Tony Blair, former British Prime Minister, spent much of April 7 trying to garner more votes for Ed Miliband, the Labour Party’s candidate in the upcoming election. Milibrand will oppose current Prime Minister David Cameron. Cameron’s Conservatives claim that they will pursue a public referendum on whether the UK should remain part of the European Union (EU). Blair pointed to the recent referendum on Scottish independence as an example of why public referendums do not solve every issue, as he felt was the case with Scotland.
If England left the EU, there might be really grave consequences. These include higher tariffs an a reluctance of business to establish English offices. England would also need to make acceptable arrangements for the many EU workers currently living within English borders. Some people hope that other members of EU will still afford England the same courtesy if England decides to no longer be a member of the organization that it was entitled to as a member state. Blair sensibly does not hold out much hope for this outcome.
Anyone who has ever seen a group of schoolchildren who are in some sort of secret club react to the departing of a member will understand. When the member in question attempts to establish independent friendships with others in his former clique, he is rebuffed almost unilaterally. Even if someone wants to continue being his friend, they must comply with the group decision to ostracize him or risk losing their own membership. The person who he aspires to be friends with after breaking from the club may understandably also feel betrayed and no longer wish to associate with their former friend because of his act of disloyalty.
Anyone who thinks that world governments are more advanced than schoolchildren needs just to examine the last decade or so to be disabused 0f that idea. In 2003, quite a few restaurants, including three cafeterias with the House of Representatives, removed french fries from their menus and replaced them with freedom fries. This was a way to publicly rebuke France were not supporting then-President George W. Bush’s planned Iraqi invasion.
Witnesses to Vadamir Putin’s attempted an ongoing land grab of parts of the Ukraine might well note the similarities between this conflict and the schoolyard bully who picks on younger children. Playground menaces do not always need to hit to get what they want. Indeed, half of their mystique is in simply being intimidating without raising a finger.
With these two examples in mind, Blair is definitely right to wonder if the other 27 EU nations would be amenable to the UK’s departure, even backed by a national referendum. Withdrawing from a group of 27 nations with whom another country had an agreement and expecting that nothing will change in any of the 27 relationships the departing nation had previously is foolhardy. Blair is right when he tells people who think that outcome is possible to “get real.”
One need only to recall back to those lonely lunch periods when a student, having outgrown his previous crowd would sit by himself until one day a new crowd would select him for membership. Accepting this analogy, one has to wonder where does a nation that has renounced its membership in the EU turn to find similar allegiances? Even if such a group could be found Blair is entirely right to ponder the possible consequences for the UK of leaving the EU. One hopes that whoever wins the election considers them carefully as well.
Opinion By Martina Robinson
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