It has not passed unnoticed across the EU or around the world that the EU faces a series of challenges that, for some, could make or break it. The EU’s Brexit question might be only one, but is not one to be overlooked. For a long time many – including in the UK – felt a British in/out referendum was an unlikely possibility, especially when compared to other crises. But would the EU be better off without Britain? To borrow from US President Johnson: would it be better for the EU to have the UK inside the tent pissing out or outside the tent pissing in?
We can only answer that by asking what type of union the EU would be if the UK left. This is not just an important question for the EU; it is one the UK itself needs to reflect on. Britain’s major foreign policy concern has always been and will remain the geopolitics of its home continent.
In this blog, I outline how Brexit might shape the EU in five broad areas: the unity of the EU and its place in Europe; the EU’s balance of power; its political economy; security and global relations; and relations with the UK.
In each of these I consider one of three scenarios similar to those Tom Wright of Brookings mapped out in 2013 for the future of the EU in the face of the Eurozone crisis. Scenario 1 imagines a Brexit triggering centrifugal forces that unravel or weaken the EU. Scenario 2 is a largely no-change scenario, with the EU muddling in the face of a Brexit. Scenario 3 portrays a Brexit leading to more integration in the EU.
The table below summarises the analysis of where the EU might be headed.
The Impact of Brexit on the EU
Which of these paths the EU follows will depend in no small part on how it responds to such a vote by the British to leave. But ‘it’ is not a single entity. The EU’s position will have to reflect those of the governments of 27 member states, the EU’s institutions, the views of allies such as the USA. As the brief outlines, to understand how these will respond we need to keep in mind five I’s: the role of Ideas such as European integration; Interests such as trade and security needs; Institutions and the links and limitations they can impose; International pressures and expectations; and the outlook of Individuals such as, but not only, the German Chancellor.
This post, which first appeared on the Dahrendorf Forum site, represents the views of the author and not those of BrexitVote, nor the LSE. Download Tim Oliver’s Dahrendorf Analysis on the impact of a Brexit on the EU here. Photo via Flickr: speedpropertybuyers.co.uk