High Time to Rip Off the Brexit Band Aid. Rip Fast, Rip Hard, and Once and for All
In the three-and-a-half years since the Brits voted to leave the Union, the opportunity cost from the Brexit process has been enormous – for the EU, for the UK, and for the entire West.
At the beginning, due to its absurdity, the whole Brexit mess used to be getting more and more fun by the minute.
Even the name itself – Brexit (Britain + Exit) – sounded cool and thrilling when that neologism started making headlines more regularly. Like the possibility of an apocalyptic science fiction scenario (an all-out nuclear war, an alien invasion, etc.) – you know it won’t happen, or at least you put all your hopes into its not happening, and, yet, in a weird way you still enjoy discussing it, imagining how it would go down, or pondering what the world would be like after it.
Likewise, it’s always entertaining at first when something utterly ridiculous gets underway in politics. But that just at the beginning. Then entertainment quickly yields way to alarm, panic, and, if that state of emergency drags of for too long, eventually utterly disinterested fatigue.
That has now become the case with Brexit, the aptly named departure of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union.
With the nearing of the current Brexit date of October 31, 2019, a deadline pushed back twice already, basically thanks to the mercy of the EU, the quagmire of Britain’s domestic politics seems to be getting even worse.
Except perhaps for reporters obliged to cover Brexit to make a living, most people might have lost interest in the ping-pong between the UK’s Brexiteer Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the British Parliament, and in the dealings with the EU of the country governed by those two.
So much so that the Brexit process has reached a point where any potential benefits of a withdrawal deal, the so called orderly Brexit, have become eclipsed or even negated by the sheer delay and the inability of the British political class to unite around any kind of a single position in a decisive fashion.
So much so that the solution now is just to rip off the band aid immediately, as soon as possible, just in order to get this whole Brexit mess over with. Obviously, its ramifications won’t be over for decades but at least the uncertainty will be gone – everybody will be aware they have now got to deal with hardship, some more than others, and that’s that.
It doesn’t matter anymore if there is even a remote possibility for an UK – EU withdrawal agreement (which there probably isn’t because of the logical need for the Irish border backstop). It doesn’t even matter that the entire Brexit debate was framed all wrong, or that it was dominated by lies.
Too much time, energy, and morale have been wasted on Brexit already. Any tangible material losses from a no-deal scenario are just preferable to dragging it on even further. Not just for the EU but for the UK as well.
The European Union has far more important issues to deal with than the indecisiveness and failure to compromise of the British political class. The UK ditto. Not to even mention the global West.
The truth that everybody keeps ignoring – although everybody involved certainly has it at the back of their heads – is simple:
Brexit has been a self-inflicted wound, a self-imposed limitation, an own goal which has impudently hijacked everyone’s agenda, throwing out the issues that truly matter for the EU, the UK, and the West as a whole. It has somehow been allowed to do just that by everybody involved.
How is it that the sovereign decision of a single Western country, even if it is one of the more important ones such as the UK, has locked the mind of the entire West, blockading its decision-making and blocking all of its roads ahead for 3.5 years now?
A few more months and the Brexit process would surpass the duration of the West’s first attempt to self-destruct, namely, World War I (back then the Great War or the European War), which lasted for 4 years, 3 months, and 15 days.
That is why it is absolutely high time to get Brexit formally done, and to start absorbing and overcoming the losses from it – which would pale in comparison to the losses the EU, the UK, and the West would suffer if all of them keep neglecting other far more paramount issues because of Brexit.
A deal or no deal Brexit – it doesn’t matter much anymore. Material losses will be suffered on both sides of the English Channel, or the La Manche, as many on the continent call it – and they will be made up for. That will be far cheaper than the non-material and opportunity costs to be incurred if Brexit is allowed to drag on further.
There is no point in holding the entire EU hostage to the domestic political crisis in Britain.
It doesn’t matter any longer that the Brexiteers touted the fact that the UK had been a net monetary contributor to the EU but sought to obscure the fact that it remains even today one of the greatest consumers of non-material benefits from the EU – security, talent, labor, and a myriad of other opportunities. From the fact that no Napoleon with a National Flotilla and no Hitler with an “Operation Sea Lion” are looming on the Atlantic coast to the fortune of British pensioner being able to retire on the continent (the well-off ones in sunny Spain and Southern France, the dirtbag poor ones in a bit less sunny Bulgaria).
Deal or no deal – the EU just shouldn’t allow itself any longer to remain a hostage of the British political crisis caused by Brexit. The uncertainty has been way too much, plus it is coming from an entirely artificial issue, even an intra-Western non-issue if you really think about it.
A percentage point of GDP growth just isn’t worth holding out for an imaginary Brexit deal so there is nothing to wait around for.
Given the complexity of the most complex of all issues, that of the Ireland – Northern Ireland border, it is safe to say that the Brits chose the possibility of a no-deal Brexit when they decided not to hold a second Brexit referendum. Seems like such an important decision could have been given some second thoughts, after getting some second opinions (think of second rounds of elections, or the two Irish referendums on the ratification of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty). But the Brits decided to make it one vote, one time. And that’s fine.
But it’s been high time to move on. From the point of view of the West, world politics is a mess as it is, even without the artificially created Brexit crisis.
It’s time to leave the Brits and their political class to themselves – let them sort out their own stuff on their own, and take as much time as they need to do that. No blame, no guilt, no hard feelings. There’s just no use waiting for them anymore. Great Britain will be fine even without a deal (although the same probably can’t be said of Northern Ireland).
And if somebody in the UK or the EU is still hoping for that – there’s even no point even in reversing Brexit now – if that was even a remote possibility.
A potential reversal of Brexit would just drag the EU down some more – imagine going back to Britain’s over-privileged position of opt-outs, rebates, and a hindrance to deeper EU integration. If the Brits, or the Scots, the English want to come back to the EU at some point, that’s OK, if not, that’s OK, too. If the Irish want to unify perhaps even that could be OK. But get the current Brexit mess over with and out of the way.
And, on the EU’s side, it’s high time to finally truly put the test the Germans, French, the Italians and the rest, and see if they can manage the world’s most successful supranational democracy and balance one another all on their own.
That is, without Britain, without whatever wisdom used to come Brussels’ way from London (it’s hard to speak of British wisdom right now but it’s true that London has been an important source of checks and balances inside the EU, not to mention its economic role as the “European America” in science and innovation, research and development, and hi-tech startups.)
The greatest cost of Brexit has been its opportunity cost. The EU (and the West and the rest) has got to deal with potentially apocalyptic climate change, with unbridled immigration, with the root causes of rising far-right sentiments, with falling behind in innovation, with its aging and unsustainable demographics, with the failure to crack down on post-communist oligarchies in the new EU states, with global first-rate world power opponents such as China and Russia, with terrorism, with the fickleness of whoever else gets to tower from the White House – and against the backdrop of all these horror stories it’s been fixated on this Brexit thing. Unfortunate and ridiculous as it is, it’s hardly existential.
The EU must now seize the moment of Boris Johnson’s perplexing rise to power in the UK, and get Brexit done once and for all. It just can’t afford to squander any more of its time, will, and morale over it. And neither can the UK. A hard blow (which we are told would come with a hard Brexit) would still be better than prolonged uncertainty. A society can cope with a hard blow, whereas with uncertainty – it’s uncertain.
There’ve been reports and hypotheses that France would block a further extension on Brexit as Macron would like to do Johnson a huge political favor by realizing Brexit in exchange for preserving the tight French – British security relationship dating back to the years prior to World War I.
Whatever. If that would get the Brexit uncertainty and quagmire over with, so be it, the exact pretext doesn’t matter. The UK needs badly to start sorting itself out politically, while the EU needs to see if the Germans, French, and Italians can find the way to balance one another the right way without the Brits, to figure out how the EU would operate without London at the table (maybe even start codifying the new “EU English”).
And then all of those, the UK included, even after it has excluded itself from the EU, need to get down to resolving the overarching above-mentioned challenges as well as they can. Time on many of those is really running out, and there won’t be a benevolent other side to keep granting Brexit-style extensions.
(Banner image: MasterTux, Pixabay)