It’s been two weeks, since the citizens of the United Kingdom voted for BREXIT, and with every day that passes, I am more disgusted – with the politicians of the remaining 27 European Union member states.
No one is fighting for the British to stay in the EU. They’re all saying, “well, it’s their choice, and that’s that.” What a cowardly reaction to the BREXIT referendum that is, which isn’t legally binding, by the way.
Only 71.8% of the UK’s citizens of voting age actually did vote. 52% of those voted to leave. This means that only 37.34% of the adults actually voted “leave”. None of the under-age citizens, whose future will be greatly affected by the BREXIT, had any say in this decision. Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage, two of the most prominent anti-EU agitators, are now off minding their own business. The British people were blatantly lied to during the run-up to the election. So why shouldn’t the 27 other member states fight to keep the UK in the EU?
Why are the political leaders of the other 27 member states saying that there will be no unofficial talks before the UK triggers Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty? Why aren’t they instead offering to initiate talks about how the European Union can be changed?
The European Union is in bad shape, and in desperate need of major changes. So why aren’t we all focusing on that? Theresa May will be elected Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and she has already said that she will not trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty until 2017. We already know that nothing will happen during the next six months. So why aren’t we focusing on changing what’s wrong with the European Union?
If we initiate enough changes to this broken European Union, the UK’s Prime Minister will have reason enough to justify a new referendum. Theresa May didn’t vote to leave the EU, and I suspect that she would have enough guts to initiate a new referendum – if the European Union initiates much-needed changes within the next few months.
The European Union is supposed to be a peace project. If we give up on our members so quickly, what chance does this European Union actually have to survive the next 43 years (or 4.3 years)?
There’s so much that’s wrong with the European Union. Instead of focusing on the people, it focuses on businesses’ profits. Businesses can’t vote. Businesses don’t start wars.
Freedom of movement is one of the four pillars of the European Union, and I have personally profited from the right to live anywhere I want within the European Union (United Kingdom, 1999-2003). But if millions of people all move at the same time to just a handful of countries, that’s a challenge. Migrations of such magnitude need to be managed. We need to do much more than we are doing now to manage them better.
We need to start teaching our children many different languages in school, not just English and French. If all children learn English and French, they will all want to move to England and France when they grow up and want to explore the world. Why isn’t it mandatory in Austria that children learn Hungarian or Slovenian, or Czech in school (for eight or more years, just like English)? I’d like to see a European Union directive which makes it mandatory for all member states to teach children the languages of their neighboring countries (or other European languages, in addition to English and French). If more Poles learned Finish or Romanian, some of them would surely consider moving to Finland or Romania. And if Austrian children would have to learn Italian or Slovak, some of them might consider moving to those countries instead of – you guessed it – the United Kingdom.
We also need to educate our children better. It’s usually the less educated, who have no job prospects in their own countries, who emigrate to other countries. It’s also the less educated who tend to vote for far-right political parties. In Austria, the Parliament just passed a law, which makes it mandatory for children to be educated or learn a trade until they are 18 years old. The law isn’t perfect, but it’s a step in the right direction. I’d like to see a European Union directive which makes it mandatory to educate children in all member states until the age of 18. They’ll be much more likely to find jobs in their own countries (many emigrate not because they want to, but because of economic hardship). If they do move to other EU member states, they’ll have much better chances of finding well-paying jobs. If we insist on better – and more – education for all the young people in all the European Union member states, we actually might have a chance to make this peace project work.
Last, but certainly not least, let’s give the United Kingdom a seven-year break in regard to free movement. When eight former Eastern European countries joined the European Union in 2004 and two more in 2007 (Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia – 2004; Bulgaria, Romania – 2007), most of the member states placed restriction on the free movement of workers from these countries.
Only the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Sweden placed no restrictions on the movement of workers from any of the countries which joined in 2004. Within two years, 600.000 people from those countries moved to the United Kingdom to find work. Is it any wonder that the British people feel overwhelmed with the influx of citizens from other member states? Shame on us – the other EU member states – for protecting our own labour markets during that time. What hypocrites we are to now tell the United Kingdom that freedom of movement is one of the four pillars of the European Union. Obviously not, at least not for the first seven years of membership of those countries. We all contributed to the situation in the United Kingdom by not allowing workers from the countries who joined in 2004 to immediately access our labour markets. We all contributed to the results of the BREXIT referendum, and we all now have a responsibility to help the British deal with the results of this huge migration of labour, which was kick-started by the other countries’ protection of their own labour markets.
So let’s give the United Kingdom seven years during which she can restrict free movement of workers from other European Union member states. This would give the British enough time to adjust to a society that’s changing so quickly that they have come to resent these changes. The British are very welcoming people, I know of no other country in Europe that is so racially and culturally diverse as the United Kingdom. If the European Union agrees to a seven-year “time out” for freedom of movement for the United Kingdom, all of us together – all 28 member states – will have enough time to initiate the changes that this European Union so desperately needs.
BBC News: The UK’s EU referendum: All you need to know
BBC News: EU free movement of labour map
This blog post was originally published on Austrian Politics.