How Brexit could ultimately destabilise our continent.

See also this version published in the Independent 5 December 2019.


Next Thursday, December 12, vote tactically to stop Brexit threatening the stability, security and peace of Europe  – and of the world. We should never forget that political instability on our continent has cost the lives of 1.2 million Britons over the past 120 years (Indeed a previously unpublished new statistic reveals that 46% of deaths of 18-34 year old British men between 1914 and now have been as a result of European instability and war).

The general election next Thursday, December 12, is probably the last opportunity we will get to obtain a People’s Vote – and the possibility of stopping Brexit.

What’s more, new research is now revealing just how crucial stopping Brexit is – for our futures and for our children’s futures.

Yes. Brexit will be catastrophic for the NHS.
Yes. Brexit will be disastrous for our economy – and for jobs.
Yes. Brexit will rob us of our right to work and study in continental Europe.
And yes. Brexit will reduce environmental and employment rights.

But, above all, Brexit will threaten the stability, peace and security of our continent – and will substantially reduce our world’s chances of defeating global warming. Those two consequences of Brexit are the largely unacknowledged unspoken ‘elephants in the room’ – the two issues that will, above all, shape our futures.

They are both huge subjects – but here are the basic and highly disturbing details that show that we undermine the stability of our continent at our peril:

Many historians and political scientists believe that Brexit will change the political balance within the EU. It will further increase the economic centrality of Germany, accentuate differences between France and Germany and increase divisions between southern and northern Europe.

What’s more, divisions within the EU (and potential post-Brexit economic and strategic tensions between the EU and the US and between the EU and Turkey) could very well also weaken NATO. The EU and NATO have been the twin structures (one political/economic, the other military), which have helped keep Europe largely at peace for so long.

Many historians also fear that a weakened EU is likely to lead to further increases in populist nationalism in many member states – and a resultant increase in ethnically-based separatism by minorities within some of those states.

New research reveals that there are at least 16 areas of the European Union (and of immediately adjacent territories) where stability could potentially unravel in the medium-to-longer-term future, if Britain’s absence (and any resultant tensions within Europe) were to significantly weaken the EU.

Such areas include eight in South East Europe (central Romania, Bosnia, Kosovo, the eastern Aegean, southern Bulgaria, Ukraine, the Moldova area, and the eastern Mediterranean area around Cyprus), three areas in North East Europe (the Baltic states, Belarus and Kaliningrad [a Russian-ruled territory sandwiched between two EU/NATO states]) and at least two areas in Western Europe (Catalonia and Flanders [northern Belgium]).

Brexit could also cause substantial instability in Great Britain (especially the increased likelihood of Scottish independence) and could also threaten peace in Northern Ireland (by increasing pressure for reunification with the South and increasing local unionist reaction to that). It could also lead to major problems relating to Gibraltar.

Post Brexit, increased European rivalries (and identity-politics-driven separatism) would obviously, in many cases, be very disruptive in themselves – but the proximity of Russia to so many potential instabilities constitutes an additional major problem, experts fear.

What’s more, any weakening of the EU is likely to lead to a further weakening of NATO – and that in turn would increase the chances of Russian and other misjudgements being made.

A little known but key current development is the growing practice of countries trying to issue passports or ethnic identity cards to entire populations within neighbouring or nearby states. Although the intention is merely to increase political influence rather than to physically seize control of territories, the growing practice is nevertheless a dangerous hostage to fortune, especially if the EU were to gradually weaken post Brexit. Major examples of the practice are for instance, Hungary giving ethnic identity cards to ethnic Hungarian areas of Romania,  southern Slovakia, western Ukraine and northern Serbia – and Romanians giving passports to neighbouring Moldovans. Russia is also giving passports to people in pro-Russian rebel controlled territories in eastern Ukraine. Bulgaria is also trying to give passports to citizens of Northern Macedonia and to other Slavic-speaking populations in southern Moldova and eastern Albania. What’s more, Poland now issues ethnic identity cards to ethnic Poles who are citizens of neighbouring countries like Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania.

Ethnicity and history are increasingly being used by EU and other states to increase influence (and occasionally real political power) in neighbouring EU and other countries – and a weaker or politically more divided EU may well accelerate that process.

Research, originally published in The Independent in 2016, shows just how unstable Europe can be in the absence of any effective unifying factor. The research showed that, over the past 500 years, war has dominated our continent for 60 percent of that time. Courtesy of the EU and its predecessors and of NATO, Europe has lived in relative peace for the past 75 years. If we exclude those decades from the calculations, almost 70% of the period 1500 to 1945 was scarred by major wars In which countless millions of Britons and continental Europeans died.

Now previously unpublished new research demonstrates statistically the terrible impact of 20th-century wars on the UK.

It reveals that war has been the single largest cause of death for young Britons over the past 106 years (ie since Europe destabilised in 1914).

The new figures show that almost half (46%) of all deaths of 18-34 year old UK men in that period have been as a result of war (mainly World War I and World War II).

Historians point out that it’s always been the young who pay most heavily for the political misjudgements which have destabilised our continent. And on the whole, it has always been older politicians who have been responsible for those misjudgements.

One of the key contributing factors behind Europe’s destabilisation in the 20th century was Britain’s reluctance to help stabilise the continent of which it formed part.

Britain’s empire was repeatedly an external political magnet which drew the UK away from Europe with tragic consequences. It created a situation in which Britain did not really see itself as a European power, despite being located in Europe. In a sense, that magnet (in the form of the empire’s successor – the Commonwealth and the English-speaking world) is still seducing those, who think that the past can be resurrected, to turn their backs on Europe. In that sense, Brexit is the continuation of the ‘Imperial magnet’ phenomenon which in part led to World War I and World War II.

Before the First World War, Britain’s focus on its empire led the UK to neglect having any capability of playing a major role in Europe.

On the eve of World War I, Britain only had around 300,000 regular and reserve troops based in the UK (compared to almost 4,000,000 in the German army and almost 3,000,000 in the French army). Because of its vast empire, Britain was strong militarily outside Europe and on the high seas – but it was perceived by Germany as a relatively small player in terms of its ability to rapidly deploy large numbers of troops in Continental Europe,

Then again, in the run-up to World War II, Britain (still focusing primarily on its empire) deliberately torpedoed moves towards greater European cooperation – and then, for several crucial years, pursued policies which allowed Germany to dominate Europe. It refused to help defend democracy when Nazi Germany helped fascists seize power in Spain – and then it acquiesced in the German occupation of Austria and Czechoslovakia. Indeed, in the latter case, it was actually involved in facilitating the German takeover. The policy of appeasement neutralised Britain in Europe – just as Brexit threatens to do now.

British participation in Europe has been a key element in maintaining stability and security on our continent.

As well, as destabilising and ultimately potentially endangering peace on our continent, Brexit also seriously threatens the well-being and peace of the whole world, partly by seriously damaging the struggle against global warming. Here’s how:

  • Brexit will undermine the EU’s global efforts to combat climate change – by changing the balance of power within the EU in a much less anti-global-warming direction.

  • That in turn will undermine the EU’s ability to counter US and other countries less progressive position.

  • What’s more, Brexit will also make it much less likely that Britain will be able to genuinely fight climate change domestically or internationally, because our economy will be weakened at a crucial time – and our willingness to meaningfully pressure other countries will be compromised by our post-Brexit desperation to do trade deals with high carbon emission countries. The UK government has already had talks with US institutions which are against international efforts to prevent further global warming.

  • Certainly, the UK will come under immense US pressure to scrap many of our domestic UK anti-emissions laws. Harmful environmental deregulation is likely to become a feature of post-Brexit Britain.

  • Global warming is already causing droughts, famines and a highly destructive mega-storms. As climate change worsens, these phenomena will grow more and more serious. As a result, as vast areas of the world become less agriculturally productive, conflicts are very likely to erupt over diminishing resources. Famines (and sea level rise and large-scale flooding) will create huge population movements – which in turn will also most likely lead to increased xenophobia and conflict across large swathes of our planet.
  • Global warming really is a threat to world peace – and Brexit is a direct threat to crucial efforts to combat it.

At the very point in world history when we most need unity and progress, Brexit is part of an unholy right-wing alliance, threatening the future of our planet.

At this unique crucial historic general election vote to deny Boris Johnson his parliamentary majority. Vote tactically for candidates that will give Britain a second chance – a People’s Vote and the possibility of remaining in the EU.

Vote tactically on Thursday December 12.

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