This blog is hosted on Ideas on EuropeIdeas on Europe Avatar

The Brexit Blog

Analysing UK-EU relations

Latest

Does Brexit spell boom or doom for European integration?

So far fears that Brexit would lead to the unravelling of the EU have proved unfounded. Nevertheless, the effect of the UK’s withdrawal on the future of European integration remains open to much debate and speculation. Whether Brexit spell boom or doom for European integration was the topic of a recently published report for the European Parliament’s Committee on Constitutional Affairs. The report’s editor, Tim Oliver, sets out some of the report’s key findings. 

Britain’s relationship with the EU and European integration has rarely been smooth. Britain’s decision to leave might, therefore, free the Union of what Sheffield University Professor Stephen George, in his 1990 book, termed ‘an awkward partner’. But note the word ‘might’. As with any Member State, the extent to which the UK has shaped European integration is difficult to accurately measure and assess. Britain might be described as ‘an awkward partner’ but that doesn’t mean it’s ‘the awkward partner’. Other Member States have also been awkward and Britain’s own contributions can often be overlooked in favour of a focus on when it has been difficult.

Nevertheless, with Britain headed towards the exit, the EU needs to assess how it will be changed by the departure of its third largest Member State. Before the UK’s referendum, views were expressed that a vote for Leave could bring about significant changes to European integration. On the one hand stood the prospect of the EU unravelling, with the UK’s vote triggering similar referendums elsewhere in the EU, perhaps even provoking the Union’s disintegration. On the other hand, there was the possibility that the UK’s withdrawal could lead to the strengthening of the Union by facilitating further integration. As of the summer of 2018, fears that the UK’s withdrawal would lead to the unravelling of the EU have proved unfounded. Nevertheless, the effect of the UK’s withdrawal on the future of European integration remains open to much debate and speculation.

To assess what the full effect might be, the European Parliament’s Committee on Constitutional Affairs commissioned a report into the topic that was released recently. ‘The Impact of the UK’s Withdrawal on EU Integration’ was edited by myself and with contributions from Catherine BarnardSteven PeersMatthias MatthijsLinda Hantrais and Garvan Walshe. We approached the question by looking back at the UK’s positive and negative effects on European integration in several areas. From this, we drew up an assessment of how the UK’s withdrawal would affect future European integration. The areas chosen were the internal market, social policy, justice and home affairs, the Eurozone, and foreign, security and defence. These areas were chosen because they cover the EU’s political economy (internal market and the Eurozone), society (social policy), and Europe’s security and international standing (the area of freedom, security and justice, and foreign, security and defence cooperation). Each of these areas has seen varying degrees of integration both historically and more recently. The UK’s involvement also varies in each area, due, for instance, to its non-membership of the Eurozone contrasting with its central role in the internal market and its ambivalent role in defence and security policy.

The full report – which can be found here – was presented to the AFCO committee by Garvan Walshe at a special workshop on 11 July. The report shows that in some areas the UK has delayed or blocked European integration, making it more of an awkward partner in European integration than most other Member States have been. The UK’s opposition to European integration stems from the UK’s domestic politics, where, in contrast with the situation in other Member States, British politicians have rarely if ever pursued anything more than a transactional approach to EU membership. The UK’s departure could, therefore, be an opportunity for the remaining EU to integrate further.

However, it should not be overlooked that, often, the UK’s delaying and blocking tactics have been bypassed. One famous example is in the Eurozone, where Britain’s opposition to the Fiscal Compact led other Member States to establish the agreement outside the EU. The UK’s withdrawal is also not a short-term process; as it continues there is a risk that the UK could become a non-EU alternative that appeals to Eurosceptics in the remaining EU Member States. Furthermore, other Member States have also been awkward partners. Their awkwardness is now likely to play out in a process of differentiated integration, where some Member States integrate more quickly in some areas compared to others.

While the EU is unlikely to disintegrate because of the UK’s withdrawal, the report notes that significant systemic challenges remain, not least within the Eurozone and in facing a range of international pressures. This means the effect of Brexit on European integration will be determined by a balance between two effects. First, the UK’s success or failure outside the EU and how this is perceived within the remaining Member States. Second, the EU’s ability to overcome its systemic challenges, and so continue to demonstrate to EU citizens that, compared to other options, it can respond to their political demands and provide effective solutions to the problems they face.

This article first appeared on the Loughborough University London blog. 

COMMENT

Recent Articles

Europe’s Brexit: a successful outcome of negotiations for all?

Published on by | Comments Off on Europe’s Brexit: a successful outcome of negotiations for all?

The recently published Europe’s Brexit: EU Perspectives on Britain’s Vote to Leave concludes with several key themes about how the other 27 Member States and EU institutions approached and continue to handle Brexit. As should be more than clear to many by now, the story of Brexit cannot be told from a British perspective alone. Nor […]

Britain’s Brexit Strategy: Lions Misled by Donkeys

Published on by | Comments Off on Britain’s Brexit Strategy: Lions Misled by Donkeys

Prime Minister Theresa May’s speech in Florence was intended to move forward stalled Brexit negotiations. But as I argue in this post that first appeared on the Dahrendorf Blog, Britain has found itself running into numerous problems with Brexit because its strategy for exiting the EU has been a textbook example of failed strategic thinking. […]

A Brexit summer reading guide

Published on by | 1 Comment

Have you been struggling to keep up with all the new books on Brexit? Were you secretly planning to spend your summer holiday catching up on some of them? OK – perhaps not. But if you were, then here to help is a guide on what to take away with you to the beach or pool to […]

Brexit is a fascinating case study for students and teachers of UK and EU politics

Published on by | Comments Off on Brexit is a fascinating case study for students and teachers of UK and EU politics

Brexit is both a boon and a bane to the teaching and study of British and European politics. In this piece written with Alex Boyle, a politics student at the University of Liverpool, we set out the five ways in which Brexit is central to the study and teaching of both.  As a student learning the […]

Britain and the EU: a Question of International Relations

Published on by | 1 Comment

In his Chatham House speech setting out the UK’s demands for a renegotiated relationship, David Cameron argued Britain’s EU membership is not merely a question of jobs and trade but of national security. Eurosceptics argue Britain’s leaders have too often allowed such foreign policy concerns to be put before domestic priorities, especially economic and democratic needs. Recent events in […]

A Kingdom of Many Parts: England, London, the UK, and the EU

Published on by | Comments Off on A Kingdom of Many Parts: England, London, the UK, and the EU

The English make up 85% of the UK’s population, with London home to a population equal to that of Scotland and Wales combined and an economy closely linked to Europe. But the capital and its country are at odds when it comes to Europe. Analysing patterns and differences of opinion in England, and especially the outlook […]

How the EU responds to a British withdrawal will be determined by five key factors

Published on by | Comments Off on How the EU responds to a British withdrawal will be determined by five key factors

How might the EU respond to the unprecedented event of a Brexit? Its response will be defined by 5 I’s: ideas, interests, institutions, the international, and individuals. Looking at these 5 I’s also sheds light on various theoretical approaches to understanding Brexit. How would the rest of the EU respond to a British vote to […]

More literature on Brexit and the UK-EU renegotiation

Published on by | Comments Off on More literature on Brexit and the UK-EU renegotiation

Plenty of literature coming out on the UK-EU relationship. Here I’ll quickly list four reports. In January of this year the Czech EUROPEUM Institute for European Policy published a policy brief on what the EU can do to contain the risk of Brexit: http://www.europeum.org/en/eu-politics-and-institutions/107-analyses-articles-comments/2306-jan-vaska-what-can-the-eu-do-to-contain-the-risk-of-the-brexit The LSE’s EUROPP blog is publishing a series I’m compiling made up of […]

Why it might not be all right on the Euro-referendum night

Published on by | Comments Off on Why it might not be all right on the Euro-referendum night

Nobody should take anything for granted when it comes to Britain’s vote to stay or leave the EU. Many of the mistakes and inaccurate assumptions that have overshadowed recent votes could be repeated with the EU vote and lead to Britain leaving the EU. A British referendum on its EU membership vote was not something […]

European thinking on its British Question

Published on by | Comments Off on European thinking on its British Question

Welcome to the Brexit Blog. This blog is not simply about British debates over the UK’s future in the EU. It is more about what Britain’s debate, attempted renegotiation, referendum and the outcome of that referendum could mean for the rest of Europe. As a start I’ve compiled below an overview of the literature that exists […]

UACES and Ideas on Europe do not take responsibility for opinions expressed in articles on blogs hosted on Ideas on Europe. All opinions are those of the contributing authors.