The domino effect of the ‘British Spring’

A lot has been said about Britain’s exit from the EU, with many saying it will affect Europe and the rest of the world, and is not limited to minor issues such as visas and customs. The map of the European continent and union, and relations among its member states and with foreign alliances may change.

Will the British rise against the “EU system” ignite the desires of other European restive powers and eventually change the political geography?

They are all dominos leaning on one another. Change brings chaos. This is what we have learnt even in the most stable and rich regions. Separatist movements are present throughout Europe, but they receded with the emergence of the EU. One of the most prominent is the Basque Country in Spain.

Will problems rise again? Will Scotland demand separation from the UK? Will the British-American role in the world end following 100 years of special bilateral relations? Will other major countries withdraw from the EU and weaken it? Will the EU collapse due to Britain leaving? Will Russia expand its influence in Europe following Britain’s exit? With China and India rising as economic powers, will Europe weaken amid a shift in U.S. focus toward Asia?

Just like earthquake cracks, the effects of major events are not limited to where they occur. This may be the case with Britain’s decision to leave the EU

Abdulrahman al-Rashed


Just like earthquake cracks, the effects of major events are not limited to where they occur. This may be the case with Britain’s decision to leave the EU. Britain is a major and influential country in the union and in Europe, and its exit will produce a vacuum whose repercussions will be measured in the coming years.

When the Brits voted, they were pretty much divided in two. The half that supported remaining in the EU mainly consisted of youths and residents of big cities, while the half that wanted to leave mainly consisted of old people and residents of rural areas.

The Brits in general do not consider themselves European, although they were an important power in the EU and the continent. Their historical ties are linked more to the commonwealth, comprising 53 states that were mostly colonized by the British Empire. However, the commonwealth is of little significance, and relations between its countries are just about protocol.

Exiting the EU may comfort the Brits as it shuts the door to immigrants from poor European countries, but it will not end illegal immigration. Leaving the EU will save Britain membership expenses, but it will cost it opportunities in massive neighboring markets.

Britain has become smaller than it was last week, when it was part of the EU’s 4 million square kilometres. Today, it has diminished to around 250,000 square kilometers. It may get even smaller, as those demanding Scotland’s separation vow that in the coming years a referendum will be held and Scotland will leave the UK. Scotland covers 70,000 square kilometres, half the area of its neighbor England.

In the near past, we used to say Britain’s disintegration was unlikely since it was in the EU, which marginalized separatist tendencies. However, its exit has awoken the nostalgia of local groups demanding independence, even if it is achieved at the expense of the collective interest. Separation is not in the interest of the Scots, who number no more than 5 million. However, referendums appeal to one’s sentiments rather than guard national interests.

The domino effect may threaten the entire post-World War II order, as shown by Russian behavior in dealing with the British vacuum in Europe. The U.S. tilt toward China and India will push the Russians toward Europe. There are major Russian commercial interests developing with countries such as Germany, and that may alter political alliances in Europe, thus influencing other areas such as the Middle East.

Britain’s exit weakened the European formula more than any other country could have. However, the one positive is it may correct the EU’s political approach with the rest of the world.

A Gulf politician said they failed to reach a deal about petrochemicals because the Europeans involved political affairs in negotiations. Some believe European leftist parties are responsible for the crisis because they seek to politically and bureaucratically control the continent.

This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on June 28, 2016.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed

Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:48 - GMT 06:48
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