Brexit: The mother of all uncertainties

BrexitIn the aftermath of last week’s EU referendum, the only thing we can be certain of is uncertainty, writes Professor Paul Ekins, Director of the UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources, as he outlines two absolutely contrasting scenarios.

So the British people have voted by a margin of around 4%, a little more than 1 million votes, to leave the European Union (EU). Where this will lead lies somewhere between two absolutely contrasting scenarios.

On the positive side, we can imagine that the months before the election of the new British Prime Minister in October see some healing of the great divide that has opened up in the UK, a decision by Scotland not to pursue independence, and Sinn Féin not to pursue a referendum on Irish reunification, a steadying of the economy by the Bank of England and current Chancellor, and therewith a steadying in both the stock and currency markets. Then, in October or November, the new Prime Minister presses the button on Article 50, to be met by a conciliatory European Commission which, over time, makes it clear that UK Associate Membership of the Internal Single Market can indeed be accompanied by restrictions on EU freedom of movement and less need for the UK to implement EU legislation. This takes the heat out of the UK Brexit impulse, so that agreement on UK/EU terms of engagement, which involves minimal disruption to trade and investment, swiftly follows. Businesses and the financial sector heave a sigh of relief and get on with business as usual. The damage of Brexit to the UK and EU economies, and to the UK and EU politically, is minimal, far less than was forecast by practically everyone. ‘Experts’, especially economists, become the butt of more jokes. In five years’ time the UK’s position in Europe is a bit like Norway’s, but immigration has been restricted by the new curbs on freedom of movement. Leavers are delighted and say ‘I told you so’. Remainers are mightily relieved that the meltdown they feared has not occurred. The curbs on the freedom of movement of labour are used by other EU Member States to take the heat out of their populist movements. The ‘reformed’ EU continues more or less as before. Continue reading

Brexit referendum folly

Stefan Rousseau/Press Association Images. All rights reserved.Jan Zielonka, Professor of European Politics at the University of Oxford, writes that the consequences of the Brexit referendum are bad for both Europe and Britain, regardless of the result. This piece is part of the UCL European Institute’s commissioning partnership with openDemocracy on ‘Brexit Divisions’.

The EU referendum in the United Kingdom was intended as a festival of democracy, but it has proved to be an exercise in political madness. Brits pride themselves on being sensible and pragmatic people, but they embarked on a sentimental journey into the unknown. Rational arguments are being set aside while populists are having a party. The prospect of a referendum with an uncertain result has already caused a great deal of disarray, and those who count the costs of a possible Brexit should realise that major damage to Europe and the United Kingdom has already been done. Continue reading

EU referendum: the view of a UCL clinician-scientist

martinJohn Martin, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at UCL, argues that scientific advance relies on creativity, cooperation, and financing. To leave the EU would diminish all three, dimming the light of British science in the world and threatening the UK’s future economy. This piece is part of the UCL European Institute’s commissioning partnership with openDemocracy. For more on this topic, join the UCL European Institute for its high-level panel discussion EU Membership and UK Science on 12 May.

Few votes in history are as existentially crucial as the EU in-out referendum, which will be held soon. The summation of the wishes of several million UK voters as expressed on one day may change not only the cultural, economic, and social future of those individuals, but might have a significant indirect effect for non-voting citizens across Europe. I see the matter from two points of view: as a scientist and a doctor, and secondly as a moral person concerned about political development. Continue reading

Power to the parliaments! But will Cameron’s EU partners join his crusade?

Collier's_1921_Vol_7_Frontispiece_--_Parliament_Buildings,_LondonDavid Cameron wants national parliaments to have more say in the EU, but other European capitals have little appetite for radical change. Agata Gostyńska-Jakubowska, Research Fellow at the Centre for European Reform, argues that he should instead focus on improving existing mechanisms for parliaments to influence draft EU legislation.

The British Prime Minister, David Cameron, has been touring European capitals to present his package for reforming the EU. Among other things, he wants a stronger role for national parliaments in the EU, but he has yet to make detailed proposals. Philip Hammond, the foreign secretary, calls this the “scoping stage” during which Cameron is testing Europe’s appetite for reforms. Continue reading

Europe’s Attack on Greek Democracy

Joseph E. Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics and University Professor at Columbia University, was Chairman of President Bill Clinton’s Council of Economic Advisers and served as Senior Vice President and Chief Economist of the World Bank. In this commentary, he describes the true nature of the ongoing debt dispute as being about power and democracy much more than money and economics—and takes a stance on how he would vote in the Greek referendum. This post was first published by Project Syndicate.

The rising crescendo of bickering and acrimony within Europe might seem to outsiders to be the inevitable result of the bitter endgame playing out between Greece and its creditors. In fact, European leaders are finally beginning to reveal the true nature of the ongoing debt dispute, and the answer is not pleasant: it is about power and democracy much more than money and economics.

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