Brexit – What next?: Keep calm and carry on, Europe

28 June 2016 – Les Echos (Paris)

The member countries that want to remain in the Union must close ranks to form a block and warm up to the idea of fiscal, budgetary, and military sovereignty.

Europeans can thank Boris Johnson for giving them the rare opportunity to get Europe back on track. And at the same time, reap a windfall.

How?

First off, bring clarity to the institutions and the bureaucracy. Since Friday, Great Britain is de facto (soon also de jure) no longer a player on the European stage and market. The first real consequences will be felt in Strasbourg and Brussels: British members of parliament and members and public servants of the European Commission no longer have their place.

European executive and legislative powers can only function properly if they reflect the European Union of today, which is continental. Effective immediately, no waiting for article 50 of the Lisbon Treatyto kick in. Sorry, guys, no muddling through. No walls with ears and no double standards at the negotiations that lay the groundwork for the new European Union.

Next, member countries who want to take Europe one step further band together and refuse to regress to the war-torn Europe of yesterday, despite such calls from Boris Johnson, Nigel Farage, Marine Le Pen, and Jean-Luc Mélenchon (leader of the French Left Front Party). Three countries combined account for close to 60 % of the GDP of the new European Union and have always played that role: Germany, Italy, and France. They will be responsible for planning tomorrow’s Europe and selling the plan to the other members.

But what plan? Brexit has demonstrated the limitations if not the mistakes of a Europe as seen by Brussels: a bureaucracy that lost sight of its founding principle of subsidiarity, that meddles with our everyday lives by setting artificial rules yet fails to build a common energy, defence, and security infrastructure. A Europe that, under British influence, opened up too fast and let in corrupt countries with fudged public accounts that simply do not belong.

A Europe that over-enthusiastically embraced somebody else’s neo-conservative agenda and roused the ire of its Russian neighbour. A Europe that has seen better days. We need to build unabashed a two-speed Europe. A “top tier” or hard core willing to push the political agenda towards shared budgetary, fiscal, and military sovereignty, thus securing continued access to ECB financing. And a lower tier that is only interested in the common market.

“Now that you are a fact, we shall deal with you”, quipped the British Ambassador in 1952 to European coal and steel community Jean Monnet, intrigued to see the representative of a country that had done all in its power to scuttle the ECSC return to the table. Our turn now to “deal” with Britain, and the off-shore spot outside of the European market that the City has become.

We should not humiliate anyone and avoid a trade war in any way, shape, or form. But Britain was the party to walk away in this divorce. And the other party, the innocent bystander left standing there, is in charge of the common good. The continental European market cannot be efficient, prosperous, and one block of sovereign nations if it offshores its financing, like the mafia.

New York is the financial centre of the United States, not Nassau in the Bahamas. By the same token, the new European Union will find the means to repatriate its financial centre. Far from the likes of Mr. Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage. This relocalization is the trump card in the hands of France, Italy, and Germany, and their centres Paris, Milan, and Frankfurt.

Translated from the French by Rita Smith-Lemaire

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