Toward a Europe of the Regions? Brexit’s Real Implications
What do European citizens and politicians need to think about after the British vote?
- Britons are now forced to discuss and finally decide what Britain should look like in this century.
- All over Europe, and in the UK, civil society and citizens are beginning to think for themselves.
- We must take the European project out of the hands of economists, lawyers and regulators.
What does this mean for Europe?
1. The United Kingdom will probably break up. This will be important for Scotland and for Northern Ireland, it will be dramatic. For others, it will set an example.
2. Europe will miss the pragmatic, experienced and well-infomed voices of Britons in shaping the future of Europe.
3. Trust in politicians anywhere in Europe has reached an all-time low. Trust leaves on a horse, but arrives on foot.
4. Europe has lost its prestige in the world. It is no longer the continent that sets the standards, but one that cannot get its act together.
5. The European Union, for years to come, and to its detriment and chagrin, will have to deal with Brexit rather than getting on with its own far more urgent business.
What may be the bright side?
1. Britons are now forced to discuss and finally decide what Britain should look like in this century, rather than continuing in the aftermath of battles won in the 20th.
2. If Britain does choose to remain in the EU, she will have to behave herself.
3. All over Europe, including the UK, civil society and individual citizens are beginning to think for themselves. Rather than seeing the European Union as the worst possible solution for others, they take pride in this unique venture of shaping their future together.
4. Within the EU, the balance of power will be reframed. As the treaty stands, it is the 28 national governments that make up the Council who are in the driver’s seat, and while neither the Commision nor the European Parliament should question that, the Council may begin to accept the responsibility and pledge to be loyal to the Union rather than to its members.
5. Hopefully, the practice of palming anything that is uncomfortable off on to the Commission and then blaming it for making unnecessary rules, will slowly come to an end.
What should we think about?
1. We must take the European project out of the hands of economists, lawyers and regulators. What Europe needs is a vision, not ever more complicated rules and political compromise. There is no need to harmonize more and more details of people’s daily lives. We want a varied and colourful Europe.
2. We need to take into account that European Civil Society has gained strength and power and is currently gaining momentum. 21st century society will be built on a functioning division of responsibilities and checks and balances system between civil society, the state and the market.
3. We must shape the notion of a European demos. By definition, this will be ultranational and will entail complex arrangements of mixed loyalties to family and friends, segments of civil society, and multiple governmental structures.
4. Europe’s intellectual elites must think what a European governmental structure could eventually look like. Europe will not be the United States of Europe built on the theory of the United States of America in the 18th century, nor a Union of Sovereign States like the German Confederation in the 19th century.
5. It could well be the United Regions of Europe, which would ease tensions between the smaller and the larger EU member states, or it could be something quite new. We need lots of proposals on the table to discuss. At the moment, we have none.
6. If the Scots decide to end the Union with England, the EU must offer them as quick and easy a Remain scheme as possible. The same goes for other regions.
7. Perhaps some of the present EU member states will take longer than others to join the new Europe. We will need to devise a road map.
1. Germany is now in the uncomfortable position of having to assume a rather solitary leadership role, for which the government, let alone the citizenry is neither well prepared nor well suited.
2. Yet, Germany’s geography and size, the strength of its economy, and, in comparative terms, its political stability all seem to suggest this.
3. We can only hope the German government will continue to act with extreme prudence and caution.
4. In a sense, the way the government handled last year’s refugee crisis has become Germany’s entry ticket to the global village.
5. Germany, for the first time in history, has become an immigrant society – like the rest of Europe.
The Common House of Europe
There is no alternative but to get on with building the Common House of Europe. This will have to be achieved by the citizens bottom-up, and with the help of committed and honest leaders.
We have nothing else to offer to our children and grandchildren. And what is most important: It will be a great place to live in!