Its been 3.5 years but after much negotiation and three different PMs, UK has now left the EU. Now doubt there is still a long road ahead and plenty of challenges, but I not nearly as pessimistic as some are. While leaving may have seemed like a dumb idea, that assumes the EU remains strong and stable. If EU falls into chaos which I think there is a good chance of; UK’s decision to leave may end being the right one. Many will say this is crazy, but EU can only work if all member states elect moderate outward looking governments. The moment some start electing far right or far left it creates problems. Many in the 90s assumed after fall of communism and the defeat of fascism in World War II, both ideologies were dead. While they are so far right about communism, they are mistaken on the far right. Hungary and Poland already have far right governments in power, while in Italy, Lega is leading in the polls, National Front in France is surprisingly competitive and in Sweden and Finland both Sweden Democrats and Finns Party are in lead although both only in low 20s so unlikely to actually enter government. Nonetheless if Salvini wins next Italian election as I think he will; unless his policies are less radical than he plans, it will likely severely damage the Euro. And unlike Greece, Italy is large enough that could drag the whole continent down.
I think this is a case of elites and regular people being on different wave lengths. Many of the more educated and well to do see themselves as European and see nation states as outdated. And looking from an idealistic perspective there is some merit to that. But to the average person, their loyalty is to their country not continent. Most Europeans see themselves as French, Italian, German, Dutch, Polish, Swedish, Spanish, Greek etc, not European. And as long as people still remain tied to their country, it was only a matter of time before this would happen. If demise of EU, means the demise of far right parties, I would argue that is a worthy trade off. But considering some countries like US and Brazil and many others have elected right wing populists I am not sure that will happen even if EU disappears. If there is one thing clear from all this, the establishment needs to start listening more to people. Even if individuals have ideas we know will be bad long term, you need to sell them on the merits of policy not talk down and belittle them because they want something different. And sometimes you need to compromise in terms of finding something in between what the establishment wants and what regular people want. Blaming this solely on income inequality as many on left do or claiming people will come to their senses won’t work. One needs to understand what is driving this and until establishment understands that, Brexit is likely just the beginning not the end.
For a lot of Canadians this may be hard to understand as we are sort of the exception where right wing populism hasn’t made in roads. But that is more an accident of history. Fact we were founded by two linguistic and cultural groups meant are federation was always an uneasy one and desire to keep it united played a big role in quelling such groups. Many Canadians including myself remember how we nearly lost our country in 1995 and desire to avoid a repeat of that is part of the reason. Also in Canada, we unlike Europe were built on immigration. And unlike US, 40% of Canadians have at least one foreign born parent, and 60% have at least one foreign born Grandparent so most of us even if born here had immigrants in our family not too long ago. Only in Quebec outside Montreal and Atlantic Canada are those who have been here for several generations the majority and up North where most are indigenous. Obviously indigenous as a group that was oppressed and colonized will see things much differently while Atlantic Canada still has a very communitarian culture. Its type of place where if your car broke down in the middle of the night, a stranger would welcome you into their home and there aren’t many other places on earth like that. By contrast as we see with Bill 21 in Quebec, right wing populism is gaining in Quebec outside Montreal. Still a worrisome sign is while People’s Party only got 2% of the vote nationally, 8% of male millennials supported them and likewise over half of Conservative voters believe we have too many non-whites so we aren’t totally immune even if less prevalent than elsewhere. And never mind the rise of Wexit also shows even in corners of our country this is rising. As such this should be a lesson to avoid pushing people over the top and I feel a lot in the Liberals look down on such people rather than addressing their concerns.
As for Canada-UK relations, I believe we should roll over CETA and establish a free trade agreement with UK on similar terms to CETA. On one hand, EU is a much larger market than UK so a trade deal with them makes more sense, but at same time prior to Brexit, over half our trade with Europe was with UK so it makes sense for us to have one with both.