What can ASEAN learn from Brexit?

With the United Kingdom leaving the European Union, there are a number of lessons that the member nations of the ASEAN community can learn.

As everybody knows by now, the UK has voted in a nationwide referendum to leave the European Union (EU). The result sparked a number of outcries, with many people scared of the impact this could have on their employment, the UK’s economy and the safety of citizens.

If you have IWCF qualification, the ASEAN community has a range of employment opportunities.

For those with oil and gas qualifications looking for work in the ASEAN community, it is important to understand what Brexit could mean. Not only is it a model of how a member nation can leave peacefully, it is an example of where multi-lateral unions can fail.

To help you understand the implications for the ASEAN community, here are two takeaways.

1. A failed single political body

Following the end of the Second World War, Europe and countries across the world had endured two of the most bloody wars in less than half a century. Determined to prevent such destruction killing from happening again, French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman presented a plan to deepen the cooperation created through the Council of Europe.

With deepening relationships between member nations, the EU began to shift its focus from solely a economic one to a range of political KPIs too. In contemporary terms, the political body was not strong enough to keep the UK from seceding from the union.

For ASEAN, the lesson is clear: If they wish expand ASEAN from an economic entity focused on employment opportunities to a political one, they will need to develop a common ASEAN identity as well as a common destiny.

Take the example of the UK under the leadership of David Cameron. The British prime minister never made a strong case for staying the EU. Instead, he believed it a management issue and thus failed to confront the growing number of Euro-skeptics. And when he finally engaged with the “Stay” movement, he explained his position through a purely economic lens. This left residents without the unified meaning they were craving, and as such, many flocked to the meaningful rhetoric of Boris Johnson.

ASEAN nations need to be wary of the transition from a purely economic union, to one that is politically driven. If the unified vision is not accepted or widely held by residents of ASEAN member nations, a Brexit of its own could occur.

What can ASEAN learn form Brexit?
What can the EU teach ASEAN about member happiness?

2. Economic unions have a downside

One of the major reasons for the incorporation of nations into the EU was the idea that a single market could drive economic progress in all states. However, this idea has been faltering and stuttering its way along for the last two decades.

Europe has failed to satisfy the historic role it crafted for itself. Employment, standards of living and welfare were all better protected under nation-states in the 1950s and 1960s. Unemployment is stuck at 10 per cent across the eurozone, while Italy’s economy is no bigger than it was before the EU was created. Greece’s economy, on the other hand, has shrunk by almost a third. As a result, many citizens are looking for ways to bring back those eras of prosperity. For the UK, this meant leaving.

While the ASEAN community is founded on different ideals, there are a number of similarities. For people with well control training looking to work in the community, it is essential to understand the cultural and historical trajectory to ensure that you know where it is heading.

However, unlike the EU, ASEAN is solely focused on driving economic prosperity through closer relations, rather than creating a single political economy. When it does shift from economic to political, it will need to ensure that it is governing the aspirations and expectations of member nations.