The departure of the UK from the EU was a long time coming. From the referendum in May 2016 to the triggering of Article 50 in early 2017, through the final few weeks of 2020 as a nation prepared to officially exit. All of it was the only news on the headlines for politicians. Brexit inspired new candidates, formed new parties, won and lost elections based on chosen Brexit stances, and has shaped the electoral map in new, unforeseen ways.
The speculation over whether it would occur at all – or might someday reverse in direction, entirely – have lessened as the deadline approached. It seems, for the time being, the UK is taking the plunge and won’t be looking back. It was maybe inevitable that other European countries would look at the UK’s exit as a major precedent and moment of reflection.
A Fair Price
After all, the British aren’t the only nation who pays into the union, albeit one of its largest contributors. As the negotiations continued through the past few years, the rhetoric was heavy. The Leave party – a spearhead of the eventual Brexit decision – called the European Union a spent force and a ‘failed project.’ Whether they were accurate or not wouldn’t matter, so much as the seeds were sown.
In the latest political betting odds, Italy is the current favorites to leave next at 3/1. Following them, France and Greece are slightly less likely to go. Although their reasons for doing so would be quite different. Other nations, Italy and Spain among them, may look to the UK as a potential example. Their potential exits could spell more than the weakening of the European Union. They could be the architects of its complete demise.
Some nations show no signs of going anywhere at all. Germany, at odds of 33/1 for example. Germany might be considered the central piece, the lynchpin of the Union. Like France, they lie centrally in continental Europe, significantly larger and more economically capable than many of the satellite nations around them. Theoretically, if Germany remains, it will guarantee many of those smaller players remain too. To leave the EU effectively severs many useful trading connections, relationships, and opportunities. While the UK was in a unique position of having a large developed financial center in London, few others can say the same – or consider dropping out and going it alone.
The Bottom Line
Economics plays such a major role, in fact, that it also shapes the opposite opinion. Nations like Greece, for example, have struggled with recessions of late. Therefore, they are perhaps more inclined to consider drastic measures. The philosophy of ‘it can’t get any worse than it already is’, essentially.
In a recent Pew Research poll sampling 10,000 respondents from across Europe, the purpose was attitudes to Brexit and the EU amongst Europeans. A major takeaway from the survey was that the “Leave” campaign run in the UK demonstrated both the usefulness of the Union and the stress that leaving could create. In fact, the responses suggested that overall approval of the EU had increased notably compared to a year prior – in nine out of the ten surveyed nationalities, a largely favorable view of the organization was held. The Polish and Germans held over 70% positive feelings, and the UK remarkably boasted a 54% of respondents claiming they saw the Union in a ‘positive light.’
The issue with the EU is that being collective means dealing with a range of different needs and providing value to each member that is visible and tangible. Referendums are an attractive chance to voice frustrations that that value isn’t being seen.
The Pew report suggests that the louder calls for a referendum – the largest of which come from Spain, in particular at 14/1 – are perhaps triggered by the strain of feeling that Brussels simply isn’t hearing them, or offering adequate compensation for their membership. As the UK shuffles into its new isolated position, who might be attaching themselves to their coat-tails?