Mon, Jul 11, 2016 - Page 3 News List

INTERVIEW: Brexit referendum holds lessons for Taiwan

Taiwan’s first representative to the WTO, Yen Ching-chang, told Liberty Times (sister newspaper of the the Taipei Times) reporter Cheng Chi-fang that the UK’s vote to leave the EU should be cause to reflect on Taiwan’s approach to regional economic integration, and it is time to drop the ECFA in favor of the Trans-Pacific Partnership

Taiwan’s first representative to the WTO, Yen Ching-chang, pauses for a moment during in an interview on July 1 in Taipei.

Photo: Wang Yi-sung, Taipei Times

Liberty Times (LT): Was the Brexit result influenced by the history of the UK’s participation in efforts to forge a pan-European identity?

Yen Ching-chang (顏慶章): There is of course a connection between the decision for Brexit and the UK’s decision to join the EU. The first person to call for the establishment of a pan-European identity or organization was actually former British prime minister Winston Churchill [sic], who called for a “United States of Europe” in September 1946.

Churchill’s call was based on the hope that Europe, heavily damaged by two consecutive world wars, would be able to put its unhappy history behind it. Despite Churchill’s call, the UK never thought that it should be a part of such an organization.

The first stage of realizing the move was the formation of the European Economic Community (EEC) in 1957, which the UK did not join until 1973.

Barely two years later, the UK called for a referendum to back out of the EEC. Despite the failure of the referendum, the act highlighted the UK’s attitude toward the unification of Europe.

While the Brexit vote passed, it does not bode well for either the UK or Europe. The UK should brace to make great sacrifices for its decision.

LT: There are a slew of different analyses on the result of the Brexit vote. What are your thoughts on the matter?

Yen: There are several key reasons the majority of voters in the UK voted for Brexit. First, the public wanted the UK to be able to make its own decisions. The EU is not a simple free-trade agreement [FTA] signed multilaterally; its influence expands to commerce, agriculture and even individual nations’ financial policies.

Moreover, the EU compels members to use a single currency [Editor’s note: The UK had an opt-out clause allowing it not to adopt the euro. Denmark had a protocol allowing it to decide if it would do so; it did not.]

The direct result of the UK joining the EU is that when it is making new laws or amending old ones, Brussels — the headquarters of the EU — has a large say, and UK residents think that such a large influence directly affects their sovereignty.

This kind of view is inherently specious; any nation joining any international organization would of course have to submit to the organization’s regulations.

Such acceptance of course influences the nation’s sovereignty, but such effects are not solely restricted to the UK. All other EU members share the same restrictions.

Rational thought would expose the basis of the “Leave” camp to be limited to the restoration of British autonomy, which would not stand to reason.

However, many voters accept that thinking, including the British Secretary of State for Justice Michael Gove, a “Leave” camp bigwig.

Second, the Brexit vote was influenced by the problem of immigration. Over the course of one year, the UK received more than 300,000 immigrants and popular belief is that these new arrivals are taking job opportunities from UK citizens. As the immigrants usually tackle manual labor or tertiary-sector jobs, middle-class to blue-collar workers are the most affected.

Some say that the Brexit vote was not an issue of the UK exiting the EU, but was in fact packaging to deliver the core message that the UK should be anti-immigrant, which begs the question whether Brexit would actually help control its immigrant population.

This story has been viewed 3938 times.

Comments will be moderated. Keep comments relevant to the article. Remarks containing abusive and obscene language, personal attacks of any kind or promotion will be removed and the user banned. Final decision will be at the discretion of the Taipei Times.

TOP top