The road to Brexit

Andrew Glencross, on Social Europe, suspects that the referendum over Brexit will be hold this June or July, because otherwise it would volatilely overlap with elections in France and Germany. Whether this is true or not, we simply observe that the presence of this issue in the European public sphere has significantly increased this week. Dick Roche, on EurActiv, and Denis MacShane, on Politico, consider drawing an historical parallel with 1975, when Prime Minister Harold Wilson agreed to hold a referendum on whether the UK should remain in the EEC. While the parallel is interesting, they warn readers about drawing any conclusions with respect to the result of the referendum. According to these articles, it would be more difficult for the in-side to prevail in comparison with 1975, due to the following differences: the confusing absence of official parties’ lines; more hostility within the media; higher public saliency of the issue; less support from the Confederation of British Industries; more popular political leader campaigning for opting out. However, different strategies have been proposed on how an “in” campaign should be waged in the face of Brexit. Andy Rynham, on openDemocracy, proposes an innovative strategy. He explains the proposal of American scholars Bruce Ackerman and James Fishkin for a “Deliberation Day” and suggests applying it to the UK. Two weeks before the referendum, half of the electorate should convene while the other half continues working. During this day, the former group would split in small group to discuss the issue at hand and interact with the politicians involved on both sides of the dispute about the relation between the UK and the EU. Moreover, Rynham suggests incorporating experts into the deliberations for fact checking, in order to compensate for the public misconceptions and misinformation spread by each side in the past months. This is a courageous proposal, he admits, but he feels that it would be one akin to the proud democratic tradition of the UK. Joris Luyendijk, on The Guardian, suggests a more confrontational approach. According to him, the UK is at fault as it is blackmailing the EU attempting to profit from its crises instead of lending a helping hand in fixing them. The EU is vulnerable, so it has to try to win this referendum and keep the UK in. However, giving in to Cameron’s demands would be a bad way to do it. This would create a dangerous centrifugal pressure, as other countries would have a strong incentive to hold referenda of their own in order to make their own demands on European institutions. According to him, a better solution is for Europe, bullied by the UK, to start to fight back. In this sense, the best way for the EU to prevent a Brexit is to start preparing for it loudly, by talking about what shall be offered to the Scots to abandon the UK and join the EU, how to relocate financial power out of London and into the continent, how to deal with future “foreign” import from the UK, and so on.

The Frankfurt protocol

On EurActiv, Andrew Duff argues that the multiplicity of EU problems is due to the absence of governance. However, he defends the idea that the EU should not be dismantled, but integrated. He outlines the “Frankfurt Protocol”, a proposal for a radical federal reform of the EU institutional system: centralization of executive power in the Commission; checks and balances attributed to the European Parliament and the Eurogroup; introduction of a Treasury Secretary administrating a budget that, although equal in size to the current EU budget, should come directly from the fiscal capacity of each country; transformation of the central bank in a lender of last resort thereby completing the banking union.


This Ideas Monitor is by Giulia Bistagnino and Carlo Burelli


Photo Credits CC: Adamina

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