the hottest issue on the plate this week (if you are European) has been the Brexit. I do not wish to speak so much about Brexit itself since the BBC is doing quite enough already, but I would rather look at Nigel Farage’s statement from one of his recent appearances. His vision for Europe is to be “good neighbours” living in the same street.
UK’s secession from the EU would be much bigger deal than it seems on the surface. Not so much for Britain itself (despite what you think Britain, we won’t leave our wives for you), but for the precedent it sets and ideological shock it could send through Europe. As we all know that the political spectre has been tilting towards the right wing lately throughout the world. Europe has seen the rise of far-right parties and sometimes even outright neofascist parties. That means our post-Soviet era fairytale has ended and divisions are starting to deepen. If the UK decides to leave the EU, I am sure Scotland will not stand by quietly. The Scots are mostly in favour of remaining and I think we can say with a degree of certainty that Brexit could wipe out the word “United” from United Kingdom. In addition to that, other countries like Sweden have started debating whether to go with EU or the UK in case Brexit really happens.
We do not have to think in such nightmarish terms here, but we should think about the fact that secession of states from larger unions rarely result in periods of prosperity and peace. Among examples of that we could name the dissolution of Yugoslavia and Soviet Union. These dissolutions were certainly not peaceful and resulted in conflicts that still burn today. I can almost hear you thinking “those were dissolutions, not secessions”. To that, I would like to point out the secession of southern states from the United States. The main issue there was a policy. Today the big deal is immigration, then it was slavery and that disagreement lead to a civil war we have all heard about.
Now back to the “good neighbours” story. No country in Europe has ever demonstrated any signs of being able to act as a “good neighbour”. When we couldn’t agree on a king, we went to war (e.g. 116 years of war between England and France). When we couldn’t agree religion, we went to war (e.g. Protestants vs Catholics in Thirty Years’ War). Most of our issues over independence of nations, trade and ideology were dealt with by means of war.
Today we tell ourselves that we are smarter, more educated and better than those before us. We have our clever cliches like “history repeats itself” and we feel superior to our ancestors, because we would never do such things, right ? The British Leave Campaign is claiming that it is fighting for British national sovereignty and independence. In its extremes it imagines Europe free of this nonsensical EU ‘project’.
Adolf Hitler could toy with Europe as he wished exactly because each country cared about its sovereignty more than about the prosperity of the whole. The Soviets took advantage of us exactly because of our inability to stand together and it seems like we are starting to forget about it. We have had wars over religion, statehoods and ideology. The issue of today is the fight over what it means to be European. The idea of war in Europe seems unimaginable, but imagine that the union is broken and some countries remain alone, isolated and poor. How long will it take before these countries take up arms or let others do it for them ? There are many right outside our borders who are waiting for just that.