Brexit: a summary of the situation (Part 1)

Barbara Zak

Photo by Lucy Schiel / 24th January, 2016/ http://cravenhouse.net

Photo by Lucy Schiel / 24th January, 2016/ http://cravenhouse.net

On the 23rd of June 2016, the United Kingdom (UK) held a referendum on its membership to the European Union (EU). The turnout was the highest ever in the UK : 72%. Incredible, yet not surprising as it deals with the future of the country. The citizens of the UK had to choose between staying in or leaving the EU. With 51,9% of the votes, the “leave” won, especially in England and Wales while the votes for the “remain” took over Scotland, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar. However, many highlight the fact that the referendum is not legally binding – yet it is definitely socially binding. As it was not a poll but rather the decision of the people, politicians cannot put aside its results. In order to start the process of leaving the EU, the Member State shall invoke the article 50 of the Treaty on the EU on the withdrawal of any Member State. However, the new Prime Minister Theresa May (who succeeded to David Cameron (who was in favour of remaining in the EU) after his resignation) predicted the date of the withdrawal of the UK not to occur before 2019.

Economy, immigration and sovereignty : the main issues of the IN vs OUT campaign

            The dispute between the parties of the “remain” and “leave” were based on three principal arguments. Both parties saw positively and negatively the effects of the UK’s membership to the EU on the national economy, on the growth of immigration since its accession and on its sovereignty.

            While pro-Brexit supporters depicted the EU as an institution sucking endlessly a huge amount of pounds that could directly go into the public services, anti-Brexit people were persuaded that the EU added to the UK’s prosperity. EU countries are still the biggest buyers of English goods – being a member state of the EU provides companies registered in the UK with an utter access to over 500 million consumers in a tariff-free trade area. In a nutshell, it is easier and cheaper to sell in the EU market. As a consequence, if the UK leaves the EU, it leaves this golden market. However, it was quite unexpected to see that the British economy was doing fine a few weeks after the announcement of the victory of the “leave”: the fact that the pound lost 10% of its value was counterbalanced with the increase of the number of tourists, especially from outside Europe. Against all odds, it seems that the UK’s economy could still manage its survival without having a direct access to this Eldorado that is the European single market. But it shall be noted that in the years to come, the uncertainty of the status of the UK in the EU could frighten investors. In addition, the trade barriers between the UK and the EU are likely to lead to job losses – at least three million of jobs in the UK are linked with the trade with the EU. The anti-Brexiters also tried to convince the population that the cost of living is lower with the UK being part of the EU (e.g. flights, roaming charges, healthcare in other EU countries). Nevertheless, in order to compensate for this eventual loss, pro-Brexiters believe in the possibility of the UK having its own trade deals with the EU, following the example of Norway in the European Free Trade Association (yet Norway is said to be against its attempt to rejoin the EFTA since the UK, as a big country in terms of population and thus of power, would shift the balance). Regarding trade deals with other major economies, the idea of establishing a free trade area within the Commonwealth is a project close to the hearts of the parties that advocated leaving the EU. The UK was unable to negotiate its own free trade agreement while being a member state of the EU.

Ukip’s controversial poster campaign was launched in June 2016. Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

Ukip’s controversial poster campaign was launched in June 2016. Photograph: Rex/Shutterstock

Concerning immigration, it was a piece of cake for pro-Brexiters: the best argument in order to incite people to vote against the EU is to persuade them of its responsibility in the constant rise of the number of immigrants in the UK. It was a recurrent argument of Nigel Farage, the former leader of the eurosceptic UKIP (UK Independence Party). Yet the UK has been privileged among the Member States of the EU – it won exemption from several EU asylum rules. Moreover, the former Prime Minister David Cameron assured that the UK will not accept any quotas of refugees. Compared to other Members States of the EU, the UK does not directly suffer from the migration crisis. So far, only illegal immigration (coming especially from the Calais Jungle) can be considered as a problem – even so, Le Touquet treaty under which British border checks are carried out on French soil has been restated between France and the UK. The idea of completely controlling the borders can be related to the sovereignty of a country. Another famous argument in favour of a Brexit that was long ago advocated by Eurosceptics is the loss of sovereignty. The implementation of the huge amount of EU regulations is seen by the population as a diktat from the EU, as well as a loss of money and time. For example, farmers blame the endless bureaucracy of the CAP (Common Agricultural Policy). The British wish to have more of its own laws. Being a member of the EU now means that it undermines its national sovereignty.

The arguments of those in favour of the UK remaining in the EU have not completely convinced the majority of the population. It appears that the increased opportunities given by the EU (for instance the right to live, work, study in another EU member state) are not the priorities anymore. Leaving the EU may jeopardise the national security as the UK will not have access to the European criminal database. The UK will not be safer anymore without its membership to Europol. Nevertheless, these arguments were not sufficiently convincing in the eyes of the majority of the voters, unlike the arguments of pro-Brexiters. The pro-EU arguments are not popular anymore. Eventually, the ‚ultimate Eurosceptic fantasy’ became real.

 

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Sources :

http://www.bbc.com/news/politics/eu_referendum/results

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-36788782

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/03/eu-referendum-vote-leaves-key-claims-about-brexit/?playlist=structure%3Anews

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/06/03/eu-referendum-key-claims-of-the-remain-campaign/?playlist=structure:news

http://forwardkeys.com/revenue-management/article/brexit.html

http://www.lefigaro.fr/conjoncture/2016/06/25/20002-20160625ARTFIG00015-sept-consequences-economiques-a-retenir-sur-le-brexit.php

http://www.lefigaro.fr/conjoncture/2016/08/09/20002-20160809ARTFIG00027-le-brexit-booste-le-tourisme-au-royaume-uni.php

http://www.lefigaro.fr/economie/le-scan-eco/decryptage/2016/08/22/29002-20160822ARTFIG00197-brexit-l-economie-britannique-dejoue-les-pronostics.php

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/30/uk-plays-down-calais-border-tensions-with-critical-ally-france

http://www.huffingtonpost.fr/2015/05/13/quotas-refugies-europe-solution-qui-fache-royaume-uni-peut-refuser_n_7266868.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3705524/Finally-EU-offers-deal-immigration-Plan-offer-Britain-seven-year-emergency-brake-UK-access-Europe-s-single-market.html

https://www.ft.com/content/3282746e-11d8-11e6-839f-2922947098f0

https://realtruth.org/articles/160815-001.html

 

Read more :

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/sep/06/uk-immigration-minister-confirms-work-will-begin-on-big-new-wall-in-calais

http://www.bbc.com/news/uk-politics-37387162

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/aug/09/norway-may-block-uk-return-to-european-free-trade-association

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/09/18/theresa-may-to-tell-world-leaders-that-britain-has-a-right-to-pr/

Reklamy

EU and the Turkish case

Agnieszka S.

Illegal immigration became one of the hottest topics in European countries in the last few months. Some people stopped being sincere, helpful and open-minded as they were at the beginning when flow of the newcomers started. Now we can observe that citizens started to worry about the existence of immigrants in their countries. They feel that this situation, if won’t be resolved soon, might create internal chaos in many countries. This is a big chance for European Union to show its power in resolving international problems – will it succeed?

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EU Council family photo [by Georgina Coupe (Photo: Crown Copyright) by-nc-nd 2.0 at flickr.com

What to do with such a big number of human beings that are unemployed, living in bad conditions in refugee camps getting more angry on their life situation? “Maybe we will send some of them to Turkey?” So now European Union tries to persuade Turkey to take immigrants to their country. But as we all know nothing is for free in our lives. Since 14th April 1987, the date of its Membership application, Turkey has hoped that someday it would became a part of the EU. However, Turkey is not fulfilling Copenhagen Criteria (1993) because they are violating basic human rights like for example freedom of speech, but it seems that due to the fact that European Union needs their help so much they are closing one eye on some things, and after so many years they speak again about Turkeys accession to the Union. On the opposite, here we can recall a quote from the President of the European Commission, Jean Claude Juncker from 23 April 2014, words he also recently repeated[1]:

“…under my Presidency…no further enlargement will take place over the next five years. As regards Turkey, the country is clearly far away from EU membership. A government that blocks Twitter is certainly not ready for accession.[2]

On 7th of March 2016, European Union heads of state or government had a meeting with Turkey on which it reaffirmed its commitment to the bilateral Greek-Turkish readmission agreement stating, that Turkey would take immigrants that are not in need of protection by the international organs. EU will cover the costs of returning some of the irregular migrants that travelled from Greek isles back to the Turkish territory. By the end of June 2016 new resolution for visas should be introduced for Turkish citizens that want to travel to EU countries. Union along with Turkey agreed to work on improvement of the humanitarian conditions inside Syria, helping local people to live in the safer environment. The most crucial point for Turkey seems to be opening a new chapter in preparations to accession negotiations.

Lots of hopes and ideas are spreading from Brussels to Ankara. The only thing that everyone seems to know is the fact that we have to do something quickly. We can’t let refugees – people in real need that were running away from hell – to live in inhumane conditions. Is the deal with Turkey a good thing or should we come up with a better plan?

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More information:

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2016/03/07-eu-turkey-meeting-statement/

http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/meetings/international-summit/2016/03/07

[1] Vince Chadwick, Jean Claude Juncker: Turkey’s not ready for EU membership [in:] Politico: http://www.politico.eu/article/jean-claude-juncker-turkeys-not-ready-for-eu-membership/

[2] Foreign Policy Objectives of Jean Claude Juncker (April 2014): http://juncker.epp.eu/sites/default/files/attachments/nodes/en_03_fp.pdf

Fighting a losing battle or taking a long view? – The Migration issue and what we can do

Theresa Miniarti Fehlner

Kenya, Eritrea, Syria, Afghanistan, Somalia, Iraq… just to mention some of the countries from which most of the refugees currently come. They flee due to political and religious persecution, civil war and poverty. The need for help is obvious as the facts show.

 

Photo: U.S. Navy photo, flickr, CC-by-2.0 https://www.lpb-bw.de/fluechtlingsproblematik.html

Photo: U.S. Navy photo, flickr, CC-by-2.0
https://www.lpb-bw.de/fluechtlingsproblematik.html

Facts and Figures

According to the United Nations the number of refugees has risen up to 60 million since World War II – 86% are from developing countries and more than 50% are children. UNHCR distinguishes between refugees, applicants for asylum and internally displaced persons. In 2014, about 625.000 asylum seekers tried to come to Europe and they often do not have any other possibility than to use the questionable help of human smugglers who profit from the misery of other people. As a result, dramatic scenes took place at the external borders of the EU. The Geneva Convention on Refugees from 1951 binds the EU member states, according to article 2 and 35, on the protection of refugees. In practice, the current situation is different as some dramatic events since 2013 have shown: On the 3rd October 2013, one of the first disasters, involving migrants being smuggled to Europe, took place south of the Italian island of Lampedusa. 400 refugees from Somalia and Eritrea drowned. In April 2015, up to 800 refugees lost their lives in a ship accident in the Mediterranean Sea. Since then, the EU has tripled the remedies for sea rescue. In May 2015, the EU foreign ministers resolved on a common military mission against the gangs of people smugglers, with a fund of 12 million Euros from the EU countries. On the 26th June the EU heads of state and government decided to assign the growing number of refugees to all 28 member states – on a voluntary basis.

Our obligation to humanity

The demand for answers seems to be obvious. Nevertheless, this article cannot deal with the whole range of the migration issue. But it can focus on some questions which arise when we look at it from different perspectives. The migration question is by no means solved as the daily news, the media coverage and the pictures of suffering humans going around the world show. It seems to be an impasse which raises the question of whether it might be the problem of a dead-end policy. What remains is a large uncertainty and the feeling of fighting a losing battle.

This article does also not mainly deal with the question if Europe has to help the people in danger and in need – that is beyond all discussion – of course we have to help. So, several countries assume responsibility and try to help by receiving refugees, hosting them or helping them to integrate themselves. And all of this accompanied by prejudices against foreigners, administrative barriers and integration problems due to cultural diversity. In each instance, all those who are helping – a lot of who are volunteers – do humanitarian work and it is indispensable. But it is also quite evident that somehow it is just treating symptoms like bridging the time until most of them get deported again. Thus a lot of voluntary commitment and funding is needed. But it is not only a question of money, medical care, accommodation or dealing with cultural diversity. It is, above all, the question of how to accompany the short-term help with a long-term help.

Empathizing means to sneak a peek beyond the European borders

Photo: European Commission

Photo: European Commission

Against this background, focussing on some questions might be justified. Shifting the attention to the countries from which the refugees come, means to empathize with them. Migration movements from Syria, for example, might be different motivated than those from Serbia or Kosovo. Let´s take, as another example, the continent Africa. It seems to be reasonable to pose the question how Europe treated those African countries. After a long colonial history, European states started a program of development aid to support those countries. “Money” seemed to be the keyword, but let´s risk to ask how long that kind of support continued and how effective it was. In consideration of the status quo of the African countries, the question arises who the money received and in what way the states have used it. Did it change the situation for those countries? Obviously not, as the growing number of emigrants from even stable African countries shows. Financial help is reasonable as long as the supported country has the preconditions to use it in the right way. What kind of preconditions are we talking about? Are they states with a democratic system? How do they deal with corruption? Is there a knowledge of the importance of education and self-responsibility? Furthermore, does their way of understanding politics comply with our European policy?

Taking a look at some Arab countries raises the question: Are the political and cultural systems of countries like Libya, Syria or Iraq compatible with the Western way of political and cultural thinking and could it, at all, be possible to solve their conflicts and problems with our European understanding of governance?

Another example: The Kosovo War from 1998/1999, subsequently claimed thousands of victims. What has changed after the NATO military intervention? There is still discrimination of minorities, a shortage of jobs and poverty in consequence and a high incidence of crime. There was no stable polity until 2014, but even then, a lot of Kosovars claimed asylum especially in Germany and some other European countries.

It seems to be a long shot to write a master plan to find a solution which meets the responsibility we all have, to give a hand to people who ask for help as well as to support the development of their countries. Therefore we have to ask: What does it make worth, for those refugees who flee from economic grievances, to come to Europe? Which kind of incentives do we offer? If we provide a welfare system which is more attractive than the system in their home country, how do we help those states to develop?

Misinterpreted development aid: A Western failure?

Photo: dpa

Photo: dpa

The pros and cons, the discussions concerning the question if and how each European country can take part in helping people knocking on Europe´s door are numerous and more or less helpful. But looking at it from another perspective extends the short-term help a little bit more towards a long-term help. Terminating all the wars on one day might be a dream; alleviate the world hunger, guarantee religious freedom and physical integrity for everyone probably as well, but the dream ends before it starts when the countries in need are empty. On the “Meeting of Pan-African Catholic Youth and Children” in Kinshasa last month, Bishop Nicolas Djomo Lola said in his opening speech: “Use your talents and other resources to renew and transform our continent and for the promotion of lasting justice, peace, and reconciliation in Africa. […] You are a treasure for Africa.” [1] This quote expresses what we, from our European point of view, maybe sometimes fail to see: In what way do we help the countries if we integrate each immigrant into our social security system? If we integrate one qualified man or woman successful into a European country, it means conversely that one qualified man or woman is missing in his or her home country. As a result, we deprive these countries the main source of life and thus the possibility to prosper.

Without a doubt: Each one is ethically and humanly obligated to give a helping hand to those who are persecuted, hungry or in danger – even more a community of states, based on a Christian fundament. That is certainly the main issue. But then it might be worth to pay attention to a long-term help which recognizes the differences between individual political systems and cultural backgrounds. And, to the same extent, raising awareness of their own responsibility towards their home countries. Then this dream of a better world where there is no need to flee because of war, persecution or hunger could come true – even though not in one day.

References:

[1]

http://www.fides.org/en/news/38338- AFRICA_DR_CONGO_Bishops_appeal_to_young_Africans_Stay_in_Africa_to_build_a_better_continent

https://www.lpb-bw.de/fluechtlingsproblematik.html

http://www.bundesregierung.de/Webs/Breg/DE/Bundesregierung/BeauftragtefuerIntegration/beauftragte-fuer-integration.html

[Last access: 26.08.2015]