After Brexit

In the UK, things cannot help to appear complicated after the referendum on Brexit. The Editorial Board of the Guardian writes that the situation is somehow paradoxical: Theresa May is in a conundrum for she needs to grant more border controls and, at the same time, to preserve borderless trade. But these two desiderata just pull into two different directions and, thus, it is now the time for compromise and diplomatic skills. But there is disagreement concerning the negotiations between the UK and the EU. If Syed Kamall argues that the appointment of Michel Barnier as the European commission’s negotiator is not bad for he is a “true European” and a serious person who knows the EU inside and out, Daniel Guéguen is of a different advice. He remarks that, Barnier, who is retired, speaks only one language, and failed his last two candidacies, thus he is not fit for the job. With respect to the negotiating strategy, Emma McClarkin states that the UK should not only try to strike a good deal with the EU, but also strengthen and deep its economic relations with partners around the world. From her point of view, the British referendum constitutes a call for less Europe and a more global UK. However, it should be noted with Geethanjali Nataraj that the UK’s decision to leave the EU may put TTIP negotiations at risk: not only may the negotiations after Brexit divert attention from the deal, but also the elections in Germany and France could have an impact on it. Moreover, as Richard Bronk argues, youth mobility should be safeguarded and proposes to exempt all students and recent graduates of UK universities from other EU countries entirely from any restrictions to free movement until at least the age of 30. However, it should be noted that the consequences of Brexit are crucial not only for British foreign relations, but also within its borders. Keith Hart worries about the future of the UK, claiming that there is a strong decentralised tradition in Britain, which may tear it apart. And, as Kirsty Hughes writes, there is always the problem of Scotland, which may reasonably choose between two different options: stay in the EU by going independent, or try to influence the UK’s Brexit deal.

Problems and visions of the Union

It seems that we are witnessing attacks on the fundamentals of the democratic state within Europe. Important examples of this tendency can be found in Hungary, Croatia, Slovakia, and above all Poland, where nationalism and xenophobia are rising also because of the radical mobilisation of the youth, as Tom Junes explains. To stop this illiberal turn in Europe, Israel Butler argues that the Union needs to convince the general public that its fundamental values are worth defending and pursuing: if the Union wants to protect its core ideals, it must create support for them among Europeans by promoting civic education, media independence, civil society organizations, and national movements. Such reinforcement is also crucial for the establishment of an “ever closer Union” or a “federal Europe”. Yiannis Kitromilides claims that such an idea should not be considered utopian not only because its establishment is necessary, but also because, though unpopular, it is a truly possible and positive outcome that would improve the economic and democratic functioning of the EU. What Europe needs, as Zygmunt Bauman forcefully states, is to deconstruct the causes of perceived insecurity and build bridges across the Union.

Right vs. Left

The Islamist-inspired terrorist attacks to which Europe has been subjected in the last months may have troubling consequences, Con Coughlin writes, for they may bring about a true political crisis. In particular, in France and Germany the prospects of Right-wing nationalists are increasing. However, it seems that the traditional political categories are becoming more and more blurred, and that the political circumstances are more and more difficult to grasp. As The Economist explains, the left/right divide is obsolete, for the distinction that matters nowadays is open/closed: the political conflict is cast between wall-builders solicited by the contemporary widespread sense of insecurity and open world order defenders, who believe that free trade and openness to foreigners enrich societies. The question though is whether globalization as we know it is over. Ruchir Sharma’s conviction is that we are witnessing the beginning of “deglobalization”, characterized by an anti-establishment revolt. Accordingly, Brexit should be seen as just the first major sign of this more general phenomenon.

This Ideas Monitor is by Giulia Bistagnino and Carlo Burelli

Photo Credits CC: Tarra Kongsrude

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