The EU without Britain: Never Closer Union
The EU without Britain: Never Closer Union
Was Brexit a peculiarly British aberration or does it reflect anxieties which are also held elsewhere? In 2016, Donald Tusk declared `It would be a fatal error to assume that the negative result in the UK referendum represents a specifically British issue ----- the Brexit vote is a desperate attempt to answer the questions that millions of Europeans ask themselves daily ---. '
The European idea was developed in the 1940s and 1950s by elites. In President Macron’s words, they `built Europe in isolation from the people because they were an enlightened vanguard’. Can `ever closer union’ really be achieved by popular consent amongst 27 highly diverse member states at very different levels of economic development?
The Monnet/Schuman conception of Europe, which animated the earlier stages of European integration, is now a handicap to progress, Few countries are prepared to accept the further sacrifice of sovereignty which it involves. It needs to be replaced by what Angela Merkel in her Bruges lecture of 2010 called the Union method – coordinated action by national governments. It was indeed that method that was used to resolve the Eurozone crisis in 2011-12.
The EU will remain primarily an intergovernmental institution in which the member states dictate the pace of change. But it will be an intergovernmental organisation with a difference, since the member states will consider not only their own national interests, but the interests of Europe as a whole. Had that perspective been present in 1914 war would have been avoided.
VERNON BOGDANOR CBE is Professor of Government at the Institute of Contemporary British History, King’s College, London. He was formerly for many years Professor of Government at Oxford University. He is a Fellow of the British Academy, an Honorary Fellow of the Institute for Advanced Legal Studies, a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society, and a Fellow of the Academy of the Social Sciences. He has been an adviser to a number of governments, including those of Albania, Czech Republic, Hungary, Kosovo, Israel, Mauritius. Slovakia and Trinidad. His books include: The People and the Party System: The Referendum and Electoral Reform in British Politics; (Cambridge University Press, 1981), Multi-Party Politics and the Constitution; (Cambridge University Press, 1983); Power and the People: A Guide to Constitutional Reform (Gollancz, 1997); Devolution in the United Kingdom (OUP 1999); The New British Constitution (Hart 2009) and The Coalition and the Constitution (Hart, 2009). Beyond Brexit: Towards a British Constitution, (Tauris 2019) Britain and Europe in a Troubled World (Yale University Press 2020).
He is also editor of, amongst other books: The British Constitution in the 20th Century (OUP 2003); Joined-Up Government (OUP 2005); and From the New Jerusalem to New Labour: British Prime Ministers from Attlee to Blair.
He is currently writing a multi-volume work on British political history from 1895 to 1997.
Vernon Bogdanor is a frequent contributor to TV, radio and the press. He was a consultant for the film about Churchill, `Darkest Hour’ with Gary Oldman and the play about the Queen, `The Audience’ with Helen Mirren.
In 2008, he was awarded the Sir Isaiah Berlin Award by the Political Studies Association for Lifetime Contribution to Political Studies. In 2009 he was made a Chevalier de la Legion d’Honneur by President Sarkozy. He is an Honorary Fellow of The Queen’s College, Oxford, an Honorary D. Litt. of the University of Kent, and an Honorary Bencher of the Middle Temple.
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