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The EU Relationship: After Brexit

by John Brian Shannon

Overcoming significant obstacles in the postwar era, continental Europe has grown into one of the world’s most developed and successful grouping of nations in every possible category.

From conflicted littoral states pre-1945, to a unified trading bloc in 1972 (the EC) to a full customs and trade union in 1993 (the EU) and with several future member states lined-up to join, the modern European Union continues to morph into all that it can and should be.

From its rich history, to its culture and its support for the rule of law, and by placing a high priority on governmental and non-governmental institutions, EU countries have set a global standard in the architecture of governance.

Yet, it isn’t for everyone. Greenland left the bloc in 2009, followed by Switzerland in 2014 which withdrew its application to become an EU member. The Swiss are like that anyway. Very Independent People!

The Swiss remain members of the EFTA, which is simply a group of four like-minded European nations who’ve agreed to streamlined trading arrangements. The EFTA serves to improve trade flows between its members.

Norway, for example (an EFTA member) chose to not join the EU, but participates in many European Union institutions on an al a carte basis, although it must pay a higher price than EU members to have the option to join or not join certain EU institutions and frameworks.

And finally, the UK voted to leave the European Union in the June 2016 referendum, but the Brits joined to leave anyway, it was just a matter of time before they left.

Even with those disappointments (as seen from the EU side) the European Union is still a stunning success with every opportunity to double its standing in the world. Viel Respekt!


Taking the High Road with the EU in the Post-Brexit Timeframe

As good as the European Union is for its continental partners, it just doesn’t work as well for the UK and its Commonwealth partners, which has resulted in the inevitable Brexit vote and all the subsequent steps the UK government has taken towards Brexiting the European Union.

Of course, the EU people may feel some hurt feelings when a country wants to leave its bloc — nobody likes a one-sided divorce. But there soon exists the possibility of creating a new and better relationship between the UK and the EU. And there is plenty of room to improve on that count.

For some, getting Brexit out-of-the-way is merely a necessary step towards getting on to the super-important work of creating the all-time best possible relationship between the UK and the European Union.

The potential for increased trade between the two blocs, for additional mutual aid in addition to their respective NATO commitments, for multi-lateral support at the UN (for example) and to have two powerful European voices registering their positions in the world media instead of one, are just the beginnings of helping the two main European blocs hold even more sway in international affairs.

Yes, the EU can seem a little bureaucratic and autocratic, but they are dedicated to creating a peaceful world order within a standardized regulatory environment centred around global trade. Unless you just arrived from Mars, you’ve got to like that.

For its part, the UK can seem a little disorganized and even frantic at times, but forced to become all it can and should be via the Brexit change-up, it should emerge as a calmer and more mature country that happens to be attached to a large Commonwealth bloc of 2.5 billion citizens.

If managed properly, Brexit will move the UK and the EU relationship one order of magnitude forward — instead of the present situation where the EU is holding the UK back from fulfilling its best destiny and the United Kingdom appears as a thorn in the side of continental European plans.


Time for the UK and the EU to Write Their ‘Best Possible Relationship’ List

Yes, let’s get Brexit over and done with as soon as possible so we can get onto the far more important work of deciding how to maximize European clout in the world and then working together within a permanent pan-European institution set-up for that purpose, figure out how to best work together for mutual economic benefit, and how best to share the overwhelming number of obligations that are owed by developed nations to developing nations.

Things evolve over time. But just because they evolve, doesn’t mean that those things are the best they can be. It simply means that evolution has occurred.

For example, no modern city planner would’ve located Athens where it is now. It’s impossible to defend militarily (in our modern era) it suffers from lack of rainfall+water shortages, it’s hellishly hot in the summer, and it sits atop a major earthquake fault system. Yet, the city evolved and both its residents and the city government have made the best of it.

But it would have been far better for everyone if Athens had been located near the cities of Ioannina or Arta in Greece, where the city of Athens could’ve prospered a 100-times more than it has in its present location.

Likewise, now is the time to draw up what could’ve been all along and work towards what it still could be with the right vision, leadership, and management.

Rather than a splintering Europe that is getting weaker and less goal-directed as time rolls forward, Brexit offers the opportunity to make Europe work better for all its citizens and to strengthen the pan-European worldview — starting with a clean sheet that allows the UK, the EU, Switzerland, Norway and Greenland to succeed as never before!