Alumnus Ilja Tüchter Comments On Brexit

Ilja TuchterIlja Alexander Tüchter (SFS’93, MSFS’94) is a German EU-citizen and foreign editor at DIE RHEINPFALZ, one of the larger daily newspapers in Germany. 

While the Brexit is now looming large as if it were the end of the EU as we know it, it is just one of a string of crises that have been hitting Europe. The refugee crisis, the Islamist terrorist threat, demographic change (an aging population), and our broken relations with Russia are at least as significant, I consider them to be more consequential for the continent as a whole.

The consequences of the Brexit decision will be unfolding over a period of time and be more dangerous for Britain than for the rest of the EU. The Scottish question as well as the Irish question might destroy the UK as we know it before we have tackled the nitty-gritty of unravelling and replacing all of those treaties that regulate Britain’s relations with the other 27 member states. As to economic consequences, it is too early to say. It just depends on how much of the common market arrangements continue. Threats heard today from the Brussels leadership as well as the French president are likely to be wishful thinking as the 27 have very different agendas. Germany is likely to want a moderate transition, just like all of the Brexit leaders including Boris Johnson have said, there is no hurry.

Again, the Brexit is one of a number of huge burdens on European leaders such as chancellor Merkel and president Hollande both of whom are facing reelection challenges in 2017.

Immigration and the fear of Islam are the key topics causing unease among critical segmentgs of European populations. This is the same phenomenon as the populist surge in US politics. This politics of fear is capitalizing on a sense of loss of control that is the result of globalization and the power of the finance industry. Profits of large coprorations go untaxed while the middle class feels pinched. The scapegoat for that are the Eurocrats that don’t regulate these problems. Which is unfair because national governments, Britain’s first and foremost, have liberalized the finance sector again and again.

Western Europeans have all enjoyed historic levels of wellbeing for nearly a half century. They feel entitled to this wellbeing as they have created it on the ruins left by WWII. The fact is however that creating and spreading this wealth in the past two decades was a function of cheap labor from the Eastern European countries as well as open markets thanks to the EU. Britain has 850.000 Polish resident workers.

Many Western Europeans have never accepted the expansion of the EU into the East. Just like many Americans fear Mexicans but have no problem getting their table cleaned by them at McDonald’s or even their kids babysat by Latino nannies. The Brexit voters are exactly this group – with the special added circumstance that the English have been nursing their narrative of being a world power while they have long fallen behind. London is a case in point: Normal English middle class citizens cannot afford to buy an apartment there.”

-Ilja Alexander Tüchter