Euroskeptiscism is on the
rise in Europe. Countries
like Poland and Hungary
have actively sought to
limit the EU’s influence
and ignore its rules—most recently with
regard to refugee policies.
Even the most Euroskeptic governments,
however, campaigned against Brexit.
While European nations may want to limit
the EU’s role and influence at home, both
economic and security interests led them
to support the UK’s membership in the EU.
This opposition to Brexit is an example of
why interests—much more than ideology
—matter in geopolitics.
European powers depend on exports to
the UK
European nations are heavily invested in
their relationship with the UK. The UK is
the fourth-largest importer in the world,
and the EU needs British import demand.
EU member states’ trade ties with the UK
vary, but several European economies
send a significant amount of their exports
to Britain.
Nearly 14% of Irish exports went to the UK
in 2015. 9% of the Netherlands’ exports
and 7.4% of Germany’s exports also went
to this nation in 2015.
With countries like Germany facing
reduced global demand for their goods,
European governments cannot afford to
lose access to British customers.
The UK was a major contributor to the
EU’s budget
12.6% of the EU’s revenues came from
the UK in 2015. When less developed
countries joined the EU, the older
members took on a greater financial
burden. They hoped that expansion would
boost investment opportunities and
enhance the bloc’s security in the long
term.
The UK was one of only 10 net
contributors to the EU budget – along
with Germany, France, the Netherlands,
Italy, Sweden, Austria, Denmark, Finland,
and Ireland. For these wealthy European
economies, a British exit means an
increased financial burden.
Eastern Europe needs access to UK labor
markets
British job opportunities and remittance
flows are highly significant for Eastern
Europe. Eastern Europe has enjoyed low
unemployment rates—in large part
because millions of Eastern Europeans
work in other EU countries… most
notably, the UK.
Over 740,000 Polish citizens and over
160,000 Lithuanian citizens resided in the
UK in 2014 according to Eurostat. There
are also reportedly over 500,000
Hungarians abroad, with an estimated
300,000 in the UK.
Britain and the EU are likely to reach a
trade deal. Nevertheless, if this deal is
bilateral, there are no guarantees that
workers from Central Europe could
continue working in the UK.
Brexit is more than just an economic
threat to Europe
Europe’s unease is about more than
economics. Some countries see Brexit as
a threat to the region’s security interests.
The Kremlin has been working to split the
Western alliance
, while the EU has been fragmenting
under the weight of internal challenges
and diverging interests.
Eastern European nations fear that
Western Europe may abandon them.
Countries like Poland know that a more
divided Europe is even less likely to act
rapidly and cohesively to aid allies in the
east.
The UK is a highly strategic ally for
European nations. Britain boasts one of
Europe’s most powerful militaries, despite
some downsizing and a reduction in
overseas operations over the years.
Plus, The Royal Navy remains the
second-largest navy in NATO, after the
US Navy.
All of this confirms that Europe can’t
afford a break-up with Britain. The EU
and Britain, therefore, are likely to reach a
trade deal and maintain close economic
and military ties despite the Brexit vote.
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Britain’s vote to leave the EU sent
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