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Four lessons from Brexit and EU fallout for East African Community 0

Now that the immediate turmoil of Britain’s exit vote from the European Union has somewhat subsided, it is a good time to ask what lessons that vote holds for the East African Community. Four stand out.

  • One, a community must be based on values shared by all.
  • Two, a community won’t endure if it is not built on the consent of the people.
  • Three, integration is fragile and it takes but the opportunism of a few leaders in a member state to wreck it.
  • Four, the youth must be given voice in integration; if not, the future — complete with its uncertainties and challenges — will be shaped by those with the least stake in it, the old.

The first, second and fourth are lessons for the Community as a whole and the third, though a lesson for all, is particularly important for Kenya, which has ruined the EAC once before. Let’s flesh out each one of these lessons.

For the most part, the United Kingdom has never been one with core EU values. Rather, the UK prides itself in its exceptionalism and pursues a foreign policy that is defined more by what the country is against rather than what it stands for.

Little wonder then that Anglo-European relations have often been characterised by mutual antipathy. Britain, in the words of its former Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, is “insular” with “very special, very original, habits and traditions.” That insularity contrasts sharply with Europe’s self-conscious cosmopolitanism. And so, even though the UK is Europe’s second largest economy, Europe sees it as a difficult partner.

In economics, this ‘nation of shop-keepers’ – as Napoleon Bonaparte famously called it – is often too pro-market for Europe. In diplomacy, it pivots too often and too strongly towards the US. In Union affairs, it is a miserly penny-pincher and a veto-wielding curmudgeon, constantly complaining and slowing down important aspects of greater European cohesion, by refusing to join the Euro and the Schengen area, for instance.

Many Europeans are not surprised by the UK’s exit vote. The UK has always been deeply eurosceptic. Euro-barometer, a Public Opinion Research Service of the European Commission, has surveyed public opinion in Europe since 1973, asking nationals of member states whether the Union was a good thing; a bad thing or neither a good nor a bad thing.

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by Wachira Maina
Photo Credits: Getty Images

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Direttore Responsabile Giuseppe Frangi