On 24 October, Cllr Roy Perry, AER Vice-President for Institutional Affairs and Leader of Hampshire (UK) gave a speech during the Bureau Meeting in Vienna, in the part “Europe after Brexit, is status quo an option?”.
Mr Perry gave a historical overview of the relations between the UK and the European Economic Community (EEC), that later became the European Union (EU). The Douglas-Home Conservative Government applied to join the EEC in 1963, and then the Wilson Labour Government too (1967). However, they both failed because of French President De Gaulle’s refusal. The UK finally joined the former 6 EEC members in 1973, when the Conservative Edward Heath was Prime Minister, together with Ireland and Denmark. In 1975, PM Harold Wilson (Labour Party) organised a referendum on Britain’s membership in the EEC, and 66% of voters decided to keep it.
In 1992, when John Mayor (Conservative Party) was PM, the UK ratified the Maastricht Treaty, which established the EU, but opted out the common currency. In 2009, following the euro-crisis, it was more evident that the UK would not have adopted the euro. In 2015, PM David Cameron (Conservative Party) proposed a referendum on the British EU membership, mainly for internal reasons (the Tories were divided on the issue). In 2016, the British voted to leave the EU.
Who voted to leave the EU? England and Wales, but not the cosmopolitan London, nor Scotland nor Northern Ireland. The British decided to leave the EU because they perceived it too bureaucratic and wasteful, and they were concerned about immigration influx in their country. The UK’s insular and historical conditions also played a role. Nationalism, which is currently growing in other European countries as well, can be added to the list.
The Remain camp essentially focused on economics to preserve the UK membership in the EU, pointing out especially to trade (10% of EU exports directed to the UK, 45% of UK exports directed to the EU). It is true that the UK has always had special relationships with other countries (USA, Canada and Australia, for example), but its historical ties with Europe cannot be underestimated.
Which perspectives for the post-Brexit? It could be soft or hard. The UK could acquire a status similar to that of Switzerland or Norway, but for Mr Perry it would be worse than the previous situation. In alternative, it could just be an ordinary WTO member.
Mr Perry hopes in young people concerning the UK future links with the EU, considering that perhaps there will be a reasonable relationship. In the end, he warned other countries not to do the same mistake of Britain.