EconoMatters, Rethinking Europe

UK: Exit from Brexit — and Think About Japan

Why Britain needs to pause Article 50, prepare a second referendum and think of Japan’s economic fate.

Credit: Visit Britain www.flickr.com

Takeaways


  • Throwing away EU membership, aka the UK’s economic lifeline, would be suicidal.
  • Britain needs to press the pause button on Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which initiated the withdrawal negotiations of the UK.
  • Britons should take a closer look at Japan. It is also an island and, despite past economic dynamism, it is not doing too well.
  • As a flexible people, Britons are culturally well equipped to know that in every calamity lies a great opportunity.

The monumental rejection of the Brexit deal negotiated by the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and the European Union by the British House of Commons opens a new chapter of uncertainty for Great Britain.

That is why Britain needs to press the pause button on Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which initiated the withdrawal negotiations of the UK. This procedure will lead to its automatic exit on March 29, 2019, with or without an agreement over the terms. Pressing the pause button is both in the interest of the UK and the other 27 EU countries.

This is the easy part, because leaving the EU without an agreement, a hard Brexit, would have unpredictable — and some say catastrophic — consequences for the people of Great Britain, including those in Northern England and Wales. If ever there was a time of fear for them, that moment is now. As the old movie line goes: “Be afraid, be very afraid.”

As far as Britain’s political class is concerned, it too is facing a moment of truth. Its members on either side of the Brexit debate should remember Winston Churchill’s words: “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak. Courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.”

It is time for Britain’s main parties to do both now and map out a course that benefits all people in the United Kingdom, a course that leaves Britain solidly embedded in the EU.

A courageous path forward

The difficult part is for the sane members of the Conservative Party and the EU-friendly members of the Labour Party as well as pro-EU Liberals, Scots and Northern Irish representatives to procced in a constructive manner.

But Britons, as a flexible people, are culturally well equipped to know that in every calamity lies a great opportunity. This would consist of creating a coalition of national unity. That coalition should vote now in parliament to hold a second referendum and schedule new elections following such a second referendum.

In holding a second referendum, the United Kingdom gets a second and, likely more educated chance to look at the costs and benefits of EU membership. It is also just about the only responsible democratic choice available to the country.

In casting their second vote on Brexit, it is high time for the pragmatic people of Great Britain, and especially those in Northern England and Wales, who voted overwhelmingly for Brexit, to realize at long last that the times of British supremacy are long gone.

The Commonwealth is neither common nor wealthy. Jobs lost to automation or, to a much smaller degree, to globalization will not return. Isolationism à la Trump will only increase the number of losers rather than the number of winners in any society that chooses such a course.

Hard though it may be to swallow, but for many of those who have been misled by the elite Brexiteers’ alluring calls for Britain’s presumably natural supremacy, European integration is just about the only choice that the people of the UK, a rainy island off the shores of Europe, realistically have.

Consider Japan

Britons would also do well in taking a closer look at the economic fate and position of Japan. It, too, is an island. Despite past economic dynamism, it is still not doing too well. Unlike what is the case for the UK, its future path is harder due to the fact that it doesn’t have a strong set of natural economic partners close by.

And just like the Brexit faction of the UK does, Japan’s conservative LDP government has been culturally stewing in the juices of clinging to the ill-fated assumption of its own supremacy. And that, as Britons should note, has done nothing to revive the slow-growth fortunes of the Japanese economy.

Opening up to immigration to revive the Japanese economy

In fact, in another telling sign for the Brexit-minded part of the UK population, Shinzo Abe — Japan’s smooth-looking, but unrepentantly nationalist Prime Minister — has had to engage in quite a climbdown recently.

Because the economy hasn’t been reviving, despite pumping in money and all the like, he has had to open his country to – wouldn’t you know it? – more immigration. There is a message in that for the UK.

Conclusion

Throwing away EU membership, aka the UK’s economic lifeline, would be suicidal. Never mind that the other 27 European countries, prominently including Germany, will gladly provide a new home for all the skilled, younger professionals who seek a new home if nationalism, in all its gory short-sighted glory, truly gains the upper hand in UK politics leaving the underprivileged people of northern England and Wales even further behind.

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About Stephan Richter

Stephan Richter is the publisher and editor-in-chief of The Globalist. [Berlin/Germany]

About Uwe Bott

Uwe Bott is the Chief Economist of The Globalist Research Center. [New York/United States]

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