A message for Brussels: Let it go

By Leah Devorak | Layout Editor

The United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union will only have disastrous consequences if EU leadership refuses to let the U.K. go without a fight.

In what is now known as the Brexit, on June 23, the U.K. voted in a non-legally binding referendum to withdraw from the European Union and once again become its own political entity. British people voted to leave for a variety of reasons, including a desire for a different immigration policy and a belief that the European Union threatened British sovereignity, VOX reports.

Out of the 30 million who showed up at the polls, according to BBC News, 52 percent voted in favor of leaving.

Withdrawal has been the right of all EU member nations since the signing of the Lisbon Treaty, a reform of the functioning of the EU, in 2007. However, withdrawal does not occur until Article 50, the specific section of the treaty that discusses the matter, is formally invoked in Brussels by the leaving nation.

The U.K. has yet to summon Article 50, but even so, recently appointed Prime Minister Theresa May says this does not matter. The people of the UK are set on leaving the EU, and no matter what the rest of the world wants, she will work to see this happen.

“There will be no attempts to remain inside the EU, no attempts to re-join it by the back door, and no second referendum. The country voted to leave the European Union, and as Prime Minister, I will make sure that we leave the European Union,” May said.

Many people outside the U.K., such as Eurogroup president Jeroen Dijsselbloem, condemn the U.K. for its decision to withdraw.

“Brexit … has been has been causing a lot of problems, particularly for the U.K. but also for Europe,” Dijsselbloem said. He continued that the “sooner we can sort out this problematic situation, the better.”

But why is it such an issue?

As Manuel Hinds, El Salvador’s former finance minister, points out in an article for Quartz, the problem is that most people believe that Brexit is initiating a complete breakdown of the U.K.’s economic ties with Europe and thus causing some sort of “doomsday” scenario – ending with “the sinking of the British Isles into the cold North Sea,” as Hinds puts it.

Sarcastic and dramatic, yes, but the point is good: Brexit alone will not destroy the world economy, for restructuring political ties does not always mean restructuring economic ones.

After so much globalization and so many years of unification, the fact of the matter is that European industries are too co-dependent in order for one nation to just up and leave the economic party and feel no repercussions.

This means that if the U.K. decides to cut its economic ties to the rest of Europe on top of Brexit, then both itself and the EU will suffer due to their heavy reliance on each other. Likewise, if the EU ever shuts Britain out, the same economic turmoil will occur.

So it is mutually beneficial for all of Europe to remain economically codependent despite the coming change in political relationships.

Brussels, however, is still thinking of hindering trade. German Chancellor Angela Merkel recently warned that “whoever would like to have free access to the European internal market” – referring to no tariffs – “will also have to accept all basic freedoms [of the EU].”

The European Union focuses on protecting four primary freedoms within its member states: Free movement of goods, freedom of movement for workers, freedom to provide services across state borders and free movement of capital.

Hinds believes that it will be possible for Britain to continue to meet most, if not all, of these requirements.

“Political integration is not necessary to create a territory in which the four freedoms are respected,” Hinds wrote. “Do you think it reasonable that the United States should have to become a member of the EU and adopt all the EU laws and regulations in order to have free trade with it?”

No, Hinds. It is not reasonable at all.

But no matter, Merkel still alludes to tough restrictions that could harm the EU, U.K. and entire world economy down.

We will have difficult negotiations with Britain, it will not be easy,” Merkel said.

The EU is most likely to restrict British trade by imposing tariffs on all British goods entering the mainland. However, as hinted at before, the interdependence of the EU and U.K. will cause this to slowly rip the world economy apart.

Why? High tariffs on British goods necessary in EU production will raise production costs. The only way for businesses to cope while still making a profit will be through layoffs. Cutting labor, however, will in turn cut purchasing power and decrease sales, prompting for more layoffs, even less spending, even more layoffs, and an eventual tanking of the European economy.

And when Europe tanks, the rest of the world will quickly follow.

It’s morbid, yes, but true. The Brexit itself cannot destroy anything, but the actions of the EU in response to it can. If it tries to be spiteful and keep the U.K. from seceding by imposing high tariffs in order to keep the rest of its member nations from leaving, then it will only end up destroying its economy and eventually making the rest of its members leave, anyway.

So, Brussels, be careful. You’re trying to unify Europe in modern democracy, not turn it into a second, pseudo Soviet Union. Don’t keep your members by fear and force. Let the people go if they want, and support them as they do. It’s the only way to keep yourself afloat.