UK divisions

On the Telegraph, Juliet Samuel laments the absence of a clear leadership after Brexit. Indeed, none seems to have any idea about what to do now: the tories are divided and Cameron may have found his palce in history, but not the one he hoped for, as James Hanning suggests on Politico.eu. Nick Cohen, on the Guardian, criticizes those “journalist politicians”, like Boris Johnson and Michael Gove, who are worse than professional politicians for they grab media attentions by proposing dramatic yet easy solutions to complex problems, and then shamelessly lie when they are discovered. On the other side, the Labour party seems in disarray as a revolt against its leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is spreading. On the Guardian, many columnists comment on this topic. Polly Toynbee thinks Corbyn’s late and feeble defence of Remain warrants his substitution. Zoe Williams, on the other hand, claims that his defence was adequate, but now Labour needs a pro-EU leader, in order to capitalize on the anger against Brexit. Finally, Paul Mason and Dawn Foster defend him, claiming that the Labour party needs unity against the Tories. However, it is not just the political system to be divided, but the United Kingdom itself. Adam Ramsey, on Opendemocracy, argues that since Scotland voted overwhelmingly for remaining in the EU, it should be allowed to do it in the vein of a “Reverse Greenland”. David Gow, on Social Europe, agrees and adds that he would vote yes to a new referendum on the independence of Scotland, given the long lasting effects of Brexit.

European Divisions

European leaders also seem divided, as Jon Henley and Jennifer Rankin argue on the Guardian. While many voices from France, Italy and the European institutions want Britain to start the negotiation immediately by triggering article 50, Angela Merkel invites caution and invokes the idea of employing no unnecessary punitive measure in the negotiation. On Handelsblatt, Jan Hildebrand discusses an exclusive document concerning Wolfgang Schäuble’s ideas on Brexit, according to which Germany would be willing to negotiate an association agreement with Britain, while avoiding making too many concessions that would give incentives for other states to follow suit. However, according to Der Spiegel, Germany itself is divided for the SPD would prefer to advance a grand plan for an “economic Schengen” to supersede the crisis. According to the Economist, the division is between economic safety, which would require being lenient and keep commercing, and political principles, which require deterring exits.

Diagnosis and Prognosis of Brexit

For Mike Carter, on the Guardian, the Brexit vote was no surprise. A simple walk from Liverpool to London reveals devastated industrial communities that have never recovered from Thatcher’s reform. According to Sara Hobolt, on Europp, data analysis confirms that the so-called “losers” of globalisation, those with lower levels of education and working class occupation, voted decisively for Leave. On Social Europe, Martin Seeleib-Kaiser agrees that irrespective of the political debates over the past year or so, the British referendum concerned, at its very core, how the country is actually coping with deindustrialization, deprivation and one of the highest levels of inequality in Europe. And after decades of market integration, only the realization of Social Europe would turn this tide. Jean Lambert, on Euactiv, agrees that Brexit is a sharp plea for “reform or die” for the EU, but argues that the most important change to implement is more democracy and more transparency. For Stefan Kuzmany, on Der Spiegel, Brexit stands as an important reminder that we need to positively embrace the EU, otherwise we risk losing it. European unification, with ever deeper integration of these so diverse and yet closely related states, is the only guarantee for lasting peace. Unfortunately we have become accustomed to it, and do not perceive its benefits anymore. Tim King, on Politico.eu, disagrees on this point. For him, the referendum proved nothing new, namely that it is difficult to muster popular support behind the EU, but it is imprudent to draw any kind of general diagnosis or prescription for the rest of the EU from such an insular debate. Jan Zielonka, on OxPol, observes that there is no concrete idea on how to reshape the EU, and this exacerbates the divide between Eurosceptic and promoters of the status quo. However, there are three possible ways to exit this impasse: 1. Abolish state monopoly on integration by allowing cities, regions, professional associations and NGOs to access the European decision-making and resources. 2. Move from territorial to functional integration, for the current emphasis on territory rather than tasks lumps together states regardless of their actual needs and circumstances. 3. Adopt a polycentric structure instead of a hierarchical one because decentralization and devolution of power would reinforce the legitimacy and efficiency of policies. For Christoph Schult, on Der Spiegel, the UK will suffer many dire consequences, but for the rest of the EU Britain’s withdrawal offer more opportunities than drawbacks. “More Union” is not always the best choice, but some crucial areas need more integration and, without Britain, such aim could be more easily achieved. From the point of view of the UK, the prognosis depends on political leaning. For Paul Mason, on the Guardian, the Labour party must embrace Brexit, as soon as possible, and give it a progressive bend. This is the only way to fight for social justice and democracy at the heart of the Brexit negotiations, even at the cost of accepting that freedom of movement is over and that Scotland will secede. Douglas Hansen-Luke, on Conservativehome, argues that the UK should seek to have a market open to the rest of the world, as it currently is towards the EU, but limit welfare access for migrants. Sebastian Koehler, on Europp, argues that it is crucial for the UK to trigger article 50 as soon as possible, because its economy will be damaged by prolonged political uncertainty and it has already lost all influence in the EU.

The People and the Elite

Sorin Moisa, on Euractiv, argues that Brexit will not happen because the many lies and emotional appeals of the campaign are bound to clash with reality: migration will not stop; the NHS will not receive more funding; Scotland may secede; and the economy will take a hit. A new referendum may be called to reverse the tide. Geoffrey Robertson, on the Guardian, agrees with this diagnosis and concludes that a new referendum is not necessary. Referenda are alien to the British tradition, inappropriate for complex decision-making, and, without careful incorporation in a written constitution, the public expectation aroused by the result can damage democratic systems. Patrice De Beer, on Opendemocracy, agrees that referendums are and have been a populist gimmick, where people actually tend to vote on political leaders, rather than on the issues at stake. James Crisp, on Euractiv, comments that while voting for Brexit was foolish, it is only through being tested through democracy that the EU can have real legitimate reform. The responsibility for Brexit needs to be shared by the EU and particularly by its unaccountable president of the Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker. Radically different is the interpretation of Michael Skey, on Opendemocracy, who recommends to stop sneering at british voters, because they knew exactly what they were doing. They wanted to make their voice heard and punish political elites which are disconnected and oblivious to their sufferings. On Social Europe, Manuel Muniz inquires why the British voted for Brexit when virtually all experts advised against it and agrees with the aforementioned analysis. This form of populism is a global phenomenon because of the rapid technological development which is disrupting labor markets and affect wealth distribution. Finally, David Held, on Social Europe, thinks that the EU is suffering a disjuncture between its political capacities and its economic and social challenges. While economic cooperation was increased, no institutional framework to govern it was put in place.


This Ideas Monitor is by Giulia Bistagnino and Carlo Burelli


Photo Credits CC: Bankenverband – Bundesverband deutscher Banken


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