The Death of Europe
Date: June 23, 2041
Place: University of Edinburgh, Rep. of Scotland
It has been 25 years since the beginning of the end of the so-called “European Project”. Its demise began in an obscure election manifesto of a party that won less than 37% of the popular vote. In a period where the European Union (EU) had experienced its greatest challenges – economic instability, migration and terrorism – the Union’s second largest member, and arguably most important, voted to leave it behind on June 23d 2016. What followed is history.
This essay will explore the three main impacts of the British retraction from the EU in 2016: the death of “Great” Britain, the ensuing collapse of the European Project, and finally the demise of Western power and morality.
Great Britain had lost the world’s largest Empire already by the middle of the 20th century, but it was still a great nation in many ways in the early 2010s. It was the 5th largest economy on the planet, it still consisted of a great collection of British isle nations and it was a permanent member of the UN Security Council.
With the 2016 exit from the EU came two rapidly succeeding crises; the first impacting the economy. With over 40% of exports going to the free trade market it had access to, and most of the financial activity of the EU based in London, leaving the union was a gamble. What the British people seemed to neglect was that the collective might of the other 27 member nations did indeed outweigh the second strongest member; only 10% of the Union’s exports went to Britain. Once the second largest economy voted to leave, the Brussels “Eurocrats” were determined to discourage the other net-contributing nations to leave the Union. They reasoned that the cost of increasing tariffs with Britain was far less than the cost of empowering Marine Le Pen’s France or the patriotic Dutch and Danish people to leave the Union. Thus the EU began a long drawn out process of trade negotiations with the intent of quashing British trade and punishing the island nation. In this they succeeded, with the British economy entering a recession already in 2017 and London forever losing its title as the second largest financial capital in the world.
Brexit in 2016 also led to perhaps the most predictable outcome of the referendum; the division of the United Kingdom. By the end of 2014 Britain had just seemed to bury the idea of Disunited Kingdom for at least a few generations, with the defeat of the Scottish National Party’s (SNP) independence referendum. How ironic that the Scotland’s desire for union with Europe ultimately secured it its own independence from Britain. The leader of the SNP at the time, Nicola Sturgeon, lived up to her promise of holding another Scottish referendum if Brexit went through. The combination of Scottish anger at the Conservative Government for retracting promises made in 2014 with indignation at the outcome of the EU referendum let the SNP to win its independence vote with a 64% majority in March 2017.
15 years later, by 2032, with the loss of Wales the year before, Britain decided it could no longer legitimately claim the title United Kingdom and took on the name England. It had dropped 6 places to become the 11th largest economy in world. The nation formerly known as “Great Britain” had lost such political economic power, territory and influence that it suffered a massive international campaign against its position on the UN Security Council in the summer of 2032. England succumbed to international pressure spearheaded by the planet’s 4th and 8th largest economies: India and Brazil, who threatened economic sanctions if their great power status remained unacknowledged. England, which no longer had the might of a 28 nation economic union behind it, had no chance of withstanding the economic pressure of the global BRICs coalition. And without the possibility of merging the French and English Security Council seats into one EU seat, both France and England were finally evicted from the UN Security Council, after 67% of the UN General Assembly members overturned their vetoes, utilising the “Uniting for Peace” resolution.
The Dying European Man
With the exit of Europe’s second largest and fastest growing major economy, the European Union lost not only the influence and impact of one of its great contributors, but it inspired a wave of member withdrawals in the subsequent years, lasting up to this very day.
With the recent declassification of notes from meetings of the EU Commission in 2016 we now know that after Brexit, the EU pursued deliberate measures to punish Britain for leaving the European Union in the hope of scaring away other member states from pursuing a similar path. Unfortunately for Brussels, no amount of economic and diplomatic pressure on Britain could scare away other nationalists in Europe now that they had their precedent and knew it would be much easier to inspire a popular vote in their own country. Furthermore, with the loss of the second largest net-contributor to the EU budget, nationalist populations of other richer members felt betrayed and were afraid they would have to pay even more.
The first to go was Greece later that year. The Syriza party faced massive pressures; if the rich population of Britain could leave, why couldn’t the Greeks? The general strike in the autumn of 2016 forced another snap election where Alexis Tsipras was ousted from the leadership. The re-election led to an anti-EU coalition which decided to give the people what they had longed for. Greece formally retracted their membership in December 2016 after a failed attempt at negotiating total debt relief for the country.
Then in May 2017, in order to stem the rise of Marine Le Pen at the French Presidential elections, all French political parties promised their electorate a referendum on the EU membership if they were voted in. After years of disgruntlement with immigrants, terrorism and a poorly performing economy, the French decided the EU was to blame. After a marginal victory for the “Frexit” supporters, France resigned its membership in January 2018.
Spain quickly followed suit. With the break-up of the United Kingdom and the cessation of Scotland, Catalonia finally gained the courage it needed to pursue its own path of independence both from Spain and Europe. It declared itself independent from the rest of Spain in 2017, and a fresh general election was called in both countries after the catastrophic separation of Spain and its most economically successful region. The Spanish political party Podemos and the Catalonian nationalist party won in both countries on an anti-EU platform, and by 2018 the former Kingdom of Spain had also left the EU.
Indeed the subsequent domino effect has lasted to this day. Today, the European Union’s remnants almost resemble the old German Zollverein, or GrossDeutschland; a collection of historically Germanic countries consisting of Germany, Austria, Poland and Belgium joined in an economic union. If anything, today’s EU has become the anti-thesis of the “European Project” which aim was to restrain the power of Germany through closer political, economic and cultural ties rather than allow a great Germany to emerge once again. The rise of the right wing parties in central Europe over the past two decades is deeply unsettling for any self-declared pacifist now that the fraternal bonds of Europe’s great powers have been broken.
Put-in its place
Did Britons in 2016 ever wonder why the demagogues of the time – Putin and Trump – supported Brexit?
The world lost the great moral and economic super power of the EU after 2016. The Union became more and more preoccupied with internal matters like terrorism, economic stagnation and migration. And without the major influence of globalised, rational and financially shrewd Britain, EU politics became more and more “Eurocratic”. With the loss of European solidarity and economic power, the world lost its democratic anchor. This left a political and economic vacuum filled by Eternal President Vladimir Putin of Russia, and global anti-democratic forces.
This was caused by two main losses: the demise of the EU’s moral strenghts, and the loss of its economic power.
Europe’s weakening influence
One of the European’s biggest assets was its ability to influence the development of other countries simply through being. Its very existence proved to the world that people of different cultures, creeds and ethnicities could happily and successfully cooperate and govern together. The fact that a continent riven by civil wars – the birth place of the two world wars – could put hatred behind and pursue economic and political integration between peoples that had spent centuries killing each other, proved the human capacity for peace and forgiveness. This gave governments of multi-ethnic countries all across the world an ideal to strive towards, and proved the possibility of cooperation against the tremendous odds of human desire for violence.
Indeed, the united continent was a beacon of democracy, economic stability, human welfare and justice to which many countries aspired. Countries of internal conflict and instability like Serbia, Morocco and Turkey had enacted political reforms to improve the conditions of their people for many years, in the hope of meeting the EU’s criteria for becoming an EU member in the early 21st century. Other poor states like Romania and Bulgaria had enacted hundreds of reforms to their societies like curbing corruption, instituting human rights and protecting the environment so that they could become members of the EU. All of these nations would have been much worse off today without the policies and values they adopted to meet EU requirements.
The effect of the EU’s collapse was immediately felt in the neighbouring regions of Europe: Russia, Turkey and the Middle East. The Russian population which had so desired reforms in 2012, finally succumbed to Putin’s nationalist, conspiracist and xenophobic ideology. It seemed the great man was right in his predictions that Western moral decadence was unsustainable and would lead to collapse. Turkey fared in a similar way. As the EU was no longer as stable or economically attractive a union, they backtracked on all human rights legislation the EU had forced them to accept in return for future membership. Turkey finally succumbed to autocracy under President Erdogan in December 2017, as he removed the maximum term limit for the presidential post, banned free speech and targeted political enemies.
Brexit, and the collapse of the EU similarly gave impetus to radical islamists around the globe who grew stronger from support from disenchanted European muslims whom no longer felt included in a Europe where foreigners where shunned, compassion undermined and societal unity shattered. The islamist message that islam and democracy were incompatible was strengthened when the EU’s ability to even unite Christian Europeans failed.
The collapse of the EU and its ideology gave a victory to Putin’s anti-Western propaganda machine which always maintained that the West’s decadence and immoral acceptance of homosexuals, immigrants and women would lead to societal collapse. Britain’s exit led to a chain of events that seemingly confirmed Putin’s prophecy.
Hard power crumble
The European Union did also at its height have considerable power at its disposal, primarily through its status as the largest economy on Earth. This combined strength protected European Union members from intimidation by foreign countries wanting to pressure certain members, but it also provided the Union with an offensive tool for spreading European values.
The EU used its economic power in two ways. One was to incentivise countries to adopt European values and laws by offering development funds and access to the European market. This was what the EU labelled as the GST+ agreements, a specific incentive arrangement offering tariff reductions to developing countries that had ratified and implemented international agreements on human and labour rights, the environment and good governance. Countries that benefitted from this included Pakistan, Mongolia, Paraguay and others. Multiple other countries would adopt reforms in the hope of achieving these beneficial trade agreements.
The second method was to penalise nations for wrong-doings and misbehaviour, best exemplified by the very successful sanctions against Russia in 2014 for its annexation of Crimea, leading to massive economic damage for the Putin regime. The EU’s might was also demonstrated in its sanctions against the Iranian nuclear programme which eventually led to Iran redirecting its course to regain access to international, and European, markets in 2015.
The European neighbourhood was especially affected by the collapse of the economic power of the European Union. Unstable states on Europe’s periphery in the Mediterranean had no longer any financial or political incentives to adopt human rights or proper rule of law in their countries. The rights of people in Turkey, Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Israel and others gradually deteriorated along with the incentives for accessing what had been the largest trading market on the planet.
The loss of these European Union tools meant disaster for international democracy. Developing leaders around the globe, whom already had their doubts about Western democracy and its interventionism, found final proof that Western morality and norms were entirely unsuitable for developing countries and would lead to the chaos they so feared. Major allies and trading partners of the EU, such as China, Indonesia and India found it now morally and economically sensible to avoid adopting Western standards of human rights. The world’s largest economic bloc had been shattered, and with it the clout the union had in promoting Western values of human rights and rule of law. Many developing nations upheld discriminatory and corrupt practices, curtailing democratic freedoms as the moralist pressure of the EU had been relinquished.
The effects were felt most acutely within Europe itself. Russia’s policy of dividing and conquering EU nations finally bore fruits as the impending economic doom of the Union became clear. As the might of the EU dwindled with the exit of some of its most powerful members, and European solidarity waned, Russia was able to utilise its energy and military leverage to bully European nations into submission. Hungary decided to move away from closer ties to Europe and instead ally itself further with the Russian regime both economically and politically to avoid cuts in gas supplies and get favourable financial support. From the winter of 2018, Russia resumed using gas cuts as a policy tool against European countries as Putin wanted to discourage European opposition against his annexation of the rest of Ukraine.
Brexit = a worse off world
In conclusion, it should be clear that the event of June 23d 2016 set in motion a chain of events which ultimately led to the end of “Great” Britain, the demise of the European Union and the loss of Western moral and economic leadership globally. What a European Union would have looked like with re-engaged British leadership to solve its largest crises will forever remain a mystery. Had not Britain left, Europe might have still to this day remained a beacon of Western morals, political stability and European peace. That prospect seems as far away as it did in the 1930s.