Why not organize a referendum about the question whether or not the United Kingdom should still be part of the European Union, the so called Brexit? But: instead of doing so in the UK to find out what the UK population thinks about this matter, I suggest to organize the referendum in the entire EU – in all 28 countries. That way we can find out whether the entire EU-population prefers to keep the UK on board or not.
For decades the British have been slowing the European integration down, instead of contributing in any way to the advancement of the European Union in new domains. To give just one example: when a new president for the European Commission was to be elected in 2004, there was a good chance that Guy Verhofstadt would get the job – a candidate with the very distinct ambition to take major steps forward in the European integration, supported by both Germany and France – until Tony Blair made it clear that Verhofstadt (or for that matter any candidate with a clear pro-european profile) was unacceptable for the UK. (A decade earlier, a quite similar scenario had taken place with Jean-Luc Dehaene bumping into the veto of John Major). That’s how José Manuel Barroso was appointed as president of the European Commission, a man who succeeded in keeping any trace of ambition for progess in the European project – if present at all – extremely well hidden. A characteristic he unfortunately shares with his successor, the current president Jean-Claude Juncker.
And then there is of course the legendary tendancy of the British to keep doing (and measuring) things the way they have been doing it for centuries, no matter what the rest of the world is evolving into. Yards, ounces, inches, pints and of course left-hand side driving. You (and deep inside the British as well) will no doubt realize that the chance of the enitre world switching to the UK standards is absolutely zero; so to make life for the global population a bit easier, the only option would be for the UK (and consequently also the Commonwealth countries that keep, for some incomprehensible reason, following the UK in these matters) to adopt the standards used by the vast majority of the world.
And of course at the same time switch from left- to right-hand side driving. Which is by far not as impossible as it might sound, as was clearly demonstrated by the Swedish. They drove on the left-hand side of the road until September 2nd, 1967. Admittedly: traffic was a bit hectic on September 3rd. But the country survived, and to this very day still exists (and is still considered an excellent place to live).
So let’s have a referendum across the entire European Union about the Brexit: if the majority of the more than 500 million inhabitants of the EU turn out to be fed up with the anti-EU mentality of the British, let them have a means to express that opinion. A European Union without UK would no doubt have a much better chance of taking meaningful steps forward in the process of European integration. It would also create the possibility to finally tackle some of the problems underlying the difficulties with the Euro. At the current rate of socio-economic EU-integration, a single currency is definitely not the best possible solution (although also by far not as catastrophic as Euro-sceptics often claim), but the remedy lies in taking steps forward, not in stalling endlessly.
With only pro-Europe members on board, it would also be easier to take measures such as making adoption of the Euro compulsory for countries wanting to join the club. Nostalgic attachment to the national currency can always be countered with a very strong example: even the Germans gave up their Deutsche Mark, and their economy certainly did not collapse. Having the same borders for the EU and the Eurozone, would at the same time be a much clearer economic signal to the rest of the world.
Of course there would be very noticable consequences if the UK were to exit the European Union (either leaving due to a referendum of their own, or being kicked out by a referendum in the entire EU) and of course not all of those will be positive for all parties concerned. But for the EU those consequences would not last long (see also: German unification in the 1990s), and some of the results will be quite beneficial for the EU (and Eurozone). Think for example of the position of Frankfurt as the financial center of Europe: how long would it take before Frankfurt takes over the leading position from London, were the UK to leave the EU? And should the UK no longer be part of the European Union: how long would it take the Scottish to set up a new referendum to check whether or not the Scottish population still wants to belong to the United Kingdom? It’s quite clear that Scotland would join the EU pretty soon (and make no fuss about adopting the Euro).
So far, the Brexit-scenario has always been presented as a step backwards for Europe, but in fact it could certainly be a big step forward.