On the 29th March this year, the United Kingdom formally set in train the procedures under article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty so as to sever its membership with the European Union. We may not agree, but this fact will certainly have an effect on our lives in the coming years. The exit will not be easy; it will entail negotiations. The Treaty specifies that these must be concluded within two years, but few believe that a country which has been a member for forty-four years can cut off its ties in such a short timeframe. The negotiations will be complex and fraught with difficulties hard to resolve.
Some time has elapsed since the referendum, but there is a general impression that the consequences of this decision have not been sufficiently reflected upon. It is difficult to foretell all the repercussions, for repercussions there will surely be. It does not seem probable that many concessions will be made. What is certain is that there will not be benefits accruing to either side. The loss in political unity will not enhance peace, justice and the common good in our continent.
Attention is due to certain considerations. First of all on the specific democratic nature of so drastic a decision being taken on the basis of the vote of a mere 37% of the persons entitled to vote, in a country long deemed to be a model of the democratic method of governance. Secondly, how could such a decision be imposed on two component parts of the Kingdom, Scotland and Northern Ireland, who have expressed themselves against this decision, in a country with a long tradition of liberty? Scotland has therefore replied with a request to hold a second independence referendum, whilst Northern Ireland is weighing the otherwise unthinkable and hitherto minority option of uniting with the Ireland that remains in the European Union.
Certain gross political blunders cannot be easily remedied. The major loss for Britain will be that it will no longer have a voice, as Malta and all the other member states will continue to have, when decisions are taken affecting the destinies of the continent of which the British Isles will continue to form part. Brexit in itself is a decision which diminishes the political weight of the continent in a developing world situation in which the former balances are changing. It has not increased the relative importance of a not too united a Kingdom.
What historic irony. One remembers what our forebears went through to achieve our political independence from Great Britain and compares those birth pangs with the shallowness of the Brexit campaign. Our predecessors aimed at achieving political self-determination without renouncing to time-honoured ties which had, to a certain extent, given our country a mindset and political culture different from that of other European countries. As my grandfather, Il-Gross, put in in 1932: “We want to adopt English ways, but not such as to coincide with subservience to Britain; we want to assert our National manhood and to make capital of the advantages accruing from our connection with the Empire”. There is now no doubt that our direct ties with the United Kingdom might change and perhaps lose in their intensity. The United Kingdom is now to be embroiled in its divorce negotiations whilst we will be analysing the implications of a Europe in which certain member countries would further enhance their integration, while others remain within the present levels. The United Kingdom stands to lose its influence within the Union; our country is, and will continue to be, involved in the strengthening of the Union’s influence in world affairs. It is a forlorn hope that the United Kingdom might retract its steps in the understanding that no benefit can be reaped out of its decision to leave the European Union. On our part, we must increase our efforts at making our membership even more useful for us and for the European Union as a whole.