Archive for the ‘European politics’ Category

Report: Europeans Do Not Exclude War on the Old Continent

Europeans believe that war on the Old Continent is possible. The main reason - the tension between the West and Russia. The findings are from a report commissioned by a prestigious German foundation.

In the context of the dramatic challenges facing the European security architecture, the emergence of hot and cold conflicts, annexes and increasingly frequent cyber attacks, the aim of the report is to highlight two key factors that matter in decision making: public opinion and expert assessments security and the foreign policy situation in Europe.

This is the conclusion of the document, called the Security Radar 2019 - A Wake Up Alarm for Europe, commissioned by a prestigious German foundation and showing that millions of Europeans are expecting war conflicts in Europe.

The study was conducted in seven countries - Germany, France, Latvia, Poland, Russia, Serbia and Ukraine.

Almost half of the population of these countries - 47%, expects similar actions.

Apart from the tensions between the West and Moscow, the situation is compounded by the regrouping of four major security-related factors - the European Union, China, Russia and the United States.

Experts also recognize Europeans' very low trust in political institutions and the rule of law. Army and police have higher levels of approval.

Mogherini: In June, North Macedonia and Albania will Start Negotiations with the EU

European Union High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini expects North Macedonia and Albania to start negotiations for accession to the European Union in June.

"When you look at the map of Europe, you see the Balkans as part of it, so instead of the term enlargement, I personally want to talk about the reunification of the Balkans with Europe," Mogherini said at the Foreign Policy Committee of the European Parliament.

According to her, with consistent policy, the EU can get the maximum impact. She reiterated that "North Macedonia and Albania will start accession negotiations with the EU in June."

The EP: Stronger EU Borders With a New Standing Corps of 10000 Border Guards

The European Parliament adopted the Commission's proposal to reinforce the European Border and Coast Guard Agency with a standing corps of 10,000 border guards by 2027.

The Agency will also have a stronger mandate on returns and will cooperate more closely with non-EU countries, including those beyond the EU's immediate neighbourhood. This reinforcement will give the Agency the right level of ambition to respond to the common challenges facing Europe in managing migration and its external borders.

Welcoming the positive vote, First Vice-President Frans Timmermans and Commissioner for Home Affairs, Migration and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos said: “The reinforced European Border and Coast Guard with a new 10,000 strong standing corps of border guards will give Member States the support where and when they need it to better manage their external borders. The standing corps will be operational and ready to be deployed to assist Member States as of 2021 and will gradually reach its full capacity of 10,000 border guards by 2027. This is a major step forward in the EU's collective ability to protect its borders and we can be proud of what we have achieved. […] The reinforced European Border and Coast Guard will bring about a Europe that protects: a Europe that is better at managing our common external borders, fighting irregular migration, carrying out returns and cooperating with partner countries, beyond the EU's immediate neighbourhood. After today's positive vote and adoption in the European Parliament, our main task is now to ensure the quick implementation of the Agency's reinforced mandate and the swift roll out of the standing corps. The preparatory steps will start in the coming weeks and the Commission will lend its full support in this process.” 

Not always so Eurosceptic: Britain and the inter-war dream of European unity

tommaso milaniBritain has not always been reluctant to countenance European unity. Tommaso Milani (LSE) recalls the intellectual impetus for a European community in the inter-war period, which was driven by a desire for peace and, from some, the left-wing case for a socialist European economy.

As history is written and rewritten in constant dialogue with the present, Brexit is likely to affect the way Britons think about their national past. Due to current events, some of the interpretations of the relationship that the UK has had with the European Communities from 1950 onwards will undergo close and renewed scrutiny. Perhaps future research will finally dispel the aura of historical inevitability that surrounds Britain’s pursuit of EEC membership – which is how the story has often been presented in textbooks and surveys for the general public.

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A Conservative (National) party poster from 1935. Image: Bodleian Library via a CC-BY-NC-SA 3.0 licence

The task of the scholars operating in this field – to quote a witty analogy coined by Wolfram Kaiser – may no longer resemble “that of a pathologist concerned with identifying the syndromes responsible for Britain’s dysfunctional behaviour”, the latter being “the abnormal detachment” from the European project following the second world war. Writing in 2019, the assumption that Britain’s fate lies, and supposedly always lay, in Europe looks increasingly questionable. Long gone is the belief, so widespread in the 1970s, that the decision to join European institutions had become, in the words of Frederick S Northedge, “natural and perhaps inescapable” and only the “faulty perceptions, anticipations and priorities” of successive post-war cabinets prevented the country from embracing its preordained destiny earlier.

However, even revisionism has its dangers – the biggest of which is to further downplay the already neglected role that ideas of European unity played in British history and culture, hence fuelling a narrative of separateness and estrangement. Scholars must resist the temptation to conflate the aloofness that the British political class occasionally displayed towards institutional endeavours aimed at fostering European integration with a general lack of interest in blueprints for a federal Europe. While it is true that British leaders – especially when serving in office – have been scarcely receptive to ‘Europeanist’ intellectuals and societal pressure groups, those inputs nonetheless existed and drew heavily from a long-standing tradition of a distinctively British – as well as imperial – international thought.

If we move beyond the examination of the European policies actually put in place and incorporate a wider range of elite-level discourses on Britain’s position towards the Continent in our analysis, the thesis according to which supranationalism is a fundamentally non-British, or even anti-British, idea appears utterly untenable. As a consequence, the more we scratch beneath the government level, the less persuasive the exceptionalist accounts – based on an allegedly unbridgeable gulf between British and European attitudes towards national sovereignty – seem to be.

To be sure, even when sceptical or semi-detached, British intellectuals of the 19th and 20th centuries could hardly ignore the significance of Europe as a political arena – partly because of its geographical proximity, partly because the rise of the British Empire led them to focus on international relations as a distinct area of inquiry. After 1914, it was the problem of peace that came to dominate British thinking about the Continent – and understandably so, considering the sheer loss of life that the first world war wrought on the UK. While British policy promoted the creation of a relatively loose League of Nations, prominent voices contended that only the centralised pooling of armaments, rather than a non-binding legal framework for member states, would prevent the outbreak of wars in the long run. The trajectory of Philip Kerr – a distinguished politician, editor, and diplomat better known as Lord Lothian – from critical backer of the League to advocate of European federalism through a prolonged flirtation with appeasement epitomises the painful process through which growing sections of the British establishment called into question the sustainability of the 1919 Versailles settlement.

A second, original source of support for the creation of a European federation involving Britain came from left-wing thinkers who, during the Great Depression, highlighted the danger that the drive towards greater capital concentration, economic nationalism and autarchy would exacerbate international tensions. Rather than simply championing the restoration of liberal free trade, authors like Henry Noel Brailsford, Kingsley Martin, and Leonard Woolf envisaged a European federation centred on wide-ranging economic planning, aimed at ensuring full employment, monetary stability, equal living standards between different European regions, and – perhaps more crucially – a unique sphere of influence for British socialism, which they regarded as different both from American unfettered capitalism and from the Soviet, more authoritarian brand of it.

Acknowledging the existence of a substantial body of imaginative, highly sophisticated and at times surprisingly far-sighted literature on European unity produced by British intellectuals before 1945 should not, however, be taken as conclusive evidence of Britain’s inherent European vocation. Rather, it should encourage historians to investigate how, in many respects, the peculiar, historically contingent form of European integration experimented from 1950 onwards – i.e. the Monnetian, functionalist undertaking centred on sectoral integration and aimed at achieving increasingly close interdependence between member states – was poorly suited to meet the expectations, the interests, and the demands that British supporters of European unity had expressed during the previous decades.

Researchers may come to realise that an even more profound mismatch emerged between the neat, highly stylised but deeply coherent British models of European federation elaborated throughout the interwar period and the complex, muddled, and inevitably haphazard set of institutional arrangements through which the actual European Union was gradually built. Nevertheless, British visions of European unity deserve better consideration – not only as a repository of ideas, but also as a reminder of the roads not taken by the process of integration.

If, as the convulsions of Brexit suggest, Britain’s relationship with Europe is bound to remain problematic, unresolved and impervious to any teleological reading, one could only hope that greater engagement with British ideas will stimulate Europeans to reflect more critically about the EU – its achievements, its shortcomings, and its future prospects.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Brexit blog, nor the LSE.

Further reading and references

M. Beloff, Britain and European Union: Dialogue of the Deaf (Basingstoke: Macmillan 1996)

D. P. Billington Jr, Lothian: Philip Kerr and the Quest for World Order (Westport: Praeger 2006)

M. Burgess, The British Tradition of Federalism (London: Leicester University Press 1995)

M. Gilbert, ‘The Sovereign Remedy of European Unity: The Progressive Left and Supranational Government, 1935–1945’, International Politics (46:1 2009)

J. Frankel, British Foreign Policy, 1945-1973 (London: The Royal Institute of International Affairs 1975)

W. Kaiser, Using Europe, Abusing the Europeans: Britain and European Integration, 1945-63 (Basingstoke: Macmillan 1999, 2nd ed.)

T. Milani, ‘Retreat from the Global? European Unity and British Progressive Intellectuals, 1930-1945’, International History Review, January 2019, 1-18.

T. Milani, “From Laissez-Faire to Supranational Planning: The Economic Debate within Federal Union (1938-1945)”, European Review of History / Revue européenne d’histoire, (23:4 2016), 664-685.

F. S. Northedge, Descent from Power: British Foreign Policy, 1945-1973 (London: George Allen & Unwin 1974)

Dr Tommaso Milani is a Guest Teacher of International History at the LSE and a stipendiary lecturer in Modern European History at Balliol College, Oxford.

The EU’s “ever tighter union” needs informed debate, not blowing things up

Supporters of a hard Brexit have cited research by Matthias Matthijs, Craig Parsons and Christina Toenshoff to make their case – but these political-economy scholars see their work pointing in other directions. Describing the EU as an “ever tighter union,” their research highlights that some constraints on member states are now stronger than those on states within the US federation. This description can indeed support some criticisms of the EU, but also implies criticisms of American governance. Their broad takeaway contrasts sharply to the dominant tone of pro-Brexit thinking: we need careful and well-informed debate on these complex questions of economic rules and policy, not simplistic calls to blow things up.

As the Brexit drama drags on, now moving to salvage an orderly withdrawal with a “flextension” into October 2019, hard-core Brexiteers are increasingly frustrated. In the view of The Telegraph’s Allister Heath – complaining about Theresa May’s discussions of compromise options with Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn—there is “no betrayal May won’t countenance in order to push through her Remainer Brexit.” To justify a harder Brexit, Heath pointed approvingly to our recent publication, “Ever Tighter Union? Brexit, Grexit, and Frustrated Differentiation in the Single Market and Eurozone.” We offer this post to discuss its implications in a more balanced way. We are comfortable connecting our research to some criticisms of the EU, but not to endorsing Brexit (let alone a hard “cliff edge” Brexit scenario).

Our paper appeared in a special issue collection of Comparative European Politics addressing pressures for “differentiation” in the EU, i.e. various arrangements that allow member-states to mix and match their European commitments. It is common these days to suggest that more differentiation is inevitable in the EU’s future. The Union already functions at “multiple speeds” of integration, but has become both more heterogeneous and more centralized over time, leading to rising tensions.

We cautioned that differentiation may not come easily. Recent history underscores obstacles to differentiated deals in the EU’s core areas of the Single Market and the Eurozone. In the fall of 2015, the British sought various opt-outs in the Single Market and were largely rebuffed. That set up the 2016 Brexit vote—which quickly hit the same EU wall against attempts to “cherry-pick” (that is, differentiate) some Single Market commitments while dropping others. Meanwhile, in the Eurozone, the crisis-struck Greeks sought wiggle room within the rules, and flirted with a euro exit (“Grexit”) if they didn’t get it. They got neither: rather than differentiation or Grexit, we saw a tightening of Eurozone oversight of national budgets and banking.

To highlight the distinctive nature of these EU requirements, our paper compares them to requirements the U.S. federal government makes of its states for market openness and fiscal discipline. We argued that “[EU] rules in these areas are considerably more constraining than are analogous federal constraints within the USA.” This is especially clear in the Eurozone: Brussels reviews (and can veto) national budgets and borrowing, but Washington D.C. has no similar powers. On the Single Market, Heath summarizes well our contrast of EU regulatory “harmonisation” to American fragmentation:

A number of US federal agencies are responsible for the regulation and minimum standards of certain goods… But unlike in the EU, where all of these rules are also centralised, states can set higher standards if they choose to. California operates its own standards in 800 [chemicals]; the equivalent number for the UK is zero. On top of that, many US goods aren’t regulated by the federal government, so in those areas states have greater powers than EU members. Lifts are a case in point: different rules apply in different states.

As to services, the US is even more decentralised, with states imposing their own laws when it comes to everything from lawyers to architects. Last but not least, US states are freer when it comes to awarding public-sector contracts: it’s the very opposite of the EU, where countries are bound strictly by common rules. The US system is too protectionist and anti-competitive, and in need of drastic reforms, but the point is that the EU now operates more like a single country in many areas than even America.

It does not surprise us that Brexiteers think that our “ever tighter union” image supports their cause. But Heath’s interpretation of our empirics displays the kind of careless thinking that drove the whole Brexit train-wreck in the first place. He jumps to overly hasty conclusions that say more about his preconceived antipathy to Europe than anything else.

He writes that the comparison proves “that harmonisation isn’t necessary to promote cross-border trade and mobility.” Not so fast: higher cross-border trade and mobility in the US do not prove that it has well-designed regulations. Americans share a language, an identity, and a distinctive culture of mobility. They trade and move despite costly regulatory barriers. The EU situation is the opposite. Europeans speak different languages and do not even move much inside their countries. They would presumably need to remove far more regulatory barriers than Americans to foster cross-border flows.

Heath’s big takeaway is that centralisation in the EU “won’t end until all differences and all national self-government have been stamped out.” Even if we restate this silly hyperbole as more reasonable concern about EU authority, an economically-literate person must recognize some benefits from “stamping out” regulatory differences. As Heath allows in passing, our comparison displays a protectionist US in need of reform as much as it showcases an overbearing EU. Maintaining different standards for lifts is simply bad governance. Consumers pay more when manufacturers must tailor lifts to different jurisdictions’ specifications. We believe that this variation often protects big U.S. producers against smaller or foreign competitors with less capacity to navigate a bewildering regulatory thicket. The US could actually do with a version of the EU’s 1995 Lifts Directive.

The same goes for other areas. EU requirements for competition in public contracts may feel onerous, but they make more economic sense than the laws of 47 U.S. states that favour their own firms (including outright bans: Oregon agencies may only purchase printing services in Oregon). Europeans have mixed feelings about the EU’s efforts to facilitate free movement—legitimately so—but it makes sense that experienced electricians licensed in one jurisdiction can safely work in others. In the US they cannot, period.

Our point is certainly not that the EU displays perfect economic governance. Far from it. Its regulatory harmonisation can be insensitive to conditions on the ground. Member-states have valid reasons to seek more discretion on certain issues or more economic policy levers, especially during hard times. In the Eurozone, the fiscal rules and some constraints that come with banking union may be economically inefficient and politically inexpedient (though concerns about Eurozone rules aren’t directly relevant to calls for Brexit). Our point is that economic governance is complex, involves many trade-offs, and requires careful consideration that can be helpfully informed by comparisons across polities that do things very differently.

Stepping back, it often seems that the Brexiteers have forgotten much of free-market economics, though most claim to be devotees of markets. For a century and a half after Adam Smith, the main challenges for markets were understood to come from protectionist local jurisdictions. Higher-level governments and international trade treaties fostered markets by tying lower-level actors to the mast of openness. With the 20th-century rise of modern economic regulation, the Soviet Union, and welfare states, many economists—especially American and British economists—shifted their emphasis to cast “big government” as the main concern for markets. Both concerns make some sense, but Brexit thinking remains selectively focused on this latter theme. Obsessed with the beast of the “Brussels bureaucracy” and the downsides of harmonization, Brexiteers have forgotten the more basic (and British-led) thinking of the 19th century. So too have most American conservatives today, who ignore ill-justified interstate barriers and champion “states’ rights.”

Again, we do not mean to dismiss criticisms of the EU’s “tight” constraints. There are economic and plenty of political reasons to debate them. But these questions of economic governance are too complex—and too consequential—to answer by chasing after Brexit unicorns of “taking back control” and dreams of Empire 2.0. Britain and Europe need a careful dialogue that takes seriously the costs, benefits and trade-offs between common rules and space for policy flexibility to help democracies respond to their electorates’ legitimate demands.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Brexit blog, nor the LSE. © Raimond Spekking / CC BY-SA 4.0 (via Wikimedia Commons)

Dr Matthias Matthijs is Assistant Professor of International Political Economy at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, DC. 

Dr Craig Parsons is Professor of Political Science, University of Oregon.

Christina Toenshoff is a PhD student in Political Science at Stanford University with a focus on International Relations and Comparative Politics. 

Europeans scarred by globalisation are more likely to support Brexit too

Simone Baglioni, Olga Biosca, Tom Montgomery (Glasgow Caledonian University)  reveal that those who were more likely to support Brexit in continental Europe belonged to social groups who have paid the highest costs for globalisation. They argue that this is because political leadership at the EU level has failed to defend societies from the scarring effects of globalisation and the global financial crisis.

There is almost always something final and conclusive when the result of a vote is announced, a sense that months if not years of debate have come to an end. For many, that feeling of conclusion of the debate surrounding the UK’s membership of European Union had been reached in the early hours of the morning of the 24 June 2016, when the veteran BBC broadcaster David Dimbleby uttered the words ‘we’re out’, confirming the decision of the electorate to vote to leave the European Union. However, rather than a sense of closure, the result opened up a number of other questions, not just ‘how did we get here?’ or ‘where are we going?’ but also, ‘what does this result mean for others?’.

Well over two years later, many of these questions remain unanswered. However, despite the air of uncertainty, there is something that is now apparent, Brexit was not an event, but a process and one that can only be properly understood by recognising the various factors that have shaped the context in which voters cast their ballots. It might be easy to imagine that the internal turbulence with the UK that has followed the Brexit process may quell the willingness of other European electorates to embrace the messages that so successfully managed to convince British voters to ignore every warning issued and every promise made by the remain campaign and instead to vote to leave the EU. However, in the course of our analysis, based upon individual-level survey data collected during a large comparative study, we found that any complacency about the potential for future political upsets should be tempered by the reality of the factors underpinning the causes of the Brexit vote. Moreover, our findings sound a warning for those currently campaigning in the run-up to the European Parliament elections taking place in May of this year.

Using data from a nationally representative survey conducted in 2016 for the Horizon 2020 TransSOL (Transnational Solidarity at Times of Crisis) study in eight European countries (Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Poland, Switzerland and the United Kingdom), we analysed answers from 11,865 respondents to the question: ‘Should the UK remain a member or leave the EU?’ Among the countries in our study we found that there existed three groups: firstly, there were those countries where those who were ‘pro-brexit’ outnumbered ‘remainers’ such as Switzerland (67.4%), France (60.1%) and Greece (59.1%); then, there were respondents based in countries where ‘remainers’ outnumbered ‘brexiters’ such as Denmark (58.3%), Germany (58.6.4%) and Poland (75.7%). Finally, a third group showed a more even split between ‘remainers’ and ‘brexiters’: Italy and the UK where brexiters were 50.6% of the respondents.

CC Public Domain

However, to better understand the factors shaping these preferences, we dug deeper into the socio-demographic characteristics and the political attitudes of the respondents using statistical analysis. Our results revealed that those who were more likely to support Brexit across the eight countries were to be in those social groups who have paid the highest costs for globalisation: that is those workers whose jobs can more easily be (or have been) taken away either by outsourcing or automation and whose skills and work experience make hard to convert into the new global ‘smart’ economy of services and IT employments. These groups perceived a threat emanating from the opening doors of the EU project, which meant to them more immigrants to compete with them for the few available jobs, rather than more opportunities for them to seek jobs across the EU open borders. And that was the case even more for those living in countries with a poorer economic outlook or in a context that had sustained the worst impacts of the global financial crisis in 2008, such as Greece and Italy. Therefore one of the freedoms most prized by supporters of the European Union, the freedom of movement of people, is perceived as a threat rather than an opportunity by many citizens across Europe.

Thus our findings reveal the difficulty of the EU as a project to speak to those segments of European societies who could have gained most from the development of a single market and a polity sharing the same democratic values and a failure of political leadership to defend them from the scarring effects of globalisation and the global financial crisis. Rather than capitulating to the anti-immigrant and nativist rhetoric of right-wing populists, European leaders who believe in the idea of a Social Europe must now be bold not just in their words but also in their actions. Our findings did indicate a way forward. In our analysis, those citizens with a strong sense of individual attachment to the European Union were least likely to support Brexit. At first, this may seem obvious, but on reflection, it speaks to a crucial question of what the EU represents for the ordinary citizens as they take the kids to school on a cold Paris morning or return home late from another shift in a Warsaw factory. Those with a progressive vision of the European Union have much to accomplish and the extent of that challenge will, once again, become clear in the European Parliament elections in May.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Brexit blog, nor the LSE. The article connected to the blog has been published in the American Behavioral Scientist.

Prof Simone Baglioni is a professor of politics at the Yunus Centre for Social Business and Health, Glasgow Caledonian University.

Dr Olga Biosca is a senior lecturer at the Yunus Centre for Social Business and Health, Glasgow Caledonian University. 

Dr Tom Montgomery is a postdoctoral researcher at the Yunus Centre for Social Business and Health, Glasgow Caledonian University. 

Brexit is making Europe stronger

caroline de gruyterThe EU27 are holding together throughout the twists and turns of Brexit. This is simply because it is in their interest to do so, writes Caroline de Gruyter (European Council on Foreign Relations).

Last month’s Brexit drama was such a compelling view that it even drew Germany football fans away from the Bayern Munich match against Liverpool – to the match playing out in the House of Commons. “Order!” they roared, like the speaker, John Bercow. “Oóórder!!”

tusk macron

Donald Tusk ad Emmanuel Macron clasp hands at the European Council meeting on 22 March 2019. Photo: European Council President via a CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0 licence

This is Brexit for many Europeans: entertainment. It can be much more exciting than football, soap operas, or talk shows. There is a parallel with the Greek crisis. At the time, some people could not get enough of parliamentary debates in Athens. They watched them on television like addicts. Crooked politicians dismantling each other’s lies; a prime minister changing opinion and strategy every week. All the Shakespearean characters were there. We all had strong opinions. Which, of course, were self-indulgent: thank God this happened to the Greeks and not to us.

With all due respect to those disadvantaged by Brexit or the euro crisis – what is fascinating is that it does not really matter what happens in Athens or London. It is mainly theatre. Perhaps this is why the British let themselves go to such an extent, even with the whole world watching: they know that what will happen is inconsequential. UK politicians can make as many U-turns and pirouettes as they fancy, because ultimately they know they are a country leaving a huge bloc of ever-quibbling member states that, however stubbornly, all stick to one common goal: to protect European institutions and EU rules from harm. This is why it is Brussels and not London that, at every step along the Brexit road, has determined the conditions. The latest example of this is the 27 European leaders rejecting the British prime minister’s request for an extension of the Brexit deadline of 30 June. By means of reply they imposed their own timeline, which she had to accept.

Of course, the British do have choices, but only within a bandwidth defined by the 27. The EU politely receives and considers every infeasible plan coming from London, like a ‘benevolent hegemon’ careful not to step on its small neighbour’s toes. But if such a plan hinders the EU, the 27 reject it. This is what happened recently with the bizarre ‘honesty boxes’ that the UK government proposed to put along the Irish border in case of no deal. Traders were supposed to declare their own goods, on a voluntary basis, in those boxes. This, London argued, would make border checks in Ireland unnecessary. But it seemed that EU officials had read the extensive literature about smuggling on the British Isles better than some of their British colleagues. The EU has to protect its single market. If not, it will collapse. So the 27 did not even consider the proposal.

So all in all, the Brexit story tells us a lot about the EU. Predictions continue that the EU will implode, explode, or otherwise disappear – but the reverse seems to be happening. It is becoming stronger. This is not because it has dictatorial tendencies or everyone has suddenly become Europhile, but for the simple reason that 27 member states have an interest in this being so. For this reason they survived the euro crisis, the migration crisis, and Brexit so far.

To be sure, the EU has major problems, but its member know too that the international set-up has changed. They foresee a looming battle between superpowers. The United States, China, and Russia are all circling the EU and European governments are starting to fear for the future of their peace, their riches, and their way of life.

This is why France and Germany are now working on what Constanze Stelzenmüller of the Brookings Institution calls “a fourth story for Europe”. She writes: “The first story was about peace; the second, prosperity; and the third, democratic transformation. This fourth story is about the protection of what Macron terms “civilization” and [CDU-party leader] Kramp-Karrenbauer calls the “European way of life”: representative democracy, the rule of law, individual freedom and a social market economy.” In short, this is about preserving the achievements of three-quarters of a century on a continent previously ridden by war. This explains why EU countries are trying to strengthen the eurozone,and are planning to set up a European Security Council and introduce better monitoring of external borders.

The prerequisites to make the “fourth” story successful are already built into the federal structure of the EU. Its backbone are the institutions and the common rules. No one fancies exits any more. Even the staunchest Eurosceptics have changed their minds. Now they want to be elected to the European Parliament, send commissioners to Brussels, and fill EU courts with judges. They have understood that if you cannot abandon or escape European institutions, you must try to control them.

They have finally grasped something that the Swiss and Norwegians have experienced for a long time but the Brexiteers, absorbed with themselves and their jolly plans, failed to see: European institutions are solid and powerful, shaping events and structures far beyond the EU.

This post represents the views of the author and not those of the Brexit blog, nor the LSE. It first appeared at the European Council on Foreign Relations blog.

Caroline de Gruyter is a Council Member of the European Council on Foreign Relations and an author and journalist based in Oslo.

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