Two Islands: Brexit and the Future of Europe

Jun 14, 2017

by Will Doyle 

On the 13 June, European Movement Ireland hosted Two Islands: Brexit and the Future of Europe, a conference addressing the looming effects of Brexit. The speakers represented perspectives from Germany, Northern Ireland, Scotland, and England.

Despite this range of geographical representation, everyone present could agree on one thing- a hard Brexit will negatively affect not only Ireland and the UK but the entire EU. The details of how this hard Brexit would actually unfold were up for debate. The timing of this conference was of particular interest, as the UK election less than a week before provided a significant change in how the speakers thought Brexit will play out.

Most thought a hard Brexit was imminent, with Hans-Hartwig Blomeier of Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung citing the narrowing window for talks to occur and considerable distance between the two negotiators as barriers to a soft Brexit. He also acknowledged the difficulty of negotiating with a UK that doesn’t know what it really wants, which is even more evident now following the dramatic UK general election.

Ian Parsley of European Movement Northern Ireland warned a hard Brexit could lead to London becoming a “casino town for Arab sheiks and Russian oligarchs”, and that Northern Ireland may be hit most severely in this ordeal. He also noted that the UK election results created a fluid situation that makes analysis and predictions difficult to make.

James MacCleary of European Movement UK had a more optimistic view. He noted the dramatic shift in the UK from being sternly in favour of a hard Brexit to a growing consensus that the best deal for the UK would be to get the softest Brexit possible. He acknowledged that this would be difficult, but not impossible.

As an American interning for Chambers Ireland, my observations come from the perspective of an outsider. With an increasingly isolationist administration in the White House, and the political situation in the US becoming more turbulent each week, it can be difficult to stay informed on everything happening here in Europe. Yet it is important that the US does stay informed, as Brexit is an important issue for the US to understand. The current administration’s fear of globalisation and rejection of increased international trade will certainly have negative effects not only for the US economy but also the EU’s. Just as the UK is leaving the EU, it seems that the US is retreating inward from the global stage.

The US can relate to several recent trends popping up in the UK. The wave of populism seen in the UK referendum last year seemed to mirror the events that would lead to Donald Trump’s election as president. Perhaps the UK general election will also serve as a precursor to a similar response in America. From personal experience, young Americans seem to be responding in a similar fashion to young people in the UK has, where the youth vote was integral to that election’s results. Time will tell how the Brexit situation will unfold. But the entire world will be holding its breath and watching.

Will Doyle is a Boston College Intern working with Chambers Ireland for Summer 2017. 

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