To survive, the EU must learn to compromise

The European Union is an ambitious project, but it won’t last if it punishes the UK for leaving and continues to resist reform

Image: The Kremlin

Brexit, the unending conundrum. A referendum with a collection of questions that has morphed into a gelatinous mass of mild deliberation. Of which the only question that has been answered is one that the Clash asked in 1981, should I stay or should I go? Now that we have sent a two fingered response to the rest of our continental brethren and are attaching engines to Dover to start our long journey out of Europe (and into the sea). I am here to implore Merkel’s 27 to give the United Kingdom a fair and easy exit into the economically unstable wide world.

Now I have lived near the EU for the majority of my life, so this may sound like a large amount of political gymnastics but a bad deal is as bad for the European Union as it would be for us, arguably even more so. There is talk amongst EU figures for punishing the United Kingdom, most notably with an astronomical bill that would make even a waiter at the Ritz blush. However, much like a dinner date with a frosty relation, whoever will be negotiating the deal can just say “Oh, sorry, i’ve left my wallet in the Jaaaaag” and flee, leaving the 100 billion euro bill to be payed by someone else. What happens if the UK just walks away? The fifth largest economy in the world leaves you in it’s flat with nothing but a limp offer of helping yourself to cornflakes on your way out.

Of course the motive behind punishing the UK on it’s departure is that the European Union, particularly Germany is between a rock and a hard place. Any leniency towards Britain economically can be seen as European weakness and as an opportunity for Eurosceptics to harp on the benefits of departure. While any punishment would see Germany’s 99.9 billion dollar market sail off into the distance with relations too sour to even wish them a fond farewell. Economic depression for the sake of political capital is all that Merkel can hope for. Especially since such economic turmoil could fuel the anti-EU sentiment that she dreads. She must face the decision with awareness of both her own national interest and of the European project. I am sure that Ms Merkel and Mr Juncker would prefer to go down as Europe’s “heroes” not as the reasons for the suffering of 510 million Europeans.

It cannot be said that the UK is off “Scot free”, but it must be accepted that the United Kingdom has a few more bargaining chips that even I thought we had. I think that the focus for the European Union now is to work with the UK and vice versa so that neither would have to take an economic cyanide pill for the motive of a few political plaudit points. The European Union should focus on it’s flaws and reform itself so that a nation wouldn’t be inclined to follow the British lead, not fear the European populace themselves.  Whether the negotiations bear fruit is based on either sides ability to compromise. In a situation where the outcome appears to be a lose-lose, their is no sense jeopardizing long term economic development at the expense of short-term political gain.

The European Union is an institution that must realise that it is not immune to compromise or criticism. Like many in Europe, I was shocked when on the 24th of June I woke up to the alarm bells of Brexit. Like many other people, to me the EU sounded like a great ambitious project to be reformed and improved, which now should continue its tradition of compromise. Now like us all, I must accept and appreciate the narrative of the other side. And like the leaders of our great nations, learn to compromise.

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