The European Union is Broken
Most Europeans believe that the European Union is “broken”, damaged by its poor handling of the pandemic and slow vaccine rollout.
After a series of crises over the past ten years, governments across Europe hoped the EU could prove itself and renew faith in the project by moving quickly to respond to Covid-19. The opposite was the case.
New polling and research by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) found that the majority of those surveyed in France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Austria now held the view that the European project was “broken”.
Respondents were asked: how do you see the following countries’ relationship with the EU?
Around 62 per cent French people polled perceived the EU as “broken” rather than “working well” ahead of their own presidential elections in April.
President Macron is trailing Marine Le Pen, the Eurosceptic far-right leader, in the polls and he faces an uphill battle to convince his country that the EU, which he strongly defends, is fit for purpose.
In Germany, ahead of elections in September which will mark the end of Angela Merkel’s leadership, 55 per cent saw the EU as “kaput” with more than one in five thinking it was “completely broken”. That number has risen by 11 per cent over the year.
For Italians, reeling from the impact of the pandemic and in dire need of European funding in order not to fall too far behind economically, the figure is 57 per cent.
In Spain, traditionally one of the nations most enthusiastic about the EU, a majority of 52 per cent saw it as dysfunctional. About 51 per cent of Austrians also agreed that the EU was “broken”.
The ECFR polling across 12 EU countries last month has shown that the failure to outperform the UK and other rivals such as the United States has become an “existential” crisis.
“The onslaught of the pandemic was the EU’s chance to prove to citizens that it could move quickly and decisively in their best interests,” Susi Dennison and Jana Puglierin, the authors of the report, concluded.
“The slow and chaotic start to the vaccine rollout at the beginning of 2021 raised big questions about the EU’s capacity to steer its member states through the crisis. Disappointment with EU institutions has now come out of the periphery and gone mainstream.”
Respondents were asked: which of the following would you consider to be the worst failures on the part of your government or the EU, if they occured?
With Ursula von der Leyen, a German protégée of Merkel, at the helm of the European Commission, the EU began the year confident that its moment had come to shine.
Hopes were dashed after a stuttering vaccine rollout, protracted lockdown measures and economic contractions.
Even worse, it became clear to hundreds of millions of Europeans that Britain, having left the EU, had been more nimble in buying coronavirus vaccines, approving them, and administering them.
Comparisons between the EU and UK, which still far exceeds the Continent on the percentage of people who have been jabbed, undermined the European doctrine that membership of the Brussels club better equipped countries to fight the pandemic.
“The fact that two of the EU’s largest and most influential states — France and Germany — are the least convinced about the need for European cooperation underlines the urgency with which the EU needs to up its game,” the report said.
“Both countries have important national elections coming up in the next year, which may present a challenge for the EU’s leaders — with Euroscepticism having increased due to EU institutions’ poor handling of the vaccine rollout.”
While the polling showed that majorities in all countries except for France thought EU membership was still a good thing, the ECFR study suggests the European project is “extremely fragile”, according to its authors.
“If the EU fails to build up its resilience to the new sorts of crises our interconnected world faces today, our data indicates that the EU itself may risk becoming another casualty of Covid-19,” the authors predicted.
What should the EU be?
After Brexit, Europeans still “feel a special emotional connection” but no longer see Britain as an ally, rather as a “necessary partner” to be “strategically cooperated with”, like America, China or Russia.
One in four Germans and a fifth of the French and Spanish see a newly independent Britain as a rival or adversary. Only in Denmark do many people, about 39 per cent, see the UK as an ally.
Majorities in Germany and France perceive Turkey, which is trying to join the EU, as a rival or adversary, a view shared by large minorities in the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden. In contrast, Russia or China are more likely to be seen as “necessary partner”.
After four months of the Biden presidency, the US leader has done little to overturn the damage Donald Trump is seen to have done to the transatlantic relationship, with only one in five perceiving the US as an “ally” that shares in Europe’s “values and interests”.
More than half of people in Austria, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, and Sweden still perceive the American political system as “broken”. “There is still a widespread lack of confidence in the United States’ ability to come back as the ‘leader’ of the West,” the report concludes.
Do you think the EU works well or is somewhat broken?
Historical Data – We thought we were out…
And the following graphics demonstrate the current thinking on Brexit by the people:
The issue of EU membership transcends mere political debate to omnipresence in contemporary public discourse. In consequence of alterations in public sentiment, the prospect of Britain leaving the EU was growing increasingly before the vote. A prominent survey estimated that 51% of the British population were in favour of leaving the EU in June 2013.1 This can be seen to reflect the dichotomy or chasm in the opinions held by the public regarding Britain’s membership of the EU, and one can also deduce that Britons, on the whole, desired a fundamental reassessment of Britain’s relationship with the EU. Furthermore, in view of the then-Prime Minister David Cameron’s pledge to hold a referendum in 2017 regarding Britain’s membership of the EU, determining the consequences of leaving the EU and the necessary measures that Britain must undertake in promoting a free, prosperous economy was imperative.
Moreover, whilst David Cameron had pledged to renegotiate British membership of the EU and hold a referendum on the conclusion of those negotiations, the principal difficulty with this approach was that it quixotically presupposed that a markedly superior agreement was obtainable without leaving the EU. Nevertheless, the British people were unable to have their ideal relationship with the EU. As underlined by a poll conducted in 2012, if presented “…a more detached relationship [with the EU] that is little more than a free trade agreement”, merely 26% of those who partook in the survey would still favour withdrawal. However, leaders in the EU are evidently disinclined to bestow Britain complete access to the single market exclusive of the prohibitive financial costs. Thus, any possible alterations to the relationship between Britain and the EU has ostensibly been inconsequential; notwithstanding, the economic advantages of Britain leaving the EU can be seen to offset any detriment.
With reference to secession, the Treaty of Lisbon (2009) facilitates through Article 50 the voluntary withdrawal of a member state from the EU. However, a member state’s secession from the EU would involve intricate, protracted negotiations concerning the UK’s future relationship with the EU, and therefore the matter of withdrawal is neither uncomplicated nor clear-cut. There are, however, several alternatives to the UK’s present pseudo-membership of the EU. The UK could once again become a member of the European Free Trade Area (EFTA) and continue to take part in the European Economic Area (EEA) in an effort to retain single market access. Alternatively, the UK could, as this essay will propose, pursue a looser arrangement with the EU, similar to Switzerland’s relationship with the EU. Switzerland, as a member of the EFTA but not the EEA, has arranged bilateral agreements with the EU. It is nevertheless evident that whichever arrangement the UK forms with the EU, there will almost certainly be an exchange between the degree to which the UK can access the single market, be free from a certain degree of EU product regulations, evade legislation pertaining to employment and social matters, and the effect on the UK’s budgetary contributions to all EU organisations.
The above is an extract from the PDF downloadable from The Institute of Economic Affairs.
The position from the Left is exemplified by this article: The left must put Britain’s EU withdrawal on the agenda – by Owen Jones.
A quick excerpt from the article:
“Ugly indeed. As the former European commission adviser Philippe Legrain puts it, “Germany is proving to be a calamitous hegemon,” overruling even France’s objections.
The euro suits Germany, of course, as a weak euro is good for its exports and prevents poorer EU countries getting a competitive edge. But look at how the EU has operated. It has driven elected governments – however unsavoury, like Silvio Berlusconi’s – from office. Ireland and Portugal were also blackmailed. The 2011 treaty effectively banned Keynesian economics in the eurozone.”
The Non-Partisan Party is, obviously neither Left or Right, so it is free to adopt the best ideas from any political stance, provided the outcome is what is best for the people of the UK.
In our humble opinion, even though the UK public has voted, we did not think Article 50 would be invoked and as such, we would not be leaving the EU any time soon. We were obviously wrong.
What the UK Thinks about the EU Referendum
The point about a governing democracy is that we should be able to vote in, and kick out those who govern over us. The idea of “pooled sovereignty” is not useful as no one in any country knows precisely what is going on.
The EU Parliament isn’t really a parliament as we know it. An MEP isn’t being voted into a meaningful position. It is the only Parliament in the world where you cannot initiate legislation, propose legislation or even repeal legislation. All of this is done only by the Commission.
The Non-Partisan Party would open the subject up for debate, and ensure all perspectives were included. A national, televised debate, with a list of pros and cons for both sides, would ensure an informed public before any referendum were established. If you have the details of the ramifications of your decisions, including time frames and future consequences, you are more able to make an erudite decision. This is the main aim of TNPP.
In the interests of non-partisan politics, here are some facts about Brexit from different sources. You can make your own mind up.
[button link=”http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/eu-referendum-facts-brexit-immigration-trade-economy-fishing-leave-remain-what-will-happen-a7095046.html” type=”icon” icon=”question” newwindow=”yes”] The Claims that Won it for Brexit[/button]
[button link=”http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-32810887″ type=”icon” icon=”question” newwindow=”yes”] All You Need to Know[/button] [button link=”https://fullfact.org/europe/” type=”icon” icon=”question” newwindow=”yes”] The Full Facts about Brexit[/button] [button link=”http://www.lbc.co.uk/radio/presenters/james-obrien/happy-about-brexit-james-obrien-facts/” type=”icon” icon=”question” newwindow=”yes”] A Low Level Approach[/button] [button link=”https://infacts.org” type=”icon” icon=”question” newwindow=”yes”] A Useful Resource[/button] [button link=”https://www.ft.com/topics/themes/Brexit” type=”icon” icon=”question” newwindow=”yes”] An FT Perspective[/button]
The buttons below take you to various sites that argued for or against leaving at the time it was relevant.
[button link=”http://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2016/06/brexit-facts-not-fear/” type=”icon” icon=”question” newwindow=”yes”] Argument to leave the EU[/button]
[button link=”http://uk.businessinsider.com/eu-referendum-reasons-for-voting-against-a-brexit-and-staying-in-eu-2016-6″ type=”icon” icon=”question” newwindow=”yes”] Argument to Remain[/button] [button link=”http://www.dailymail.co.uk/money/markets/article-3769498/I-m-certain-European-Union-s-doomed-says-Nobel-prize-winner-advised-Bill-Clinton-chief-economist-World-Bank.html” type=”icon” icon=”question” newwindow=”yes”] A Doomed EU?[/button][button link=”http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/09/02/why-the-remainers-are-still-clinging-on-to-dreams-of-overturning/” type=”icon” icon=”question” newwindow=”yes”] The Sore Losers?[/button]
And here is an interesting speech from the then-Prime Minister Edward Heath. The web site is clearly interested in campaigning for an independent Britain. This does not mean TNPP is leaning this way: but in line with our philosophy, it’s an interesting perspective.
Finally, as the public opinion changes from week to week on whether we should stay in or leave, depending on which newspaper you read and which poll they have conducted the most recently, we at TNPP think all sides have an argument that holds water. Sir Bernard Ingham has a perspective which we think is as important as the rest. Read it here.
The below is a page borrowed from an article in The Times. It discusses the position on the EU from each party as it stands in November 2019.
Position on Brexit: Boris Johnson will campaign on a platform of getting Brexit done as soon as possible. His approach has already shifted from the “do or die” rhetoric, and will focus on the “great Brexit deal” he has secured from the EU. He will campaign on a “people versus parliament” platform after MPs repeatedly frustrated his attempts to get his deal through the Commons.
Non-Brexit policy issues: Mr Johnson says he wants to “get Brexit done” so he can move on to the Conservative Party’s domestic priorities: the NHS, law and order, schools and the economy. The party has announced a 20,000 rise in the number of police officers, a £7.1 billion increase in school spending by 2022-23, and a hospital building-programme.
Key questions: The prime minister is relying on Brexit to pick up Labour Leave seats in the Midlands and the north. He also hopes that his law and order agenda will cut through. Colleagues fear, however, that Remainers will punish the party. With the Lib Dems expected to gain in the southeast and southwest and the SNP also anticipating success, up to 30 seats may be at risk.
Messages you can expect to hear on repeat: The Conservative mantra will be “get Brexit done” so the country can “get back on the road to a brighter future”. Mr Johnson has been sharpening his attack lines on Jeremy Corbyn. He said this week that Mr Corbyn would turn 2020 into a year of “toxic, tedious torture” with “two more referendums” — one on Brexit and a second on Scottish independence.
Key figures to watch: Mr Johnson will be front and centre of the campaign and has been visiting hospitals to highlight investment in the NHS. Priti Patel, the home secretary, also has a leading role, reflecting the focus on law and order. James Cleverly, the party chairman, will be regularly deployed, along with Sajid Javid, the chancellor, and Rishi Sunak, chief secretary to the Treasury.
Position on Brexit: Labour will offer a second referendum, which it usually calls a “public vote”. The choice would be between a “sensible” Brexit deal, which the party believes it can negotiate within three months, and Remain. Several shadow cabinet ministers have committed to campaigning for Remain, although Jeremy Corbyn is yet to set out his position.
Non-Brexit policy issues: Labour will aim to shift the debate beyond Brexit. It will tell people to back “real change” as opposed to Mr Johnson who, it will argue, is merely reversing some of the cuts imposed by the Tories. Mr Corbyn is most comfortable talking about Conservative austerity against Labour’s plans for investment, and that is where his focus will be.
Key questions: Jeremy Corbyn’s biggest struggle will be keeping his party united on Brexit. John McDonnell, Sir Keir Starmer, Diane Abbott and others will campaign for Remain in a referendum whatever new deal a Labour government might negotiate. Strategists fear that being seen as too pro-EU will cost the party votes in Leave voting Labour-Tory marginals.
Messages you can expect to hear on repeat: The success in 2017 of “For the many not the few” will mean a return for the phrase and its themes. Labour has tried to cast the Conservatives as an elite and draw parallels between Mr Johnson and President Trump. Indeed, “Trump-deal Brexit” has become a catchphrase, with claims that the NHS would be on the table in a US trade deal.
Key figures to watch: Mr Corbyn is likely to hold large public rallies as he did with considerable success in 2017. Figures trusted on the airwaves will include John McDonnell, Sir Keir Starmer and Rebecca Long Bailey, the shadow business secretary. Expect Tom Watson, the deputy leader, to feature less prominently after his rift with Mr Corbyn and his allies.
Position on Brexit: The Lib Dems will campaign relentlessly on Brexit. They made the decision last month to pledge that in the unlikely event they won a majority they would revoke Article 50, cancelling Brexit altogether. The party made this controversial move not because it expects an overall majority but because it wanted to flaunt its Remain credentials compared with Labour.
Non-Brexit policy issues: The Lib Dems have pledged to extend the right to vote in all elections and referendums to EU citizens and 16 and 17-year-olds. They want proportional representation to replace the first-past-the-post system, a 1p rise in income tax to fund the NHS and a “legal right to clean air”. Every public spending decision will be assessed for its impact on wellbeing.
Key questions: Jo Swinson’s biggest challenge is likely to come in the event of a hung Parliament. What will she do if the Lib Dems win a significant number of seats but fall short of an overall majority? She has said she would not put Mr Corbyn or Mr Johnson in Downing Street but has declined to say if she could put another Tory or Labour leader there as part of a coalition.
Messages you can expect to hear on repeat: The Lib Dems have already come up with an array of slogans, all centred on the party’s pledge to revoke Article 50. They include “fighting for an exit from Brexit” and “we demand better for Britain”. They will take a twin-track approach, arguing that Mr Johnson and the Tories “cannot be trusted” and that Mr Corbyn has backed Brexit “time and time again”.
Key figures to watch: Ms Swinson will lead the charge for the Lib Dems alongside an array of defectors — the former Labour MPs Chuka Umunna and Luciana Berger and the former Tories Sam Gyimah and Sarah Wollaston. All have played prominent roles in recent weeks. Sir Vince Cable, the former Liberal Democrat leader, is also expected to play a key role.
Position on Brexit: The SNP has embraced a second referendum and said it will campaign for Remain, arguing that the 2016 vote was “manipulated and undermined by misinformation and false promises”. The party has not gone as far as calling for the revocation of Article 50, although several senior figures within the party have voiced their support.
Non-Brexit policy issues: Scotland faces two constitutional battles in the election, with Nicola Sturgeon having vowed to put a second Scottish independence referendum “at the heart” of her party’s campaign. The nationalists believe that returning a majority of Scottish MPs gives them a mandate for another vote but they need the permission of the PM.
Key questions: Will the renewed push for independence be a help or a hindrance? In 2015, with memories of the independence referendum still fresh the party won 56 out of 59 seats. That fervour had abated by 2017 and the SNP lost 21 of those seats. The Tories are likely to lose seats this time around, but not necessarily to the nationalists.
Messages you can expect to hear on repeat: Independence 2020 is the cry from the SNP as they push for a second referendum next year. The overwhelming Remain vote north of the Border will be central to claims of a democratic deficit with a bit of “Scotland doesn’t get the government it votes for” (it has done so in three out of the past ten general elections) thrown in.
Key figures to watch: Nicola Sturgeon is not a candidate but will be at the forefront of the campaign. This will provide opponents with the chance to attack on the SNP record in Holyrood. Ian Blackford and Kirsty Blackman, Westminster leader and deputy leader, will feature, as will Stephen Gethins, Europe spokesman whose majority — two votes — is the tiniest in history.
Position on Brexit: Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party is campaigning for a “clean-break Brexit”. It argues that the prime minister’s deal is “far removed” from what Eurosceptics voted for in the 2016 referendum. Mr Farage has argued that Britain should leave the EU on WTO terms.
Non-Brexit policy issues: The Brexit Party will scrap inheritance tax and invest £200 billion in “left-behind regions”, to be funded by redirecting half of Britain’s foreign aid budget and scrapping HS2. The party also wants free wifi on all public transport and a sales tax targeting tech giants.
Key questions: The biggest question for Nigel Farage is how many seats to fight. He has said he wants a crack at all of them but some in the party believe he should aim to fight 20. Pollsters think the Brext Party is Mr Johnson’s greatest barrier to a majority.
Messages you can expect to hear on repeat: The Brexit Party will argue against Boris Johnson’s deal, claiming that it is “not a proper Brexit”. It wants a “clean-break Brexit” to build a “Leaver alliance” that can “make Brexit a reality”. It says “democracy is under threat” along with the “future of politics”.
Key figures to watch: The party’s biggest name will be Mr Farage, but Ann Widdecombe, the former Tory minister, will also be deployed to help appeal to Conservative voters. Richard Tice, the businessman and chairman of the Brexit Party, will also feature prominently.