Another View

( This is a guest column from Professor Paul De Grauwe, John Paulson Chair in European Political Economy at the LSE’s European Institute. Prior to joining LSE, he was Professor of International Economics at the University of Leuven, Belgium. He was a member of the Belgian parliament from 1991 to 2003).

The discussions about Brexit have centered around the question of whether it is in the national interest of the United Kingdom to remain in the EU or to leave it. It appears today that the British public is split about this question, so that the outcome of the referendum remains highly uncertain.

The question of whether it is in the interest of the EU that the UK remains a member of the union has been discussed much less intensely. The conventional wisdom in Brussels is that the answer to that question is positive. The UK should remain a member of the EU. A Brexit would be very harmful for the future of the European Union. But is that so?

There is a deep-seated hostility of the British media and large parts of the political elite against the European Union. This hostility has found its political expression in the Brexit movement. The proponents of Brexit cannot accept that the UK has lost sovereignty in many areas in which the EU has competences. They abhor the fact that Britain has to accept decisions taken in Brussels, even if it has opposed these. For the Brexit-camp there is only one ultimate objective: to return full sovereignty to Westminster.

Those who believe that a referendum will finally settle the issue have it wrong. Let us suppose that the Brexit-camp is defeated and the UK remains in the EU. That will not stop the hostility of those who have lost the referendum. It will not reduce their ambition to bring back full sovereignty to the United Kingdom.

Having found out that they cannot leave the EU, the Brexit-camp will shift its strategy to achieve the objective of returning power to Westminster. It will be a Trojan horse strategy. This will imply working from within to undermine the union. It will be a strategy aiming at shrinking the area of decision making with majority rule and replacing it with an intergovernmental approach. The purpose of the British enemies of the EU will be a slow deconstruction of the union so as to achieve the objective of returning power to Westminster.

One may argue that having lost the referendum, the Brexit-camp will lose influence. That is far from certain. The agreement achieved by Cameron with the rest of the EU has not transferred a shred of sovereignty back to Westminster. This will be seen by the Brexit-camp as a huge failure, leading them to intensify their deconstruction strategy.

I conclude that it is not in the interest of the EU to keep a country in the union that will continue to be hostile to “l’acquis communautaire” and that will follow a strategy to further undermine it.

I therefore also conclude that it will be better for the European Union that the Brexit-camp wins the referendum. When Britain is kept out of the EU it will no longer be able to undermine the EU’s cohesion. The EU will come out stronger.

Britain will be weakened and will have to knock at the door of the EU to start negotiating a trade agreement. In the process it will have lost its bargaining chips. The EU will be able to impose a trade deal that will not be much different from what the UK has today as a member of the EU. At the same time it will have reduced the power of a country whose ambition it is to undermine the cohesion of the union.

(This article first appeared in Social Europe)

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5 thoughts on “Another View

  1. There is no “country” called Britain. This is a term introduced by the elite establishment to impose a form of cultural hegemony on the Scottish nation. The United Kingdom is just that, a union of two kingdoms, Scotland and the Kingdom of England which legally included Wales and Ireland.

    The good professor seems to know very little about Scotland and our values. Vote SNP 1 and 2 in May to take another step forwards in restoring Scotland to its rightful place as an independent state. Then we can talk about whether or not we In Scotland want to be part of the EU.

  2. It’s always interesting and instructive hearing a view of UK from outwith MSM bubble. The UK still believes it has power and influence, sure it has some but, it’s not so much striding the world as simpering at the edges.

  3. Couldn’t agree more.

    I also believe that if the UK comes out of the EU then Scotland should hold IndyRef2. Prior to the second referendum Sturgeon should state that should the No or UKOK side win then the Scottish Parliament should be dissolved and the few shreds of sovereignty we have should be returned to Westminster. The SNP should then return to their single party issue position. Should they received a majority in Westminster then they declare UDI as it is then the “democratic will of the Scottish people”.

    This would also go some way to giving the two fingers to the No voters. They want to be part of the UK? Fine. Let them. Let them experience the full unfettered wrath of the future Tory Westminster governments. When they’re living like serfs from the 1800s then they may, just may, come to the enlightened decision that it was stupid to vote against their own best interests.

    Rant over.

  4. Is the author perchance Belgian? The Benelux countries are the greatest beneficiaries of the EU which is based in Brussels. Having no strong national identity or history of their own, and being but small weak countries constantly at the mercy of larger European powers like France, UK, or Germany, from their perspective they have nothing to lose and everything to gain from ‘ever closer union’.

    Why does the author assume that a future attempt by British eurosceptics to weaken ‘ever closer union’ by preferring intergovernmental deals is unique to the UK or that it is bad for Europe or the EU?

    The view from the Benelux countries is not shared across Europe. A fat cat class of Eurocrats in tow to corporate power in Brussels and Strasburg are pushing their own agenda and not the democratic will of the citizens of the EU. More time is needed for EU citizens to come to a common view and for the European Parliament to find its voice.

    Slowing centralisation down would improve European democracy

  5. It’s always instructive to get a view from another perspective, especially given the one-dimensional media we have in the UK.

    However, democracy in the EU, Britain and the World is a sham. We vote every so often and that’s the end and sum total of our influence. The people who exercise power and influence are often hidden (the lobbyists and their corporate/wealthy backers) but some of their names are known. Most governments and politicians are in cahoots with them to ensure that wealth and power remains in the hands of the few and the rest of us get screwed.

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