Brexit – a misdiagnosis?

On the day that a narrow majority of British people voted to leave the European Union, some of the highest EU officials and six founding Member States called for an immediate separation of the United Kingdom from the EU. This sounded like a quick and clean amputation of an important organ that can no longer be saved as a functioning member of the body. But will the EU get better once the UK has left? What if the diagnosis is wrong and the cut does not save the body?

It is a mistake to think that cutting off the UK from the EU will cure Euroscepticism from the 27 other Member States. As soon as the Brexit referendum result was known, the fever got higher in other Eurosceptic political parties on the continent. In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders, relying on a poll that shows 54% of the Dutch would vote to leave the EU called for a “Nexit”. Marine Le Pen in France who is likely to be present in the final round of the French presidential election in 2017 has called for an immediate “Frexit”. She was followed by the leader of the Lega Nord who called for a referendum in Italy. The sudden reaction from the EU’s leadership to avoid the “quitting infection” is understandable if we deem Eurosceptism to be specific only to the UK, but this is clearly not the case. Amputation cannot be the only solution if we want the EU body to remain viable and not put in small pieces in a body bag.

Therefore it seems important not to rush into surgery if the diagnosis is not clear. After the “Brexit”, the French President promised that France would take the lead to ensure that the EU focuses on the essentials. But what are the essentials? Is it really security and defence of our external borders, investment for growth and jobs, or fiscal and social harmonisation to give rules and security? Maybe because of her background in science, Angela Merkel stated that all 27 remaining Member States should “calmly and prudently analyse and evaluate the situation, before making the right decisions together”. This promises a heated European Council meeting tomorrow centred on the best treatment to cure sick Europe.

So what if amputation is not the right thing to do? What if another examination is necessary to diagnose the patient? The separation procedure is not underway yet. In fact, the leaders of the Leave campaign are not rushing it. A petition to trigger a second referendum had gathered more than three million signatures in less than two days. The Scottish First Minister has also suggested that the Scottish Parliament could block the passage of the necessary legislation for the UK to leave the EU. Outside the island, the chief of staff of the German Chancellor invited UK leaders to think again about the consequences of leaving the EU. A rushed amputation wanted by EU leadership might cut off a part that could be healed.

What worries me is that the EU has not made a proper analysis of Brexit. The BBC has provided interesting data on the vote that deserves close attention. What do we make of the opposition between cities and English regions? Between the youth and the older generation? Between the regions hardest hit by the economic crisis and the prosperous capital? How can we lead when so many feel left behind?

A lot of EU leaders have called for the EU to be closer and more relevant to its citizens. Social Platform has for long made its proposals for higher social standards to address social dumping throughout the union, to ensure that the economy serves the people and not vice versa, and for human rights to be the very core of all European policies.

I have too much respect for British people to cease a relationship with a scalpel. Amputation is not how we will cure sick Europe. Delivering for the wellbeing of all, ensuring that no one is left behind will certainly do better.

Let’s engage!

Pierre Baussand