The UK election results had one clear message for Europe: the most important is independence. A promise, given by David Cameron, the leader of the Conservative Party to hold a referendum on whether the Brits want to be part of the European Union or not before 2017, will cause a fierce and broad debate among many member states within the next two years: what is the idea behind the European Union, should we be part of it?
Discussions over the foreign policy in the situation of quiet domestic policy are elementary. The European Union comprises many pleasant aspects; however, there are at least as much unpleasant things, if not for Estonians, then for the British for sure. For example, the billions of pounds contributed to the EU pot. And the unpleasant Eastern Europeans, including Estonians.
Everything at once
Surely, the Britain will remain in the European Union: it is economically beneficial for them, although emotionally unpleasant. The future referendum has many similar features with the last year’s Scottish independence referendum: we’d like to be alone, to be ourselves, enjoying the benefits, without responsibilities, however, we are afraid. These hesitations enable the emergence of numerous explanations and discussions, debates and even some friendly arguments. There is a narrative in the air that one tries to chase away and the other capture. The Estonian elections did not actually have this kind of a conflict narrative.
All parties promised to share the money; however, nobody knew where to get it. Ed Miliband, the leader of the British Labour Party, whose arsenal including raising the top rate of income tax from 45% to 50%, failed along with the current recipes to find the money and did not become a prime minister. In politics to win the election, a clear confrontation is useful – you have a choice between this and that, there is nothing else to discuss! The nation polarises easily and forgets the rest. For example, the cuts that the Tories promised before the elections were forgotten. To be in the European Union, or not to be? To be together in the United Kingdom (the Scottish) or not to be? Cameron immediately tried to relieve the fear of the Scottish repeat referendum: this won’t be happening, he said.
Still, borrowing from William Shakespeare: the British have two “to be or not be” questions in the air. In the European Union. In the Great Britain. These questions may remain without answers or they already have the answers – the referendum decides to rather continue in the European Union and the Scottish will not be able to express their opinion on the separation in the near term.
The proposal made by the German Chancellor Angela Merkel to assign all member states mandatory quotas to receive immigrants caused an immediate opposition. Next to the Great Britain, Estonia expressed the same opinion. The Brits keep this European-wide conflict in the air to win more votes at home.
Compared with the 9.3 million votes and the second place of the Labour Party, 3.8 million votes of the UK Independence Party (UKIP) is a remarkable result. Although, the UKIB received, due to the majority electoral system where only a local winner receives a seat, only one parliamentary seat compared with the Labour’s 232 seats, it was their 3.8 million votes that made the referendum promise necessary, and now this will be held.
Although Alex Salmond, the Scottish pro-independence leader resigned as the first minister of Scotland last autumn, his referendum campaign that received the global attention was the thing that brought all the votes and changed the balance. The Scottish National Party increased their number of seats from 6 to 56. Revenge is sweet. The desire for freedom still burns.