The European Union must reform or die

29 May 2017

On the 23rd of June 2016 the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union. In order to avoid this being a precedent for further succession, the EU must recognise its flaws.


Recent election results such as the Dutch and French election show that the UK, for now, is alone in wanting to forge a new path. As a ‘Remainer’ I’m glad to see this trend, not least because the alternatives are far more dangerous than the status quo. But a nagging feeling in me says this can’t go on. Like a marriage on the rocks, it must seek counselling or face the end.


Established in 1951 as the ‘European Coal and Steel Community’, its aim was to regulate the production of coal and steel within the six founder nations; Belgium, France, West Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. Fast forward sixty-six years and the EU is much larger. Made up of twenty-eight member states (twenty-seven if you exclude Britain), its regulation extends further than coal and steel into everyday good and services. You can travel freely within the Schengen area, and create a new life in any of the member states. Its common market now has a population of 510 million people.


Of course when you increase the amount of members and the size of its remit, the decision making process becomes much more complex and difficult to come to consensus on policy. This was outlined when the regional parliament of Wallonia in Belgium momentarily blocked the EU-Canada trade deal ‘CETA’ in October 2016.


Creating policy which suits all twenty-eight members is a difficult task. For example the European Central Bank, the central bank of the Euro, struggles to set monetary policy which suits all nineteen Euro nations. In the Mediterranean it has the struggling economies of Greece and Italy, in the north it has the booming German economy; both clearly in need of very different policies.


Both finding a policy which is multilaterally acceptable and works for everyone is a task often found after months of deliberation. It is anticipated that it will take six months for the Brexit deal to be approved by the European Parliament and the European council. It will also likely need approval by the regional and national parliaments of the remaining EU27 before reaching this stage. With so many players involved it is no surprise that such deals take time to approve.


One of the main reasons, I believe, the British voted to leave was because the EU was seen as distant and unimportant. It’s unsurprising as you can go days without seeing or hearing evidence of how it effects everyday life. Despite this, Cornwall was set to receive £2.5bn worth of funding for development over a twenty-year period starting in 2000, but it still voted to leave. One of the issues it has struggled with, was convincing the population that it was relevant at a time when populism is on the rise.


My support of reform is one of a European Union formed of two layers: the core and the periphery. The core would be those nations such as Germany and France who favour a more ‘federal’ EU with centralised government, common currency and unified defence force. The periphery would be for the more reluctant members such as the United Kingdom and Poland who would be opt out of many core policies but reserve their place in the customs union and parliament.


It would appear to be the ultimate act of appeasement. The federalists could achieve their dream of a ‘United States of Europe’ and press ahead with greater integration while the outer states would still input ideas on common policies such as environmental and consumer protection.


This would help to cut out a lot of the long decision making. By only allowing votes on issues that apply to the certain countries (and therefore lowering the amount of countries voting at any one time) there would be less disagreements and it would be easier to come to a consensus. At the heart of the EU would remain the core principals of free trade and open borders.


The EU must be more vocal in its achievements. During the Brexit campaigns many members of the general public were unsure what role it played in public life. It protects consumers, promotes prosperity and has helped promote collective European interests on the world stage. Domestic politicians need to be more transparent with the collective work which has helped create the country they live in today.


By enacting such reforms, the EU would send a message that it is serious about remaining as a long-term project. It would quash any ammunition anti-EU populists such as Marine Le Pen may have and enact a new era of European prosperity. A European Union that even the United Kingdom may want to be a part of.




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