From the Editor’s Keyboard

Brexit and the Commonwealth

16 August 2016 at 05:51 | 1568 views

Opinion

By Dr. Falla Lamin, Guest Writer, USA.

Eleven visionary leaders inspired the creation of the European Union (EU) as we see it today. Without this energy and motivation there would not have been a climate of peace and stability which is taken for granted nowadays. They were a diverse group of people who held the same ideals: longing for a peaceful, united and prosperous Europe.

The EU was set up with the aim of ending the frequent and bloody wars between European neighbors. The two World Wars originated in Europe. In 1950 the European Coal and Steel Community began to unite European countries both economically and politically in order to secure lasting peace.

The six founding countries were Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands. In 1957 The Treaty of Rome that created the European Economic Community (EEC) or Common Market was signed.

The 1960s were known as the good economic years which were realized when EU countries stopped charging custom duties when they traded with each other. They also agreed on a joint control over food production, so that everybody now has enough to eat and soon there were surplus agricultural products for export to the other needy countries. United Kingdom, Denmark and Ireland joined the EU on the 1st of January 1973 thus increasing the number of countries to nine.

In1993 the single market was completed with four guaranteed freedoms namely:
- Movement of goods
- Movement of services
- Movement of people
- Movement of money

The European Union, like any other organization, is not a government but an association of states or countries, or an international organization like the United Nations (UN).

The EU has 28 member countries or states ( minus the UK leaving soon after voting overwhelmingly with 52% of the vote in a referendum to leave). As members of the EU, they have to relinquish part of their sovereignty to the EU institutions with many decisions made at the European level. The EU has delivered more than 60 years of peace, stability and prosperity in Europe, helped to raise the living standards of its citizens, launched a single European currency (the Euro) and progressively building a single Europe-wide free market for goods, services, people and capital ( EU Website, 2016).

The EU and the member states are the largest providers of official development assistance around the world and Sierra Leone is no exception. The EU is involved in other areas that support poverty, peacekeeping, election monitoring and the provision of humanitarian and reconstruction aid in conflict areas and in the wake of natural disasters (European Union 2016).

Strange bed fellows
Right from the beginning the United Kingdom did not want to be part of the former EEC and now the European Union (EU).That was simply because it did not originate the idea, that is why right from the beginning the UK has been reluctant to put its full weight behind the EU. The situation was not helped by the election of Iron lady Margaret Thatcher, a die hard conservative which fueled by the rise of Euro- skeptics in both parties in Britain.

The EU gave so many concessions to the UK such as the option to opt out of the implementation of the Euro and many more just to make sure the UK was part of the European story. Despite all of these concessions the UK was still not satisfied with her membership in the EU because of relinquishing her sovereignty to an un-elected body; that is why the UK and EU were strange bed fellows.

The current Conservative party in Britain failed to realize that the world is moving on in the 21st century but still went ahead and initiated a referendum by asking the British people if they want to stay in the EU. 52% of Britons said YES, they want to leave. The result has unleashed a divorce proceeding which will activate Article 50 of the EU Charter which warrants the proceedings and will have the divorce absolute certificate issued within two years. The British Conservative party has finally hammered the nail into the Brexit coffin.

What are the implications for UK and other Organizations?

First of all the divorce is going to be painful whichever way you look at it for both parties.

The UK is going to be isolated by some countries around the world and the weight and respect it carries in some international organizations will be reduced. This divorce from the EU by the UK is going to be considered in many quarters as the second fall. The first fall was that of the British Empire. UK is going to learn to walk again by trying to reconnect to her past glory and or restructure institutions such as the financial institutions.

Due to relative peace and stability the UK was for many years was the world’s financial hub which created many jobs for many Britons and also contributed corporate tax to the purse of the Exchequer of Her Majesty’s Government. With this divorce most of these institutions are going to relocate to other EU countries like France and The Netherlands. Moreover, the subsidy that was given by the EU for development is going to cease and as a result the income tax of all working Britons is going to double in other to help pay for national and international obligations. Tourism and the revenue from the North-sea oil are the main sources of government revenue. With the down turn in the price of oil and the refocusing from oil to sustainable energy much will not be realized from the sale of oil and the tourism industry because of the UK’s divorce from the EU.

The Commonwealth is never going to be common again. My prediction is that we are going to see some members leaving the Commonwealth for other international organizations.

Finally we are going to see a further breakup of the UK where the unwritten constitutional monarchy will become a thing of the past giving way to a presidential style or a constitutional democracy as it is in the USA.

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