The Key Question
If we can clear the decks of the quibbling about the Cameron renegotiation we might then examine the key question:
Is the EU as it is now, sufficiently worthwhile, on balance, for the UK to decide that remaining is better than trying to quit?
It is not very appetising which-ever way you look at it.
As it is now the EU is pre-occupied with one internal crisis:
- the instability of its southern economies and the impact on the Euro
and three major external crises:
- a resurgent Russia threatening stability on Europe’s eastern borders,
- a downturn in the Chinese economy and its impact on the global economy and
- the mass migration (so long predicted by a few commentators) of people from areas of the world affected by civil war and economic inequality.
Reform of the EU is just not on the agenda and probably won’t be for a decade – we have to accept that – in or out. Cameron may have had an opportunity to pressurise the rest of the EU to reform – under the duress of us leaving. But he squandered the opportunity by instead trying to play to his Euro-septic colleagues to negotiate a half-in/half-out “special” relationship that I suspect satisfies no one.
No country has “quit” the EU before – the mechanism for doing so is vaguely defined and untested. We don’t want to just walk away – we need some form of relationship with our geographic neighbour – the quitters make great play of the inevitability of a negotiated trade deal. But trade deals with the EU take an age to negotiate and we will need more than just a trade deal – presumably we will want some form of co-operation on matters such as security and environmental control. We will have to negotiate these agreements with an EU that has other more important things to worry about and with leaders who will probably be fed-up to the back teeth with us. Any deals that we get may well be imperfect and require later renegotiation.
And a UK majority vote to quit – if matched by a Scotland wide majority to stay – could lead to another major distraction for the UK.
But the genie is now out of the bottle and we have to choose our poison.