Britain won’t be the last to exit the EU – and the next one won’t be overly long in coming, either. Most likely nobody else will exit before Britain’s two year withdrawal period is up. Everyone else will want to watch and see what happens to Britain. But when it turns out not to be the global catastrophe that many have predicted, there are several European nations that have strong incentive to leave.
The PIIGS – Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Greece and Spain are the obvious candidates. In fact, I’m personally surprised that Greece wasn’t the first to go. But with their current economic conditions, they have a good reason to be next. Getting out of the Euro and defaulting on their loans would remove their crippling debt and let them devalue their currency. Both would be painful – extremely painful – in the short run. But in the medium term, that combination would let them get their feet under them again. They can’t do it while they remain in the EU. The other PIIGS are in similar, though less severe, circumstances. If one of them is first, it’ll probably be Greece.
France is another strong contender. Marine Le Pen and the National Front have been gaining ground in France for years already. Brexit is likely to put wind in their sails and strengthen their cause. On top of that, France is… well, it’s French. They’re the ones who withdrew from NATO in 1966… basically because they just didn’t feel like being part of it anymore. It would not be a surprise for them to taunt Europe a second time. As a coworker suggested, they’re likely to wait for the absolute most chaotic possible time to do it – just because they’re French.
The counterintuitive but very plausible contender is Germany. France and Germany were already pulling more than their share to keep the EU afloat. The fifth largest economy in the world just voted to leave the EU. That isn’t going to make it easier for Germany. Merkel is already in trouble. Her popularity is dipping, and a lot of it is anti-EU sentiment. The German nationalists probably don’t have enough vote to claim her chancellorship… this round. But they’re growing just about as fast as the National Front in France.
Which one of these will be next? I’d guess Greece. On the other hand, France is the only one that just might do it before Britain finishes the process. Once again, it would be very French for them to cut a side deal with Britain as part of their mutual exit deals. In short, I think it’s most likely to be one of Greece, France or Germany – but I’m not ready to put money on it.
What I am ready to put money on is that it’s a matter of when and who – not if. Indeed, I already did put money on it. Earlier tonight I bet a steak dinner that ten years from now at least two more nations will have withdrawn from the EU. I’m officially documenting it here for the world to see. Why two? Nobody wants to be the first. But once the process starts, it will accelerate. It’s the nature of these things.