Europe after Brexit: no time for muddling through
The secession of the United Kingdom, yesterday, shocked me in the deep. Now that I have a (slightly) colder mind, I offer you a set of reflections on what we should do next. General feeling: It is going to be hard, friends.
- We need a steady and ruthless leadership. It is unfortunate, but as the Union is at a clear risk of contagion and disruption, the 27 need to be harsh now. If the UK is allowed to get out of the EU maintaining too much benefits and not enough obligations, this would spell the end of the European Union. This implies that the British will have to carry the full costs and responsibilities of the absurd decision they made: no concessions can be made, out is out. If the UK wishes to retain access to the common market for goods, capitals and services, then A) has to pay into the budget like everyone else, and B) has to accept freedom of movement. If they want a say on the rules, there is only a way: re-apply. In general, however, the worse-off they are (and especially: they appear to be), the best it is for the EU. This won’t be painless. But it is a vaccine we have to take to ensure the Union continues to exist.
- We need to capitalize on Brexit. The EU and the national leaders should now play the smart part. First, it should welcome all British citizens that want to obtain a EU member-state passport. Second, as suggested by the major of Milan and by many others, it should offer unbelievably good conditions to all companies willing to leave the UK to relocate in the EU: a 5-years free tax zone would make it. London, outside of the EU, cannot be allowed to be the Euro trading hub, neither should receive passporting rights for its service sector. Brexit is the occasion to bring Euro-denominated trading back to the Continent, under the supervision and regulation of the ECB and the other EU bodies: it’s an opportunity not to waste to create a more inclusive financial sector.
- We need to support the aspirations of Europeans in UK. No wonder: only 36% of the UK population actually voted for Brexit. The Majority of London, Scotland and Northern Ireland wanted to stay in. Popular angst against the Eurosceptic is rising, and this may lead to the collapse of the United Kingdom. The EU should welcome it, as a sign that the era of insulated nation-states is over. In other words, the EU should support the now-rising independence movements from the UK. Not only be clear that we welcome Scotland, which seems in track to call for a second referendum; but also support the Irish reunification process and – why not! – announce that it would accept membership of an independent City-State of London. After all, London as a member-state would have more citizens than the majority of EU members, having roughly the same population than Belgium.
- We need a better theory of Euroscepticism. We really need to understand better Euroscepticism: the economic explanation (of which you will soon find my version on the JCMS) is not enough, alone; neither it is the simple rejection of immigration. Rather, I believe, it is a combination of the two that calls into question two fundamenetal pillars of European integration: it’s “output legitimacy” (how much people are better off by integrating) and the lack of a European demos. No doubts: this is a revolt against Europe led by the joint effect of economic depression and nationalistic identity. In a simplistic term, I’ve rebuilt the logic of this national-economic Euroscepticism in the graph below: the more you benefit from integration, the less you will need to “feel” European in order to support integration. If you really feel European, however, smaller benefits will be enough to win you over. The joint effect of benefits and identity explains Euroscepticism: left of the diagonal, you will be against; right of the diagonal, you will be in favour. To make sure Europe will survive, we need to strengthen both.The EU needs to better strengthen two essential elements within its territory: output legitimacy and European identity.
- We need to tackle inequality and reconstruct solidarity. The above reasoning, more importantly, applies also individually: although a country may be, overall, being better-off, the benefits of integration might be touch only few lucky individuals. This has to finish: a European and National pact is to be made to tackle inequality and make sure no person is left behind. We also need to strengthen our Euro Area solidarity mechanisms, and make sure country is left behind. and again, the best way to make sure this actually happens, is to strengthen the democratic decision making process of the EU, allowing the elected delegates to set up the appropriate measures. Time for muddling through is now over: either we jump forward, or the Eurosceptic storm will bring the continent to ashes.
Last, saddening thought: what a mess the elder have made of this world. This is a generational fight: and what an unlucky generation we are, my friends. So bright and educated, many of us; so international. We know no limits; they taught us we shouldn’t accept any. We speak many languages, we master mathematics, informatics, astronomy, the laws of physics and of economics. We are enabled to travel through the planet like never before.
And yet, we are the victimes. For they promised us the world, but the world they are passing over it’s a never-ending nightmare of crises, each self-inflicted by the idiocy and egoism of those coming before us.
What an unlucky generation; we could have done so many great things, but now we have a capital duty, the enormous responsibility not to let this world fall apart.
Per aspera ad astra.