26 May 2015

Wallerstein: "Brexit" may collapse EU

The Blog

Despite winning the UK election, PM David Cameron faces a bitter future for the United Kingdom, world-systems theorist Immanuel Wallerstein predicts.

In a commentary at his widely syndicated column, titled "Post-Britain", Wallerstein uses his famed world-systems analysis to look at the UK as a former "hegemon" of the world-system. It compares with the former United Provinces, now the Netherlands, whose empire similarly dissolved anticlimactically to give way to a new superpower. The last of the Netherlands' power in the world from its days of global dominance was financial, much as the last of Britain's power today is financial.

Wallerstein wrote that David Cameron's government is faced with difficult scenarios and is extremely unlikely to get its way:
Step (a) is to press the EU to “defederalize” further, allowing Great Britain to exempt itself from even more requirements of membership. Step (b) is to call the referendum he has promised the Conservative Party by 2017, but as late as possible. Step (c) is to defeat the referendum, and thus remain in the EU. 
Cameron’s step (a) of further exemptions from EU requirements is unlikely because of strong resistance from other EU members, and notably Germany. Step (b) of defeating the referendum thereby becomes even more unlikely. And therefore step (c) of a Brexit becomes highly likely.
In Wallerstein's analysis, Cameron's government - and its desire to keep Britain as a major financial power - represents the interests of what he calls Britain's financial elite.

The consequences of Britain leaving the EU, an outcome Wallerstein concluded to be likely under the Cameron government, would be severe for the European Union at such a delicate time in its history:
Adding a Brexit to this mix of difficulties might be just too much for the EU. The EU and the eurozone are a house of cards, which might simply collapse.
And of Cameron's fate, Wallerstein concludes:
To go back to the beginning of this analysis, Cameron should savor his unexpected victory in the British elections because he (and Great Britain’s financial elites) may actually come to regret it – quite soon.

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