BERLIN – The decision by the United Kingdom’s voters to “Brexit” the European Union is not an example of the British black humor that I love. It’s not “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” “Yes, Prime Minister,” or “Fawlty Towers”; it’s just Boris, Michael, and Nigel and their disastrous political reality show.
Given the UK’s economic, political, and military significance, Brexit will leave a gaping hole in the EU. But it will not destroy Europe. At the moment, the same cannot be said of the UK. Will the country remain united, or will the Scots leave, with Northern Ireland seeking unification with the Republic of Ireland? Has Brexit paved the way for the decline of one of the EU’s most dynamic economies and the end of London’s reign as a global financial center?
The UK’s withdrawal from the EU is a hitherto unprecedented move and will no doubt throw up many unpleasant surprises. Until now, with the exception of Greenland, the EU has experienced only enlargements, which is why no one really knows how Brexit will take place, how long it will take (Greenland’s exit took three years), and what implications it will have for the UK and the EU.
In any case, one thing is certain: the British decision – even if implemented in the fastest conceivable way – has initiated a long period of political and economic uncertainty and European preoccupation with its own affairs, even as the world around it changes dramatically. If only rational reasoning was the basis of decision-making, the remaining 27 member states would, in line with their interests, move to strengthen the EU by taking immediate steps toward stabilization and enhanced integration. But there seems little hope of that.