Britain’s Problem is not the EU, it is Lost Leadership
Britain’s actions on Europe have an impact far beyond its shores. They provide a blueprint for how to dismantle the unity of a democracy (and probably autocracies too), undermine a trade bloc and seed the destruction of a superstructure (an international trade body, climate change effort or even the UN). While Britain may figure out how to stabilise to a state of affairs that it is prepared to live with, the Brexit project is a profound threat to others. Why, how and what happened in Britain as it pursued its Brexit also provides the key lessons for how to prevent further damage to peace, prosperity and freedoms in democracies across the world.
Within less than a century, the United Kingdom has gone from an empire on which the sun would never set to an island country at war with itself. Two world wars and decolonialisation reduced this Great Power to one of several European regional powers. Up until now, the UK appeared to do well in the smaller pond called the EU, even negotiating a sweet deal, the best of any EU member, that allowed it to leverage the power of the EU as the largest trading bloc in the world while keeping its own currency, financial hub and immigration controls. However, a small group of its politicians harboured the dream that it could once again be a great global player. A closer look reveals that Britain is not well placed to succeed in a time of significant global macro-change and, despite its innovation and many advantages, it has failed to build a global scale high-tech industry, lacks diversified natural resources and does not possess a highly skilled labour force for advanced manufacturing, to name a few. Other EU nations in the absence of these dreams have done better. And so, even within this smaller pond, the UK is not the biggest fish, ceding ground to continental powers that engaged constructively with each other and implemented structural policies that allowed them to benefit from increased globalisation beyond one core area (financial services in the case of the UK). None of them complained about “loss of sovereignty” as the Eurosceptics did because they had lived the reality of a world where for obvious gain they had forfeited slices of sovereignty to the UN, the WTO, climate change agreements and indeed every trade agreement with every major trading power around the world.Read More Archived copies of Sign of the Times