Brexit: Not business as usual

Brexit: Not business as usual

However light the issue might be approached, the bitter fact is that the British referendum over whether to stay in or leave the European Union has created a totally new situation for both the EU and the former empire upon which it was assumed the sun would never set. When will the Brexit decision be put into action? How long would it take for Britain and the EU to get a full divorce? Will they ever even get a full divorce or will they suffice with parting their beds or perhaps living in separate houses but continuing to meet intimately?

It is too early to have definitive answers to any of these or such questions. What is obvious at this point is the bare reality that the British people made a decision which for the next 10 years or so will have impacts on the shape of European architecture, as well as global political and economic relations, that might not be so easy to estimate now. Would it be a prophecy to say there will be some serious economic, political and social chaos which will not be limited to “the island,” as Europeans frustrated with the British referendum results prefer to call the United Kingdom nowadays? Or, would it indeed be a gross exaggeration to make such comments as the EU and the British were talented enough to develop some sort of a Norway-style relationship, indeed, if Britain could make a deal with the EU along the Norwegian model enabling it to stay in the European economic area, continue the customs union in some manner, stay within the visa-free Europe? 

Many major European companies have already announced their intentions to withdraw their presence from Britain considerably, particularly from the European banking capital London. Could they indeed go ahead with those plans and close their London bureaus or diminish their staff in London considerably? Could, for example, the Dutch ING Bank go ahead with its plans to close down its London offices? Could Amsterdam and Luxembourg emerge from this crisis consolidating their place in the European finance and banking system?

These and other doomsday scenarios will now be put to the test, as will the ability of the EU and Britain to sail through the difficult waters of this first ever serious challenge to the disintegration of the EU. Probably, as it has so far successfully proved, the EU will manage to come out of this crisis with a consolidated federation perspective, benefitting from the absence of Britain, which was constantly pressing hard on the brakes, not allowing the emergence of a federal Europe, like the United States.

Discussing in vain how Britons decided to abandon the EU ship, which country might be in line to follow the British example? Collecting signatures for a petition to ask British people to reconsider whether or not to leave the EU… It might be normal to have concerns and make plans to explore a way out of the drastic situation the referendum landed the United Kingdom, its people and of course the entire European Union and even beyond in, but can they bring about remedies? No… The genie is out of the bottle. The shallow politician who wanted to blackmail the British people and the entire EU with some hallucination has become the hostage of his own failed strategy and has declared his intention to abandon the prime ministry within months. His resignation and probable replacement with a British-style Donald Trump, Boris Johnson, might just add further troublesome elements to the already difficult situation on “the island.”

Eventually, of course, Britain will come out of this rather difficult situation. The European Union will surely as well. The two will definitely find a way to proceed side-by-side (since Britons believed they could not do it together). If Britons ever want to make a comeback in the years ahead, which is a probability, perhaps the issue would be discussed with the status quo of that time.

When the issue is looked at from a Cypriot perspective, the future framework of Britain’s relations with EU will be of great importance. The first address of Greek and Turkish Cypriots in regards to higher education has always been Britain. Now education in Britain without British subsidies will become very expensive. So will health expenses. On the other hand, Britons living on the island will all of a sudden become “foreigners” and instead of comrade EU citizen status, will have to go through foreigner treatment. That as well might cost some – even after the depreciation in its value after the Brexit vote still very valuable - British currency.

An EU-member Britain was unable to undertake individual approaches on the Cyprus issue. That might change as well. It is a secret that everyone dealing with the Cyprus issue knows that the Cyprus talks have been in a deadlock, and no convergence could be achieved between the two sides on any of the fundamental issues. Even the future status of the “founding entities” is problematic. Turks claim they will be “founding states” while Greek Cypriots poke at the issue and say their status could only be “founding provinces.” The capabilities of an EU-member Britain, out of solidarity with EU-member Greek Cyprus, were rather restricted.

There is a totally different situation and nothing will be “business as usual.”