Brexit’s Questions for Europe

MADRID – In three months, British citizens will have to decide whether or not to remain in the European Union. But they are not the only ones who must consider their political future. The upcoming referendum also poses two important questions for the rest of Europe.

The first question is which outcome Europeans would and should prefer. Some have already written off the United Kingdom, claiming that a partner that would consider leaving is not the kind of partner they want, anyway. Whether or not one shares this opinion, the point is worth studying. Indeed, it would be naive not to ask whether retaining a member that is challenging the very principle of European integration would really be in the EU’s best interests.

The reality is that the British public debate on sovereignty will not end when the votes are counted. After all, even if the majority says “yes” to the EU, a share of the population – a substantial one, according to the polls – will remain convinced that Brexit would have been much better for the UK.

Given this, debates and negotiations involving the UK and its European partners will continue to feature deep disagreements over the restrictions and conditions that accompany membership in the EU. For years to come, the British will demand a constant drumbeat of reaffirmation that they made the right choice.