There came a certain point last year where it looked like Greece was ready to exit the Eurozone – if not under its own volition, then by force. The European Union, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund – Greece’s troika of lenders – had just about had enough. Lo and behold, both sides managed to reach an agreement at the eleventh hour to avert a major disaster (although from Greece’s perspective, the terms of the agreement may have been just that).
Fast forward a year later, another potential exit threatens to shake the very foundation of a unified Europe. After decades of bickering and debate, Britain will finally head to the ballot box on June 23 to vote on whether to quit the EU. Latest polls suggest the Stay vote is in the lead, although this can change fairly quickly, as we’ve seen repeatedly over the past few months.
So the question is, why are so many countries in a rush to exit the EU? After all, wasn’t a unified Europe supposed to strengthen regional ties, promote free trade and boost economic growth to all involved? Unfortunately, the reality of the EU hasn’t quite measured up to the promise. This is especially true for the struggling and highly controversial Eurozone, which is a smaller bloc of 19 countries that share one common currency.
Brexit: Fanning the Flames of Euroscepticism
If you thought Greece’s departure from the Eurozone would have been big, you haven’t seen anything yet. Britain is Europe’s second-largest economy and its departure from the union would have both direct and indirect consequences. While the direct consequences would be felt more by Britain, the after-effect could destroy the EU project. Brexit would no doubt fan the flames of nationalist sovereignty within the fragmented EU, something we’re already seeing to some extent in places like Spain, Portugal, Italy and of course Greece.
This begs the question, why are so many countries considering leaving a unified Europe? To be perfectly clear, most of the dissention has been against the euro rather than the EU. But the same ingredients that precipitate a euro exit could also lead to EU fragmentation.