January 31, 2019
The bear is sleeping soundly in its lair. The Parliament is in a kind of early recess. The Commission is waiting for the next College. The Member States are self-centred. Elsewhere, everything is moving. Here, nothing is moving.
Brexit: when things are beyond us, let’s pretend we are the instigators
Nobody has control over this issue, neither in London not in Brussels. Anything can happen, even the worst, just at a time where the economic mistake of Brexit is beginning to become clear for the British and for the continent. The negotiations have been well handled by Michel Barnier’s team and the red lines well set by the European Council. But nothing has been solved. We may fear electoral manoeuvres in the UK. And the tightness of the legislative, regulatory and commercial links between the United Kingdom and the Union in practice means that any ‘clean’ separation cannot be envisaged.
I have said it often: a big country cannot leave the European Union. And a big country cannot leave the Euro. But the withdrawal of the UK cannot be excluded. All other options clash with the upcoming European Parliament elections. Extending the two-year period fixed by Article 50, new elections, a second referendum…none of these options are suitable less than five months out from the European vote.
Preventing the United Kingdom from losing face
It is time for Europeans to make a declaration of love to the United Kingdom. They must express massive support for the UK staying in the EU and give the British a guarantee that today’s Union – paralysed by too many countries, too many Commissioners, too much bureaucracy – will be reformed.
One fall-back option is to organise European around two circles: a federal centre for the Eurozone countries and a trade circle for the countries that are more interested in business and competitiveness than in deepening integration. Why wait to make this plan a reality? Messrs Juncker and Tusk, you have to stop presiding over a defensive Europe and launch this process. And why not entrust this technical task to one of your colleagues who has supported Michel Barnier so well: I am speaking here of Mr Didier Seeuws.
This imperative need to bring major changes to the governance of the European Union is equally valid for the European elections. Are we very sure that these ‘populists’ and ‘Eurosceptics’ are anti-European? Is there not an important fringe of unsatisfied pro-Europeans in their ranks? Critical Europhiles, in other words? Just as with Brexit, these are people that need to be won back over.
Brexit and gilets jaunes: destroying or rebuilding the EU?
One of the main criticisms we can make of the EU is that it is too much focussed on the past. The rest of the world is on the offensive and we are on the defensive: in the domain of competition (see the Alstom-Siemens file) and trade negotiations (our lack of authority vis-à-vis the Trump administration), not forgetting our softness in international relations (Iran, among others).
The movements against the Union are multiplying; the gilets jaunes are one expression of that, Brexit is another. So are all the anti-system candidates in the upcoming European elections. But that is not all. All over the world we are seeing the creation of protest movements opposed to neo-liberalism and centralism: Extinction Rebellion/Rebel for Life in the UK, the Green New Deal in the US.
They want to destroy the European Union. The goal should be to rebuild it. The status quo is not an option.Daniel Gueguen