Friday was one of the biggest holidays of the year for us Finns, juhannusaatto or the midsummer feast’s eve. It is traditional (don’t ask me why) to celebrate most feasts, including juhannus, on the eve and rest on the actual feast day. So, here I was, on the juhannusaatto morning, ready to begin celebrating (decidedly nontraditionally), and opened the news feeds for a routine check.
I did not celebrate that day. I spent it in the blackest of moods, mostly in my bed, listening to an audiobook and compulsively reading the feeds and sharing occasional items on Facebook and Twitter.
Now, the United Kingdom leaving the European Union is not, by itself, a huge thing, certainly not worth any emotional reaction from me. Any member state has the right to leave, and it is healthy for all organizations to have the occasional member go their own way.
It is also probably a good thing for the rest of the EU to be rid of a cantankerous member that constantly demanded special treatment.
It is also arguably a good thing that Brexit seems to be leading to the unraveling of the United Kingdom, with Scotland seeking independence (and membership in its own right in the EU) and politicians in the Northern Ireland raising the issue of reunifying Ireland: the history of that union is much bloodier and coercive than the EU’s ever has been.
In fact, while the United Kingdom is the last remnant of a decaying bloody empire dominated by the English, the European Union was founded to secure a peace, by fostering multinational economic cooperation, after the worst two wars of all history.
And here’s the big but.
With all its flaws (and I will admit that it has many), the European Union has, in the over 60 years it or its predecessors have existed, succeeded in its single most important goal: preventing another war between France and Germany. (If you did not know that, you should go read up on the International Authority for the Ruhr and on the founding of the European Coal and Steel Community.)
That single fact is the reason why I strongly support the European Union. It emphatically is in the interest of everyone in Europe, including the English, the Scottish, the Welsh, and the Irish, as wells us Finns, to keep those two nations cooperating instead of competing. If we dismantle the European Union, then we need something else.
Brexit, as well as the anti-EU sentiment in Finland, is predicated on the idea that European unification is per se a bad idea. As far as I understand it, the the Leave campaign emphasized the costs to the British of being an EU member, both monetary and otherwise, including the purported social costs of free immigration and emigration within the EU. These arguments are not markedly unique to the United Kingdom, and they have about equal force in many other EU members, including Finland.
Here is the reason for my funk on Friday: If Brexit, then why not Fixit, Sexit, Frexit? The EU can withstand Brexit, but if we get a mass exodus, then the EU will not be able to stand. And if EU falls by this process, I cannot see how we can build anything in its place in the near term.
The abyss I am looking at here is every European nation standing alone, minding its own business, and maybe some of them starting to look around their borders, thinking about getting some more breathing room.