Brexit to Brentrance: Why Britain Should Switch Membership from the EU for the EEU

by James Buckham (June 2016)

2018:  The world’s press gather in London to watch Prime Minister Boris Johnson ratify the United Kingdom’s membership of the Eurasian Economic Union. Addressing Tigran Sargsyan, the Chaiman of the Eurasian Commission, in Russian, Mr Johnson hailed this “promising, forward-looking new era” in British economic and diplomatic relations as the sixth and newest member of a trade bloc stretching from Vladivostok to Belfast.

If this sounds like a madman’s dream, it is not a particularly insane one. With little less than a month before voters go to the polls to decide whether their decades-long EU affair is worth the effort anymore, Britain could soon be looking for a new circle of friends. Meanwhile, the EEU ménage à cinq – comprising Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan – could be forgiven for feeling a member short since two-thirds of Ukraine started leaning westwards back in 2014.

Switching membership of the EU for the EEU could have more to it than just serendipitous timing. Once you start to look past the seemingly innate absurdity of such an arrangement, the potential benefits seem so obvious you feel slightly silly about not seeing them earlier.

Firstly, the EEU rests on a very British notion: that of being in a trade bloc, not a political super-state. This was laid down in no uncertain terms by Kazakhstan’s officials who have opposed erosion of national sovereignty and the concept of a Eurasian parliament from the outset[1]. It is the antithesis of the “ever closer union” which sits so uncomfortably with the British public and from which Cameron was so keen to negotiate an opt-out.

Secondly there is an attractive balance between the economic strengths and weakness offered by each side. Greater access to British services, world leading education and hi-tech industry would be highly prized by EEU members. In particular, British know-how and investment through companies such as BP could prove a massive boon in unlocking Russian and Kazakh shale gas and deep water reserves[2]. In return the existing EEU states contain vast amounts of natural resources and agricultural potential which could help reinvigorate British industry and provide food security to an island which long ago lost the capacity to feed its relentlessly expanding population. 

This latter point ties in with the wider theme of long term geo-political security. As the Middle East and North Africa continue to destabilize amid jihadism, Sunni/Shia schisms, climate change and piracy, long established trade routes through the Suez and round West Africa look increasingly precarious in the long term. A flow of shipping from the UK to Archangelsk and St Petersburg exporting high end manufactured goods and importing necessities would provide secure trade routes as well as having the potential to boost the port towns of Britain’s North and East that have so often borne the brunt of economic decline.





James Buckham is a writer on 20th century history and literature.


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