Judy Asks: Is Brexit bad for Europe?

Opinion piece (Carnegie Europe)
Beth Oppenheim
11 April 2019

Yes – and that’s not just British hubris. 

True, Britain has always been an awkward member of the EU, pushing back against continental hopes for a more federalist Union. But the UK’s veto power has been overstated – it was sidestepped at crucial moments, such as with the fiscal compact in 2011. And British exceptionalism has masked competing French and German visions for Europe. It is this incoherence, not Britain, that obstructs further integration.

We already miss you,” Donald Tusk commented in 2017. Indeed, Brexit will leave a significant gap in the EU budget– meaning the EU will have to do less, or ask other members to pay more. Britain’s exit means the EU also loses an advocate of free markets and overseas trade. And Britain’s absence will be keenly felt in foreign and security policy. The UK placed its faith in common EU action, participating in EU operations and driving European sanctions policy, notably against Russia. The UK has also been an important conduit between Europe and the United States. Without Britain, transatlantic policy may diverge further, weakening European security and influence.

Brexit will not resolve the EU’s existential dilemmas. More likely, this process will expend Europe’s energies for the next decade.

Beth Oppenheim is a researcher at the Centre for European Reform.

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