Uladzimir Matskevich: Britain's voice may be even stronger in result of its exit from the EU

Aliaksei Yurych, EuroBelarus Information Service

The public opinion in the UK could swing the other way, when the real benefits and losses from the Brexit will be counted.

In referendum, 52% of the British voted in favor of leaving the EU.

However, it seems that it’s not final yet: more than 3 million Britons have left signatures in favor of a new referendum. The petition is available on the website of the British Parliament, which is obliged to consider the initiative if 100 thousand signatures are collected.

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has stated that Holyrood, the Scottish Parliament, could try to block the UK's exit from the EU or hold its own referendum.

Causes and consequences of the British referendum in an interview with the EuroBelarus Information Service analyzes the philosopher and methodologist Uladzimir Matskevich.

— On the eve of the referendum opinion polls predicted the opposite picture: 52% for staying in the EU, 48% — for exit. However, the advantage came to be on the side of Brexit.

There are two reasons for that. On the one hand, the internal problems of the EU: slurred policy, loud-voiced ideological slogans, not backed by real resources that are associated with the support for uncompetitive economies of Greece, Portugal and other countries; the forecasted future economic slowdown in the EU.

The second reason is the internal contradictions in the UK itself, associated with the regions and pan-European issues such as migration. The UK is frantically looking for its place in the changing global economy. The British, who over a thousand years got used to living on the edge of Europe and being the trendsetters of economic development, are hoping to keep this attitude to Europe further on. The British hope to find a way-out from this situation and become an example for other countries.

British politicians and ordinary people believe that it is not worth wasting time on making Brussels politicians change their minds, but it is possible and necessary to develop independently, without looking back at EU’s priority over national decisions.

— Is the UK’s decision final and irrevocable?

— The referendum was of recommendation nature. But Cameron got a very serious political blow in result of the referendum and is resigning: he allowed the referendum and lost. British democracy doesn’t forgive such weakness. This means that Cameron will resign from the position of the leader of the Conservative Party and the Conservative Party itself might seriously lose in the next election.

I think that the British Government will take some time to understand what threat the realization of such a referendum poses. The public opinion in the UK could swing the other way, when the real benefits and losses from the Brexit will be counted.

Whatever the future fate of the UK in the European Union is, this referendum will have consequences. English referendum requires a revision of the principles of modern European politics — both in contents and in form. The EU as a structure became very bureaucratic and cut off from the live political process, which is reminiscent of how the Soviet Union became bureaucratic. Such great formations are potentially easy to become bureaucratic. The EU should seriously address the issue of democracy and return real political process back to the Brussels institutions, the European Commission, European Parliament and all EU institutions.

— Will British referendum cause a chain reaction, or, on the contrary, it will consolidate the European Union for self-preservation?

— I don’t think that the British referendum could cause a snowball effect, but it will cheer up Eurosceptics and right-wing nationalists in all EU countries, thus contributing to the strengthening of their positions at the national level.

It is hard to say whether their strengthening will effect the composition of the European Parliament: the United Kingdom has been occupying a distinct position in the EU executive structures and in the European Parliament for a long time — in relation to Ukraine, to Russia, to supporting such declining economies like Greece. Elections aren’t happening soon; therefore, I think that the European Parliament will have to solve all the problems with the participation of British MEPs, which might contribute to more visible political populism of Eurosceptics — both in the national parliaments and the European Parliament.

The fact that the majority of the British voted in favor of leaving the EU is largely the merit of the PR. I would say that the European mass media today are experiencing a serious crisis: they are not prepared for the new forms of information war and don’t have immunity to the demagogic actions of populist politicians.

— Will the exit of the UK change the geopolitical situation in the region, namely EU-Russia relations?

— The process of EU-Russia relations is under active discussion. For now British MPs don’t leave their seats in the European Parliament and the European Council. Besides, it is unclear whether the British government will implement the decisions of the referendum. For now I would refrain from making such predictions.

Moreover, apart from the European Union, there is also the OSCE, NATO, and the Council of Europe. And Brexit doesn’t weaken other structures. Anyway, Britain will preserve very strong ties and high level of integration with the European Union — just as Norway and Switzerland do. By keeping certain trade preferences related to labor migration, finance, the UK will pay almost the same price, as it pays now in the European Union. Therefore, Britain's voice may be even stronger in result of its exit from the European Union.

— What impact will the referendum have on Belarus?

— I think there’ll be almost no impact. Britain is not among major economic partners of Belarus, and it hasn’t been very active in relation to Belarus. Therefore, our country will face no particular consequences.

Another thing is that it will strengthen anti-European, Eurosceptic moods in Belarus: if Britain leaves the European Union, then the part of the Belarusan voters, political leaders, who are already quite skeptical of the EU as an interstate structure, will get an additional argument. Thus, it won’t affect Belarus’ international stance, but it might affect Belarus’ internal political relations.

— There are fears that with the weakening of the EU, Russia's influence on Belarus will increase even more?

— I don’t think that such fears are seriously justified. The opinion of the British Government in the European policy will continue being significant even if the United Kingdom leaves the EU. I would not expect the strengthening of the pro-Russian sentiment in the European Commission and the European Parliament.