I’m a couple weeks late on this one, but I had to spend a little time ruminating on the idea that Great Britain is about to go it alone again. I finally settled on my official opinion:
It’s a really bad idea.
I’m not even going to pretend I fully understand all the economic and political ins and outs of the issue. I can’t make heads or tails of those things in the U.S. sometimes, so I’m not even going to attempt it on other nations. But I know that going trying to fly solo in this day and age after being a member of a more or less unified Europe isn’t really smart. GB is going to have to work twice, maybe three times, as hard to achieve the same results they’ve been getting as a member of the EU. Yes, they already have working relationships with the most of the countries that they’re going to be dealing with as an independent nation, but you know they’re former EU mates are going to be just the tiniest bit bitter and will probably make things a little tougher on the Brits than they have to be.
While I’ve never fully grasped the concept of all the separate countries of Europe as “unified” in some way, it makes sense. There’s strength in numbers, and all the smaller countries of Europe working together as one theoretically gives them all a bigger voice and a bigger slice of the pie. It also just seemed kind of nice. After decades of war, uniting together made Europe seem even more like a victory against fascism and tyranny. Years ago, when I told BFF that they were building a WWII memorial in Washington D.C., she commented that “They already have a monument to WWII. It’s called Europe.” That’s always stuck with me. The fact that all these different groups and cultures banded together to save each other from Hitler, et al., said something important about humanity. They believed in freedom and sovereignty. They believed in fighting for human rights and equality. While the EU has always been more a matter of economic convenience, I feel like there was a certain justice to it. A reaffirmation that the only way to conquer ugliness and hatred was together. They were united for the same goals, but they retained their individuality and history.
Of course, the European Union has never quite been the kind of Disney-esque “Small World” that existed in my head. Many of the problems that have always existed with linking more and less successful individual economies were exacerbated by the last great recession. And the ongoing strife, civil war, and terrorism of the nearby Middle East have spilled into Europe, primarily through refugees from war and ISIS attacks on EU countries. But to bail on their fellow Europeans like this seems kind of churlish and selfish.
It’s also fearful. That’s the biggest enemy to unity. Great Britain has shown just how rattled they are by the complicated problems everyone is facing by running home and hiding in the back of the closet. They’ve also shown just why these kinds of decisions, just like civil rights issues, should never be put to a popular vote. Because given the chance, there is always a large portion of any population that will vote against what it is afraid of instead of in favor of what it hopes for. They let fear (along with its attendants, racism and isolationism) win. That’s what makes me the most sad about the whole thing. It’s also what makes this ominous little classic the song that fits the current mood best.