The phrase “Finlandisation” is both controversial and offensive to many Finns. For those unfamiliar with the phrase, it is generally taken to be a reference to an arrangement Finland had under its long-serving President Urho Kekkonen in the 1970s where the Finns made pragmatic concessions to the Soviet Union in return for keeping their independence.
Some have sneered at it as a form of “puppet statery” which is both inaccurate and wrong. It was, in short, the response of a small nation to having a) a belligerent superpower on its border, and b) not having help coming from anyone equally powerful. This from a country which proved during the Winter War of 1939 that it didn’t lack courage when it came to defending itself from a Russian invasion.
So, what’s the connection with Brexit? The reality of Finlandisation was that Finland, although nominally independent, had many of its external and some internal policies not set directly by Moscow but certainly were set in Helsinki with an eye to Moscow. The Finnish media quietly avoided making too much noise about the Soviets, and Kekkonen himself pretty much ran on an “Only I can deal with Moscow” ticket.
Britain outside a 450m citizen European Union would find itself in a situation with parallels. Not from a military point of view, obviously, but certainly from the fact that the sheer economic heft and gravity of the EU will force a non-EU Britain to be influenced by it. British managers will still keep an eye on EU product regulations, as will British bureaucrats. Britain will be a nominally independent non-EU country that finds, for sheer pragmatic reasons, that it is easier to comply with regulations and rules set in Brussels, as it does now, only without any say in their initial drafting.
Still, at least there won’t be any blue flags around the place. That’s something, I suppose.