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Votta: Brexit is looking wildly better for EU than anyone could have imagined

Roberto Votta, Op-Ed Contributor

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Brexit was supposed to end the European Union as we know it. It was supposed to trigger other crises alongside innovative wordsmithing, like Grexit and Quitaly. It was supposed to be the resolution of a romantic tale for independence. In fact, I still remember the day the EU Referendum took place in the United Kingdom: June 23, 2016.

All my friends and I stayed home that day, watching the news, frantically texting each other about what the outcome would be, and what it would mean. Yet, over 500 days later, I find it hard to look around and find cause for my panic. Britain took a major blow losing its Conservative Party-led government in exchange for a coalition-based one following the snap elections on June 8, and it has failed to produce any sort of viable proposition regarding the divorce bill. Meanwhile, the Eurozone recovery has boomed, becoming the economic fairy tale of the year. Taking a turn for the better would be an understatement, as it seems to me that this whole situation has morphed into a Pan-Europeanist’s dream.

Frankly speaking, things do not look good inside the UK. The Conservative-led government has gone to great lengths to ensure the Brexit process continues. It has twice rejected a second referendum, possibly out of fear that it’ll seem weak and inconsistent in the eyes of its voters — or that it might do the right thing by accident. Their House of Commons MPs continue treating Brexit as their little Red Scare by engaging in various levels of alleged McCarthyism, going as far as sending an open letter to all universities asking who the lecturers on Brexit are. Meanwhile, Theresa May continues to be propped up by her party as the Prime Minister, though she faces ever-decreasing public approval ratings, with the entry Monday being 37 percent according to YouGov. To be clear, more British people approve of the UK version of Jersey Shore, which stands around 47 percent, than they do of their own prime minister. If a political leader is less popular than a show about gel, suntans and partying, chances are they should not be leading the country.

On the other hand, the prospects seem great for the EU. The laissez-faire attitude turned laissez-implode attitude, combined with a firm stance on the issues, is working wonders. The EU has requested an estimated 60 billion Euro divorce bill, which the British are yet to go through and respond to, as a prerequisite for any further discussions. Although the official deadline for a response was a week ago, according to chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier, the deadline has been extended to December by European Council President Donald Tusk. You know you are doing well when you can make a man whose messages have been said to sound “surprisingly Euroskeptic coming from the head of an EU institution” consistent.

Furthermore, the EU has seen several victories within the last year as well, starting with the overwhelming electoral victory of pro-Europe Emmanuel Macron in France. The reaffirmation of an integral state to the united European dream has boosted confidence in the project — not only within France’s borders but throughout Europe. Indeed, in a Pew Global Research poll, citizens in nine out of 10 countries surveyed said they had a more favorable view of the EU. Together, these 10 member states account for roughly 80 percent of the European population, and 84 percent of the EU’s economy. If there is some sort of impending doom awaiting the EU, it seems to be even more distant than the planet that David Cameron, who called the referendum, will be sent to in exile when all of this is over.

Now it’s time to address the opposition, though — the staunch supporters of Brexit’s few to no virtues, who say that Britain’s failure is Europe’s failure. These people, led by MP Jacob Rees-Mogg and ex-UK Independence Party leader turned radio talk show troll Nigel Farage, argue that Britain holds a very strong position in negotiating the deal, as no member state will want to pay the Union to cover up the hole left by Britain. For all the validity this argument might have initially, let us remember two things. First off, a no-deal resolution would absolutely crush the UK’s economy as big businesses would have no incentive to remain in a country that has no access to the single market. And secondly, the Eurozone has been in a massive form of growth thanks to ECB President Mario Draghi’s policy of allowing some inflation. A report by The Independent has even responded to these talks saying, “the currency union is simply not dependent enough on the UK for that to happen.” It must be a terrible misfortune for these two gentlemen that lies do not work the same way after the Brexit vote as they did before.

Finally, Angela Merkel’s inability to form a government will ensure that Brexit is dealt with through EU officials, making the whole ordeal fully European, rather than one individual member states will have to deal with. For anyone with dreams of a united Europe, this is the opportunity to seize and the representation of possibility for all Pan-Europeanists. On the other hand, it will be a minor miracle if the conservatives make a showing in the next ballot without staging a brief, Mussolini-like March on London. It’s a good time to dream of a truly united Europe.

Roberto Votta is a McCormick freshman. He can be contacted at robertovotta2021@u.northwestern.edu. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to opinion@dailynorthwestern.com. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.

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