Britain’s predicament is serious but Brussels has problems of its ownby David Henig / January 14, 2019 / Leave a comment
It is easy for those in other countries to survey the carnage brought by Brexit to UK politics and feel a certain smugness. Hurtful for many of us in the UK, but we can understand why other countries who have felt us to be arrogant in the past are not feeling terribly sympathetic. In the EU in particular you hear a lot that while they were sad after the vote, this is now over and the EU will continue just fine.
They should avoid such complacency. The EU may not have the immediate problems that the UK has, it may not be on the verge of collapse as some Eurosceptics like to claim, but there are underlying factors that should worry them and us.
There’s no doubt that the EU faces challenges in the form of upcoming elections, the continuing migration problems, and a groundswell of populism across the bloc. There’s also the perennial question of the future of the euro, although as the former Treasury Permanent Secretary Nick Macpherson acidly tweeted last week “Every week since the euro’s inception 20 years ago the Telegraph has predicted its demise.”
Very rarely have we heard discussion from Brussels about the changing dynamics of the EU without the UK, the fact that the largest trade deal of the next Commission, 2019-2024, will be with the UK, and the lack of any coherent vision yet underpinning that period.
As a regular traveller between London and Brussels it sometimes feels like I spend too much time in London explaining that the EU is not about to collapse, that’s just the way it works, but possibly not enough talking about serious issues of the future in Brussels.
Consider the changing dynamics of the European Council after Brexit. At the moment the UK, France and Germany form a perfect uneasy trio of large members, where the UK tends to push more open, competitive developments, France tends to focus more on the preservation of the EU rulebook, and Germany is something of a balance between the two, but often leaves decision-makinguntil late in a process. Both France and the UK have regular allies, with the UK’s typically including the likes of Sweden, the Netherlands, and Ireland.