Brexit notwithstanding, is Europe’s unity threatened?

Europe as a project was never super appealing to British government and people

Mohamed Chebarro

Published: Updated:

British people it seems embraced the idea of exiting the European Union or at least a slim majority of those who voted decided we are better off outside Europe.

Europe as a project was never super appealing to British government and people. It took Britain 15 years to join the EEC then, and when the European Economic Community evolved and rebranded itself to become the EU, Britain stayed out of the border and currency super Union.

The love-hate relationship with Europe, especially among the right leaning conservative party supporters and their representatives, is not new.

This doubt could be geographic also, as the UK isles that formed Britain's territory feel comfort in isolation. But also, they were more Atlantic oriented than European or a lot of them wish to think so.

The Euro skeptic

Euro skepticism has been a reality in people and politics of the UK. They called for referendum to stay or leave the European Economic Community in 1975. The same Euro skeptic managed to revolt against Margaret Thatcher in the early 1990s and forced her to resign over her plans for closer ties with Europe that were being negotiated then.

Conservative PM John Major, who succeeded Thatcher, went on to stay in power but his government was handicapped by a split party and its leadership. All were unable to reconcile them with a united position on whether Britain is better off in or outside the EU project.

This referendum dents the supremacy of elections as a supreme tool that alternate governments the guardian of people's aspirations

Mohammed Chebarro

Many years after the first UK referendum on Europe, three labor governments inherited power in the nineties from a conservative party that lost its grip on power among other issues due to infighting over Europe. The Conservative party returned to office in 2010 to head a coalition formed by conservative and Liberal Democrat.

This was followed by the first Conservative Party government in two decades under David Cameron who promised to call a referendum as a campaign pledge, as it seemed then that the Conservative party politicians are still unable to reconcile themselves within a European entity.

The battle to exit the EU or remain a member of the Union will, in my view, leave a schism that could be permanent in UK government and politics.

The referendum seems to have polarized British public opinion who never expressed emotionally their political preferences.

Representative democracy so much cherished and upheld in Britain for centuries will not escape the referendum reverberations. This referendum dents the supremacy of elections as a supreme tool that alternate governments the guardian of people's aspirations.

The referendum was also a test and even though the middle ground pro-exclusion and fear British won the day, the Conservative party that have served British politics might be in for another grueling inner war.

Europe as an idea in my view is to be celebrated in all time and age. Union, social justice to all, open border, monetary union, market competitiveness to mention a few are to be applauded by all.

However, Europe the Brand is no longer relevant to many citizens in many of the states that made up the union.

Europe the brand today reflects a colossal super state, full of irrelevant endless debate that drain funds and energy. It has unfortunately become a super state with weak economic output, and recently with dissatisfied citizens, and only the British were brave enough to sound an alarm.

It is time therefore, for the union to undergo reforms to put back the project on track. A project that for long has been one that ensured peace and harmony between people and their expectations within the state system.
Mohamed Chebarro is currently an Al Arabiya TV News program Editor. He is also an award winning journalist, roving war reporter and commentator. He covered most regional conflicts in the 90s for MBC news and later headed Al Arabiya’s bureau in Beirut and London. He tweets @mochebaro

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.