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Federal Trust Brendan Donnelly, Director of The Federal Trust, makes the case that the Conservative party, having exploited Eurosceptyic sentiment in the UK for many years, was now reaping what it had sown: The Prime Minister and his party have for many years gone for a ride on the tiger of radical Euroscepticism. His attempt to step off the beast at the last minute has not prevented him from suffering the familiar fate of all such reckless riders. On the topic of the UK’s future relationship with the EU, he writes that the political and economic prospectus of the Leave campaign had rapidly unravelled in the wake of the referendum:
It was always a fantasy to believe that Britain would be able to continue to enjoy allthe perceived benefits and none of the perceived obligations of membership of the European Union […] if it wishes to minimise the economic damage inflicted by Brexit the British government will be forced to accept the free movement of EU citizens into the United Kingdom on a basis scarcely different to the present arrangements.
Centre for European Reform The CER Director, Charles Grant, reflected on the impact of Brexit on the European Union itself. Noting Marine Le Pen’s comment that Brexit would be the equivalent of the Berlin Wall falling in 1989, Grant commented: She was right. Brexit is a momentous event in the history of Europe and from now on the narrative will be one of disintegration not integration […] the centrist politicians who run nearly every EU member state will henceforth be on the defensive against the populist forces who oppose them and the EU. He concludes that the EU leaders have a real interest in ensuring that the Union maintains the evident mutual benefits of a close economic relationship with the UK, but warns that the EU will not compromise on key issues such as free movement of labour as the price for Single Market access A further CER paper, by Simon Tilford, makes the point that a more pro-EU majority might emerge in the UK, as voters become aware of the economic and political costs of quitting the Single Market. He concedes that a second referendum would be unlikely, but makes the case that a change in attitudes would leave open the possibility of EEA membership, and from there it might be possible for the UK to re-join the EU at a later date: “After a few years in the EEA, abiding by EU rules but having no say over them, the British could find EU membership very attractive.”
Chatham House The Director of Chatham House, Robin Niblett, wrote on 24 June: Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage now claim June 23 was Britain’s Independence Day. In the 1996 movie of the same name, victory for humanity followed the destruction of much of the planet by an invading alien force. Contrary to the movie script, leaders of the Leave campaign have the duty to ensure that calamity does not follow their own decision to advocate a future for Britain outside the EU. And we will each need to play our part to help achieve a positive outcome from this decision for Britain and its partners. He argues that the UK must negotiate an exit from the EU that provides the UK with the most favourable terms of access to the EU Single Market as possible. To achieve such a deal, he says, will require that the UK government devotes “enormous government and diplomatic attention to the EU for the indefinite future – ironically, far more than it did when it was a member.” Mr. Niblett writes of a “deep and mutual incomprehension” between British and EU leaders, saying that the process of reaching compromise and mapping out a constructive new relationship will require “a better understanding of each other’s concerns and a greater sense of empathy than currently exists on either side.” Open Europe The Open Europe think tank, which is of a moderately Eurosceptic persuasion but which took a ‘neutral’ position in the referendum campaign, commented that “now is a time for reflection and cool heads. The UK first needs to examine what it wants both in terms of domestic politics and its relationship with the EU.” Open Europe’s commentary also raises an important point regarding the changing political dynamics in the EU, arguing that the next eighteen months could see Europe becoming a very different place, with implications for the tone of the Brexit negotiations. It notes in particular the evolving political and economic situation in Spain and Italy, in France, where support for Marine le Pen’s Front National continues to grow, and in Germany, where national and regional elections are scheduled for 2017. Open Europe also highlights the need for an EU response to the migration crisis and the need to elucidate the next steps for the Eurozone, concluding that all of this “makes the political climate in which any leave negotiations are taking place more uncertain.” France
The Robert Schumman Foundation The Paris-based Robert Schuman Foundation makes a compelling argument that there is a collective responsibility in the EU for the UK’s departure: It is everyone’s failure if a country leaves the European Union […] Brexit reveals some errors of conduct and foretells of serious complications. […] indifference on the part of national leaders has meant that that its management has swum with the tide for the last twenty years, its policies challenged, its functioning criticised, its goals brought into question. Notre Europe identify challenges such as migration, the future of the Eurozone, economic insecurity, terrorism, arguing that each requires a recognition of Europe’s “fear of losing status in a new world, the feeling of decline that is tormenting the peoples of Europe.” The report insists, for example, that dealing with the Eurozone’s difficulties does not require austerity policies that do not but rather policies based on real “prospects of recovery and the restructuring of debts.” Progress does not need “immediate federal organisation and organigrams. We just need true cooperation. The rest will follow.” That calls for “real, tangible answers in response to fears and anxiety. They require strategic vision, meaning immediate renewed political determination and courage.” Notre Europe Jacques Delors Institute Antonio Vitorino, President of the Notre Europe Jacques Delors Institute, writes of the negative effect the UK’s departure will have on the EU at a time of great insecurity in international relations: [Brexit] is an amputation for the EU, which will lose one of its important members at the very time when its Member States need to unite more completely in this world full of opportunities but also threats, a world in which Europe is central to a decreasing extent He argues that the decision of UK voters to leave the EU seems to suggest that a majority of UK citizens appear “to believe that they could perhaps envisage a solitary future in this globalised world.” While he agrees that Brexit is likely to stimulate forces wishing to hold national referenda on EU membership, he argues that it is unlikely to lead to other Member States leaving the EU. He describes the situation in the EU as a ‘crisis of co-owners’ arguing over a revision of their co-habitation rules rather than the start of a wave of exits heralded by Brexit. This should not lead to a misunderstanding of the seriousness of the EU’s internal crisis, “but must at least subdue the predictions announcing the ‘dislocation’ of our common home.” Looking at the longer term implications of Brexit, Antonio Vitorino, argues that “the EU does not need firefighters hopping from crisis to crisis, or masons providing a few new blocks for the community building: it needs architects and leaders, able to arouse a desire for unity by speaking to European citizens’ hearts and souls, then by responding to their hopes and fears and therefore answering their existential questions.” Germany Bertelsmann Stiftung The German think tank, Bertelsmann Stiftung, looking at the claim of the Leave side to have reached ‘Independence Day’ for their country, argues that for Europe as a whole it was more a case of ‘Estrangement Day’. Reflecting the widespread feeling of disbelief and sorrow at the outcome of the referendum the report asks: “Now that the die has been cast in Prime Minister Cameron’s irresponsible gamble with the unity of the United Kingdom and his own Conservative Party, what are the consequences?” Accepting that the healing process will be long and hard Bertelsmann regrets that the referendum will distract attention from the many “interlocking crises” facing the EU. The debate on those challenges must be seen against the backdrop of widespread negative attitudes towards the European Union and its policies and institutions. Bertelsmann’s own polling data show the levels of discontent and disenchantment among the peoples of Europe towards the EU’s political malaise: There is little trust in its ability to come out of the crisis mode in the near future. Which does not mean however, that a majority of people have given up on the European Union as a whole or do not believe in the utility of European integration. European politics has to understand that this general support is at risk as well, if they fail to deliver results that are felt by the public. The report concludes that a post-referendum consensus on Europe’s future should create a buy-in for European citizens into the EU’s ‘community of law’:
Injecting a sincere sense of modesty and realism that does not create illusions about what the EU and member states governments can actually still achieve in a highly inter-connected world would be a good starting point […] The heads of state or government would be well advised to enter a period of reflection to forge political consensus around the aims and contours of the yet unscheduled future treaty reform. Any next move should be designed to create a greater sense of ownership of EU citizens in ‘their’ Union.
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