A few weeks ago, I went to a talk called ‘Brexit: an unorthodox view’, organised by the Guardian newspaper. The event was held in the beautiful Central Hall Westminster and was hosted by John Harris. Three speakers were invited to have a conversation about the state of the European Union and express their views on the potential consequences of Brexit for Great Britain and Europe. The guests were Srećko Horvat, a Croatian philosopher who grew up in Germany; Elif Shafak, a Turkish novelist who lives in London; and Yanis Varoufakis, the former finance minister of Greece. The conversation was enriched both by the experiences the guests have had living inside and outside of the European Union and the pertinent questions/prompts given by John Harris.
Many people, included me, are concerned that the world is in a pretty grim state at present and that the future is uncertain – largely due to decisions made by a small majority. Therefore, I went to the talk hoping to hear about what people who believe in the strength of the European Union rather than going alone had to say about it.
Subjects discussed included the Eurozone Crisis, the Refugee Crisis, the Arab Spring, the rise in xenophobia and of disintegration. Though they didn’t attempt to solve the issues, the unique perspective of the intellectuals – who have all faced some of those issues themselves – was enlightening. Parallels and insight with the division of Yugoslavia after the Balkans war in 1990, the tension between Greece and Brussels, and the relationship Turkey has had with Europe were drawn. to highlight the perils of nationalism; disintegration; isolationism from people who feel forgotten and therefore might vote for change (in whatever form) rather than sticking with the establishment; marginalisation; and the rise of the extreme right and extreme left.
It was suggested that all those factors have led us where we are today. One of the panellists stated that demonstrating our disagreement if we are not happy is not the whole solution to these problems, but there is a real need to question what has been done or not done in the past that led so many British people to vote for the UK to leave the EU on June 23rd 2016.
On the back of the American presidential election in November 2016, 2017 will see some further important elections in Europe, most significantly those in France in May and Germany in September. These elections are an opportunity for voters to show either their support for the established institutions or their despair and desire for change at any cost and as such, they will determine the future of the EU.
Article 50 will trigger Brexit today and two years of unknown are ahead of us, as no other country has left the EU. Let’s hope that the future is bright.