediately after the vote, and financial markets worldwide are likely to remain in turmoil as the long, complicated process of political and economic divorce from the EU is negotiated. The consequences for the real economy will be comparable only to the financial crisis of 2007-2008.
That process is sure to be fraught with further uncertainty and political risk, because what is at stake was never only some real or imaginary advantage for Britain, but the very survival of the European project. Brexit will open the floodgates for other anti-European forces within the Union. Indeed, no sooner was the referendum’s outcome announced than France’s National Front issued a call for “Frexit,” while Dutch populist Geert Wilders promoted “Nexit.”
Moreover, the UK itself may not survive. Scotland, which voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, can be expected to make another attempt to gain its independence, and some officials in Northern Ireland, where voters also backed Remain, have already called for unification with the Republic of Ireland.
The EU’s response to Brexit could well prove to be another pitfall. European leaders, eager to deter other member states from following suit, may be in no mood to offer the UK terms – particularly concerning access to Europe’s single market – that would soften the pain of leaving. With the EU accounting for half of British trade turnover, the impact on exporters could be devastating (despite a more competitive exchange rate). And, with financial institutions relocating their operations and staff to eurozone hubs in the coming years, the City of London (and London’s housing market) will not be spared the pain.
But the implications for Europe could be far worse. Tensions among member states have reached a breaking point, not only over refugees, but also as a result of exceptional strains between creditor and debtor countries within the eurozone. At the same time, weakened leaders in France and Germany are now squarely focused on domestic problems. In Italy, a 10% fall in the stock market following the Brexit vote clearly signals the country’s vulnerability to a full-blown banking crisis – which could well bring the populist Five Star Movement, which has just won the mayoralty in Rome, to power as early as next year.
None of this bodes well for a serious program of eurozone reform, which would have to include a genuine banking union, a limited fiscal union, and much stronger mechanisms of democratic accountability. And time is not on Europe’s side, as external pressures from the likes of Turkey and Russia – both of which are exploiting the discord to their advantage – compound Europe’s internal political strife.
That is where we are today. All of Europe, including Britain, would suffer from the loss of the common market and the loss of common values that the EU was designed to protect. Yet the EU truly has broken down and ceased to satisfy its citizens’ needs and aspirations. It is heading for a disorderly disintegration that will leave Europe worse off than where it would have been had the EU not been brought into existence.
But we must not give up. Admittedly, the EU is a flawed construction. After Brexit, all of us who believe in the values and principles that the EU was designed to uphold must band together to save it by thoroughly reconstructing it. I am convinced that as the consequences of Brexit unfold in the weeks and months ahead, more and more people will join us.
紐約 - 英國，我相信，有最好的與歐盟所有可能的交易，是市場上常見的一員，而不屬於歐元區，並已經獲得了一定數量歐盟規則的其他選擇退出的。然而，這還不夠，從投票離開阻止英國的選民。為什麼？
答案可能在民意調查中可以看出在導致了“Brexit”公投個月。歐洲移民危機和美聯儲對彼此Brexit辯論。 “保留”活動利用了日益惡化的難民情況 - 由成千上萬尋求庇護者在加萊集中，拼命任何進入英國的恐怖形象象徵必要手段 - 從歐盟其他成員國激起恐懼“失控”的移民。和歐洲當局，以避免對英國公民投票產生負面影響推遲了難民政策的重要決定，從而延續像在加萊場面混亂。
缺乏足夠的控制，而且創造了恐慌，影響著每一個人：當地居民，負責公共安全的當局和難民本身。它也鋪平了道路排外反歐政黨的迅速崛起 - 比如英國獨立黨，它率先離開活動 - 為各國政府和歐洲的機構似乎無法處理的危機。
現在，許多人擔心災難性情景已經實現，使得歐盟解體幾乎不可逆轉。英國最終可能會或可能不會過得比其他國家的離開歐盟相對好一些，但它的經濟和人民在短期至中期顯著受到影響。英鎊跌至最低水平超過三十年在表決後立即，以及全球金融市場可能仍將處於動盪之中作為歐盟政治和經濟離婚的漫長，複雜的過程進行協商。對實體經濟的影響將是僅可比較的2007 - 2008年的金融危機。
歐盟對Brexit回應很可能被證明是另一個陷阱。歐洲領導人，渴望從效仿阻止其他成員國，可能沒有心情提供英國方面 - 特別是關於訪問歐洲的單一市場 - 這將軟化留下的痛苦。隨著歐盟佔英國貿易成交額的一半，對出口企業的影響可能是災難性的（儘管一個更具競爭力的匯率）。而且，與金融機構搬遷其業務和員工歐元區樞紐在未來幾年內，倫敦金融城（和倫敦的房地產市場）亦不能倖免的痛苦。
但對於歐洲的影響將是差遠了。成員國之間的緊張關係已經達到了一個臨界點，不僅超過難民，而且作為歐元區內債權國和債務國之間的特殊菌株的結果。與此同時，削弱了法國和德國的領導人正在正視集中在國內問題。在意大利，顯然繼Brexit投票10％的跌幅在股市標誌著這個國家的脆弱性全面爆發銀行業危機 - 這很可能帶來民粹主義的五星運動，剛剛贏得了羅馬市長的職位，以實力為最早在明年。
這一切都預示著歐元區的改革嚴重方案，該方案必須包括一個真正的銀行業聯盟，一個有限的財政聯盟和民主問責制的更強大的機制。而時間是不是在歐洲的身邊，來自土耳其和俄羅斯的同類外部的壓力 - 這兩者都是利用不和諧，他們的優勢 - 複合歐洲內部的政治紛爭。