Brexit: To Be or Not to Be?

That is the question.  On June 23, the United Kingdom will vote either to remain in the European Union or to leave it – the so-called "Brexit."

On January 1, 1973, the U.K. and Gibraltar joined the EU (known then as the European Economic Community) under terms negotiated by the Conservative government, then in power, through its leader, Edward Heath.  The 1974 elections were won by the Labor Party, who formed a minority administration and held a referendum on continued membership in 1975, which  was approved by 65% of the voters.  However, since withdrawal from the EU is a right of the member states, stipulated by Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, Euro-skeptic British Parliament members have been having constant calls for a new referendum.

On January 23, 2013, the current Conservative Party leader, David Cameron, proposed in his "Bloomberg speech" a renegotiation of the terms of the U.K. membership and a new referendum on EU membership.  In 2015, the U.K. Parliament passed the European Union Referendum Act, which makes provision for the holding of a referendum no later than December 31, 2017.

In the beginning, the camp of the status quo supporters seemed robust.  Lately, polls have shown trend reversals in the sense that Brexit has actually gained momentum.  In May 2016, An Ipsos MORI telephone survey showed a 55-to-37 ratio of voters for the status quo (with the rest being undecided), while a June 16 survey indicated a 53-to-47 ratio (with no undecided) for the Brexit – also known as "No, thanks" – supporters.

No matter what the final results will be, changes are expected within the EU political construction.

Why do the Brits want to exit the EU?

There are several reasons.  The U.K. itself used to be, in its colonial times, and still is, as a (formerly the British) Commonwealth of Nations, a political construction much larger that the EU itself.  Then, as a "mother country" for the U.S., it has been considered by many as the European turntable for America (or the other way around, depending on whom you talk with).  In addition to that, the U.K. is a nuclear power.  Other reasons include satiety for the Brussels bureaucracy; distaste for the German-French dominance of the EU, with both of them being in a visible rapprochement with Russia; and lost patience for the EU constantly bailing out financially less responsible member states, like Greece, from their enormous debts.  While "Grexit" was conceived as an EU sanction (but never applied), Brexit represents a local parliament initiative conceived, among others, to stop (at least for London) the continuous flow of assets and resources from the nations of makers to the nations of takers.  Many British citizens' attitudes toward the EU mirror many American similar feelings harbored against deals of NAFTA and PTT type.

Let us imagine several post-June 23 scenarios.

If the status quo prevails

We refer to an impact analysis on four levels: domestic (for the U.K.), regional (within the EU), transatlantic (with the U.S.), and international (which includes the British Commonwealth nations and the world).

Domestically, a more political than a financial impact is to be expected.  The British political parties will justify the results with their own interpretations and adjust their actions accordingly in the near future.  The Bank of England will probably not intervene in sustaining the sterling pound, although some bulls and bears might vary the stock exchange market in the period following Friday, June 24.

Regionally, the U.K. will try to redefine its status within, and relationship with, the EU based on the robustness of the victory percentages or the lack thereof.

Bilaterally, with the U.S. transatlantic partner, this will mean a folding on President Obama's position for the status quo, emphasized during his April meeting in London with Prime Minister Cameron.

Internationally, with the U.K. remaining in the EU, other nations (the British commonwealths, but also Russia and China) will perceive it as a sign of stability for their own domestic situations, troubled occasionally by social unrest and separatist movements.

If the Brexit prevails

An impact analysis applied to the same levels (domestic, regional-continental, transatlantic-bilateral, and international) will reveal the following possible trends.

Domestically, the sterling pound will plunge, on variable levels.  This is a reason for the Bank of England and various departments (British ministries) to intervene with emergency plans, based on their own money reserve availabilities.  There is also the situation of the 1.3 million British residents in other EU countries (especially in Spain, Ireland, and France), whose future status should be clarified in the near future by both the British and EU authorities.  Last but not least, the British executive will need to appoint more experts for the trade negotiations with the EU.

Regionally, several EU leaders, including Italy's center-left Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, warned that Brexit would be a path of no return.  Other EU nations will put in question the legitimacy of both the British euro-parliament members and European Commission experts.  Some EU states will probably push for some decisions to be taken without the UK's participation, where a unanimous vote is not required.  Symmetrically, the EU residents' status in the U.K. will have to be clarified (some of them will opt to stay, since later returns may prove more difficult).

Bilaterally, with the U.S., the British exit decision will probably receive mixed signals, since the U.S. itself is in full electoral swing during this year. While the current US administration may hint that a withdrawal could render the U.K. a less valuable NATO ally, the U.S. conservative circles may actually welcome the decision and perceive it as an enhanced opportunity for a more flexible bilateral military relationship with the ally across the pond.

Internationally, Brexit could seriously impact the surge of other European separation movements, like in Scotland (the Scots are pro-EU) and Catalonia (the Catalans are also pro-EU, but so are the Spanish Castilians).  In the case of these two nations, new negotiations and arrangements will be necessary for their re-accession to the EU.  Elsewhere in the world, some British commonwealth nations (American/Caribbean, African, Asian, and Australian/Pacific) will take concrete measures, of association or disassociation, depending on their own regional – political, administrative, economic, and trade – interests.

In conclusion, the time for an honest and efficient answer has come.  The question is to what extent political constructions, based on inclusion adopted on the expense of national value differences, are viable and durable.  Will a continuous reform work, or is dismantling the solution?  Obviously, the British referendum will provide us with a long-awaited answer.

Tiberiu Dianu is a scholar and author of several books and articles in law and post-communist societies.  He studied law, human rights, and criminal justice at the universities of Bucharest (Romania), Strasbourg (France), Oxford and Manchester (U.K.), American University (in Washington, D.C.), and the University of Maryland at College Park (in Maryland).  He currently lives in Washington, D.C. and works for various government and private agencies.

That is the question.  On June 23, the United Kingdom will vote either to remain in the European Union or to leave it – the so-called "Brexit."

On January 1, 1973, the U.K. and Gibraltar joined the EU (known then as the European Economic Community) under terms negotiated by the Conservative government, then in power, through its leader, Edward Heath.  The 1974 elections were won by the Labor Party, who formed a minority administration and held a referendum on continued membership in 1975, which  was approved by 65% of the voters.  However, since withdrawal from the EU is a right of the member states, stipulated by Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, Euro-skeptic British Parliament members have been having constant calls for a new referendum.

On January 23, 2013, the current Conservative Party leader, David Cameron, proposed in his "Bloomberg speech" a renegotiation of the terms of the U.K. membership and a new referendum on EU membership.  In 2015, the U.K. Parliament passed the European Union Referendum Act, which makes provision for the holding of a referendum no later than December 31, 2017.

In the beginning, the camp of the status quo supporters seemed robust.  Lately, polls have shown trend reversals in the sense that Brexit has actually gained momentum.  In May 2016, An Ipsos MORI telephone survey showed a 55-to-37 ratio of voters for the status quo (with the rest being undecided), while a June 16 survey indicated a 53-to-47 ratio (with no undecided) for the Brexit – also known as "No, thanks" – supporters.

No matter what the final results will be, changes are expected within the EU political construction.

Why do the Brits want to exit the EU?

There are several reasons.  The U.K. itself used to be, in its colonial times, and still is, as a (formerly the British) Commonwealth of Nations, a political construction much larger that the EU itself.  Then, as a "mother country" for the U.S., it has been considered by many as the European turntable for America (or the other way around, depending on whom you talk with).  In addition to that, the U.K. is a nuclear power.  Other reasons include satiety for the Brussels bureaucracy; distaste for the German-French dominance of the EU, with both of them being in a visible rapprochement with Russia; and lost patience for the EU constantly bailing out financially less responsible member states, like Greece, from their enormous debts.  While "Grexit" was conceived as an EU sanction (but never applied), Brexit represents a local parliament initiative conceived, among others, to stop (at least for London) the continuous flow of assets and resources from the nations of makers to the nations of takers.  Many British citizens' attitudes toward the EU mirror many American similar feelings harbored against deals of NAFTA and PTT type.

Let us imagine several post-June 23 scenarios.

If the status quo prevails

We refer to an impact analysis on four levels: domestic (for the U.K.), regional (within the EU), transatlantic (with the U.S.), and international (which includes the British Commonwealth nations and the world).

Domestically, a more political than a financial impact is to be expected.  The British political parties will justify the results with their own interpretations and adjust their actions accordingly in the near future.  The Bank of England will probably not intervene in sustaining the sterling pound, although some bulls and bears might vary the stock exchange market in the period following Friday, June 24.

Regionally, the U.K. will try to redefine its status within, and relationship with, the EU based on the robustness of the victory percentages or the lack thereof.

Bilaterally, with the U.S. transatlantic partner, this will mean a folding on President Obama's position for the status quo, emphasized during his April meeting in London with Prime Minister Cameron.

Internationally, with the U.K. remaining in the EU, other nations (the British commonwealths, but also Russia and China) will perceive it as a sign of stability for their own domestic situations, troubled occasionally by social unrest and separatist movements.

If the Brexit prevails

An impact analysis applied to the same levels (domestic, regional-continental, transatlantic-bilateral, and international) will reveal the following possible trends.

Domestically, the sterling pound will plunge, on variable levels.  This is a reason for the Bank of England and various departments (British ministries) to intervene with emergency plans, based on their own money reserve availabilities.  There is also the situation of the 1.3 million British residents in other EU countries (especially in Spain, Ireland, and France), whose future status should be clarified in the near future by both the British and EU authorities.  Last but not least, the British executive will need to appoint more experts for the trade negotiations with the EU.

Regionally, several EU leaders, including Italy's center-left Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, warned that Brexit would be a path of no return.  Other EU nations will put in question the legitimacy of both the British euro-parliament members and European Commission experts.  Some EU states will probably push for some decisions to be taken without the UK's participation, where a unanimous vote is not required.  Symmetrically, the EU residents' status in the U.K. will have to be clarified (some of them will opt to stay, since later returns may prove more difficult).

Bilaterally, with the U.S., the British exit decision will probably receive mixed signals, since the U.S. itself is in full electoral swing during this year. While the current US administration may hint that a withdrawal could render the U.K. a less valuable NATO ally, the U.S. conservative circles may actually welcome the decision and perceive it as an enhanced opportunity for a more flexible bilateral military relationship with the ally across the pond.

Internationally, Brexit could seriously impact the surge of other European separation movements, like in Scotland (the Scots are pro-EU) and Catalonia (the Catalans are also pro-EU, but so are the Spanish Castilians).  In the case of these two nations, new negotiations and arrangements will be necessary for their re-accession to the EU.  Elsewhere in the world, some British commonwealth nations (American/Caribbean, African, Asian, and Australian/Pacific) will take concrete measures, of association or disassociation, depending on their own regional – political, administrative, economic, and trade – interests.

In conclusion, the time for an honest and efficient answer has come.  The question is to what extent political constructions, based on inclusion adopted on the expense of national value differences, are viable and durable.  Will a continuous reform work, or is dismantling the solution?  Obviously, the British referendum will provide us with a long-awaited answer.

Tiberiu Dianu is a scholar and author of several books and articles in law and post-communist societies.  He studied law, human rights, and criminal justice at the universities of Bucharest (Romania), Strasbourg (France), Oxford and Manchester (U.K.), American University (in Washington, D.C.), and the University of Maryland at College Park (in Maryland).  He currently lives in Washington, D.C. and works for various government and private agencies.