It would be advisable not to play down the effects of a possible exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union (EU). Nor to look down on the British, even though they are ultimately responsible for the mess they are getting themselves into. And they are jointly responsible for the fact that the EU lacks the necessary appeal at this critical time, such as the social foundation that they were so opposed to. It would be foolish to score own goals by doing this.
It would also be advisable not to play down the challenge posed by the referendum, which will be held on June 23. In contrast to what some believe, the economic impact of secession would not be static, but could in fact be exponential. It is true that the British economy is small compared to the entire community – a sixth of the total. And that a Brexit would cause the UK to suffer the most, given that nearly half of its exports go to the EU.
A breakaway would strengthen the emerging trends toward an inbred and protectionist retreat
But a breakaway would strengthen the emerging trends toward an inbred and protectionist retreat – as is already evidenced in some movements against the TTIP trade deal with the US. It would divert the attention of economic policy: instead of concentrating on better integrating the Eurozone, instead the focus would be on saving what can be saved as part of new commercial negotiations with a separate London. And it would underline a global perception of Europe, one that would be negative: it could become a hindrance, a place to be freed from.
We already have clear evidence to sustain these conclusions. In the wake of the growing trend toward secession that has been seen in the polls – which are just that, polls – the pound has nose-dived, the markets have fallen and the central banks have announced that they are prepared to offer whatever kind of monetary buffer is needed.
Economic worries appear to have increased. International organisms and economists, in an unprecedented show of unity, have warned of the disaster. And the panic has spread to the British government itself, whose chancellor of the exchequer has warned of the need to raise taxes and implement severe spending cuts should the Brexit vote win through. If all of this is happening when the question has not even been resolved, it is not hard to imagine what could happen if the result is negative.
It seems increasingly clear that the negative effects of a Brexit would be too much for the economy
What’s more, it seems increasingly clear that the negative effects of a Brexit would be too much for the economy. It would affect the political arena, damaging the perceptions of, the dynamic and the stability of the EU as a political-economic project; among other reasons, due to the chance of a contagion effect – and even a house-of-cards – in other reticent member states.
The impact could end up being savage. Above all, because the British problem is not an existential one that exists in isolation. It is joined by others that are far reaching: the management of the migratory crisis; the arduous digestion of the Great Recession; and the rise in populism – that’s to say, the nationalism that is often extreme, xenophobic and that has shifted from Euroscepticism to Europhobia.
As such the rise of the separatists is not a relief for anyone who is sensible, but rather the complete opposite. It is worth conveying this message to our fellow citizens in the United Kingdom, trusting in their reason while also preparing for the most disagreeable outcome.
English version by Simon Hunter.
Sign up to our newsletter
EL PAÍS English Edition has launched a weekly newsletter. Sign up today to receive a selection of our best stories in your inbox every Saturday morning. For full details about how to subscribe, click here.