After Brexit

Two months have passed, and it is still not clear what will happen in the UK after the Brexit referendum. Although an economic Armageddon has not taken place for the moment, Will Hutton suggests exercising prudence. From his point of view, economies respond slowly to changes and British prospects over the next five years cannot help to be alarming. It is important to reach an agreement between EU and UK, but which one? According to Ashley Fox, Great Britain can have its cake and eat it too: negotiations could lead to retain full access to the single market, while also taking full control of migration because Europe has an interest in keeping trading goods and services with Britain and this provides some leverage. Martin Kettle strongly disagrees with this view and argues that it is impossible to be in the single market without free movement. Of course, it would be possible to strike a compromise, and negotiate a differentiated agreement on free movement. However, Theresa May’s hands are tight in this respect because of the clear and loud cry against migration that has characterized the referendum. Benjamin Fox agrees with this point, and adds that by centring the referendum on migration, Britain has cornered itself in a weak bargaining position. It is impossible to escape the difficulties of the negotiations, in particular because aims and objectives are not at all evident. On one hand, as the Editorial Board of the New York Times writes, May has given little indications with respect to what her priorities are and does not appear to have a game plan, nor the expertise to navigate such complicated waters. On the other, Paul Goodman suggests that it is Remain that does not know what it wants: some want to stop the Prime Minister from invoking Article 50; others want to stay in the single market and keep free movement; some other want a second referendum. One must recognize that what the result of the referendum will mean for Britain and Europe is still uncertain. And the problem is that, as Brendan Donnelly writes, it seems that the Conservative Party will decide how to deal with the exit without consulting either the electorate, or the Parliament. With respect to future scenarios, Simon Wren-Lewis argues that it is important to organize a second referendum for voters have not had the chance to decide which alternative to EU membership should be pursued, whereas Paul de Grauwe writes that the EU should offer to the UK two options: the Norwegian model, or leaving for good. This strategy should be employed in order to stop other EU-countries from organizing referenda. A possible solution would be to completely reform the agreements among European states and the Union itself, as Cornelius Adebahr suggests. His idea is to create a multi-layered Europe grounded in the idea of flexibility. In this sense, basic integration would consist only in agreement on human rights; the next level of integration would be economic, intended as an agreement on EU’s single market with some opt-outs options on specific policies (which the UK would probably enjoy); finally, higher levels of integration would include, monetary, political, and security integration. The benefits of such an approach are clear. The question is whether such an arrangement would turn into the end of the EU project in practice. This thought is particularly troublesome for anyone caring for the EU, given also Joseph Stiglitz’s conviction that the monetary union was an overarching macro economic mistake and that the future may be that of an “amicable divorce”.

The future of European Politics

The current political circumstances are not easy to manage, and mainstream politics across Europe appear in difficulties. In particular, the traditional parties of the left seem in trouble. As John Harris points out, the European left is facing three crucial challenges for its future: a new era of temporary jobs and self-employment has raised doubts about the left’s secret notion of “the worker”; the opposition to globalization; and the fragmentation of politics, which does not leave space for a single party or ideology to represent the majority of people. A promising response to such challenges would be to cast attention on people’s lives and their needs, by extending maternity and paternity leave, reviving adult education, enabling people to shorten their working week, etc. Jan Surotchak and Thibault Muzergues argue that the problem is more general. Indeed, it is the two major ideological blocs that have dominated European politics that are collapsing. Since the economic crisis, voters have turned away from classic, umbrella parties of both the centre-right and centre-left and supported anti-establishments movements. Such decline of traditional parties is particularly evident in the results of the Mecklenburg-West Pomerania elections, as Kai Arzheimer explains. Indeed, that of populism is a phenomenon affecting both the right and the left. Anna Diamantopoulou warns about it with specific reference to Syriza and the Greek situation. From her point of view, to win the battle against populism, governmental cooperation within the EU Council and help from other left parties are necessary. Javier Solana adds that the key to this success is to reconnect with frustrated constituencies that are experiencing the rise of inequality within their societies, and respond to their economic and social needs.

This Ideas Monitor is by Giulia Bistagnino and Carlo Burelli

Photo Credits CC: Tore Bustad 

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