Middle-east Arab News Opinion | Asharq Al-awsat

Opinion: A Referendum Tainted by Blood | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
Select Page
Media ID: 55353046

The debate about whether Britain should stay in the European Union or exit it is raging and has even claimed the life of the young Labour MP Jo Cox who was shot and stabbed. This was the price she paid for defending refugees and vulnerable people’s rights, and the European solidarity that no longer appeals to some.

Britain entered the European Union in 1973 after facing objections from the French President Charles de Gaulle. Just as power attracts and enchants, weakness and dispersion causes aversion and alarm. Gone are the days when countries did everything to join the union, and now they threaten to withdraw from it if their wishes are not fulfilled. Greece has already done this, Switzerland is neither an EU nor EEA member but is part of the single market, Denmark refused to use the Euro and Iceland has turned its back on the Union. There is not a country that competes for this membership except for Turkey.

It seems that this huge union is troublesome for its members if they continue to be part of it, and a bigger problem for countries that have exited it. The European continent no longer resembles the continent from which the concept of the Union sprung from in the fifties of the last century. After more than half a century later, its peoples have become impoverished after growth and its administrations and departments seem as though they are unable to shake off the dust of the twentieth century and the methods of management and thinking that are associated with it.

With the onset of immigrants pursuing stability via the sea, land and air, the weakness and fragility of Europe is revealed. The number of those who entered Europe did not exceed the number of residents of a small country like Lebanon.

Britain thought that by opening its borders to its surroundings, it would secure the most experienced people and the smartest brains. With the collapsing economies surrounding it, Britain has become attractive to unemployed people.

In addition to this, the cost of membership last year reached more than 8 billion pounds sterling at a time when the state is squeezing its expenditures and Britain has lost more than 70,000 jobs in the oil industry alone. The sense that joining the Union requires more sacrifices is a matter that burdens member states. Some members still look to the future open heartedly and optimistically, whilst others prefer to close their borders and doors and manage their affairs themselves.

However, the countries that joined the union and benefited from it cannot leave as easily as they think. In addition to World Bank warnings and US fears about the future of European unity, the majority of investors see Britain’s exit as a loss that cannot be easily compensated, particularly as the country’s economy is based on the provision of services.

Young people, more than others, realise the seriousness of being separated from their surroundings, and most of them support staying within the system that gave them the freedom to move, exchange and be exposed to different cultures. There is still time before we see the effects of Jo Cox’s shocking murder in the street.

Democracy is fragile even in the most powerful nations, and unity necessitates that the meaning of short term sacrifice is understood, so that blessings are extended to a larger number of people, and this is something that cannot be easily explained to voters who are motivated by rising fears and whose emotions have been manipulated.

For this reason, people are not surprised that the fateful referendum has led to bloody violence. Despite all assessments and warnings, no one can predict the effects that would result from the withdrawal of Britain in the case that this happened, except that the value of the pound sterling would fall. The United States fears that Britain’s exit will encourage more members to rebel, leading to a weak Union, and this could shake NATO.