30 March 2017 8:01 PM (politics)
Once upon a time there was a great nation called The United Kingdom. For no particularly good reason, a small majority of its citizens voted to sunder their nation from the European Union. Exactly why is a matter people have argued about for almost a year and will probably continue to debate for some time. Several officials in the EU have declared their intent to punish the United Kingdom to discourage other countries from trying to leave. Many other officials have come out against any form of punishment on the grounds that it would hurt the EU, too. This proposed punishment takes the form of bad trade terms: forcing the United Kingdom to deal with Europe strictly according to World Trade Organization rules. Could they do worse?
Let us imagine that the European Union had a vendetta against the United Kingdom and wanted to do it harm. It seems that an easy jumping-off-point is a matter that will have to be negotiated: the fate of citizens of the European Union in the United Kingdom and citizens of the United Kingdom in the European Union. If the European Union wanted to hurt the United Kingdom, it should give citizens of the United Kingdom indefinite license to remain in European Union countries. If they could manage it, they could go further: offering them five years residence but requiring they take citizenship in some member of the European Union to remain after that. Ideally they would fast track the procedure. This would be very difficult legally, since matters of citizenship and immigration from outside the European Union are left up, I believe, to member states.
You could go further, automatically granting five to ten years working residency to any citizen of the United Kingdom admitted to a university in the European Union; ideally their admission residency would be conditional on their agreeing to spend five to ten years working somewhere in the European Union after graduation. One could try giving scholarships to high performers to attract them, depending on political will and exactly how much one wanted to punish the United Kingdom by attempting to hollow it out. If you could convince people to transfer United Kingdom for European citizenship that would be the most effective.
Making businesses relocate should be easy. The United Kingdom may manage it on its own just by leaving the single market, though there is some rumor that the United Kingdom hopes to turn itself into a low tax haven; if they do hamstring their on revenue generation to that degree people might be even more prone to emigrate to European Union member states.
Is there more one could do? Perhaps they could try to have the United Kingdom excluded from multilateral trade talks. Beyond that, I'm not sure. If the European Union accumulated prestige of a sort, admiration for its institutions, it might use it to marginalize and exclude the United Kingdom from things, as well as trying to gain stronger associations in popular consciousness with ideals people had thought of in connection with the United Kingdom.
I wouldn't be in support of anything like this. All things being equal I'm rather fond of the United Kingdom if not of its current government, and I'm usually opposed to trying to be horrible to other polities. Reading current coverage of the European Union simply made me start to wonder how far one could carry a diplomatic, attractive, sweet, and soft war.