Meanwhile some news: the book A Brief History of the Future United States of Europe, written jointly by me and Gianni Pittella, VP of the European Parliament, will be released on March 14th and will also be available in ebook format. I advise you to read it; you will find a non-conventional narrative on the future of Europe.
If 2012 was the year of the Grexit (Greece leaving the Eurozone) then in 2013 newspapers will be filled with the Britexit (Britain possibly leaving the EU) issue. After the decisions made in the European Council in June 2012, it began to seem even clearer that their options in Europe were tightening. Either they accept to enter full-fledged and accept the Euro and thus be in the United States of Europe – something Cameron completely excluded – or they remain in the EU but without much ability to influence choice. One cannot even understand the strategy Cameron has in mind. Renegotiating the treaties and then asking his constituents to choose a referendum could be one of his illusions to remain in the EU. There is no indication that the EU is willing to make the concessions he asks. In any case, the referendum, if it does take place, will not occur before 2017 and there is still plenty of time to convince the English that leaving Europe now would be foolish and that if London City wants to remain the financial center, it must move towards the Euro not away from it. I lived in England for 7 years and I don’t believe the majority of Brits are cajoled by the myths about a broken Europe diffused by widespread scandalous tabloids like The Sun and the Daily Mail.
David Cameron’s speech in mid January was no surprise to anyone. Public opinion in England is actually divided into 3 groups: the Europhiles, who would like to enter the Federation; the Europhobes, who would like to leave it definitively; and the Euroskeptics with Cameron as leader, who believe in a third route – stay but renegotiate the rules. But the Europhobes are spreading like wildfire inside the Conservative Party.
However, when they have reflected better, the English will realize that the essential turning point in Europe occurred not in June 2012 but more than 20 years ago – in February 1992 at Maastricht. Because even if everyone wasn’t aware then, creating a single monetary unit meant that one day a single European State would need to be created. It is impossible to have a Monetary Union without a Fiscal Union and it is not easy to have a Fiscal Union without a Federal State. In 1973 when they joined the European Economic Community (EEC), the British did not want to admit that after all it wasn’t just an economic community but something more. The Conservatives, who in the beginning were the biggest advocates of European integration, are progressively cooling off.
The combination of euroskepticism from Cameron’s conservatives together with the opportunism of the Labour Party members has allowed a battle of the EU budget but this position has antagonized almost all the other members of the Club. England is already increasingly seen as a condominium member who, neither wants to pay dues nor respect the rules and stonewalls everything.
Options for the English are numbered: The first is to remain in the EU without much leverage to influence unless they agree to join the Euro.
The second is to join the European Economic Area (EEA) together with Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein. Inside this area the English could have a leadership function – but is it worth it? Anyway, they would have to continue to respect all the directives already produced by Brussels but would not have a representative in the European Parliament, which seems to be destined to have increasingly more influential powers.
The third is to return to the European Free Trade Area (EFTA), which they themselves helped create with Switzerland in the 1960’s. Switzerland is able to do business with the EU through bilateral agreements and by aligning their legislature, almost slavishly, to that of Europe.
The fourth option would be to become the 51st country of the United States. For a large part of the English citizens, this option is not a bad idea.
Even a fifth option exists. Join the Euro. Why not….if only the English people could accept a different idea?
Whichever option it is, in case of a referendum, the English people must be well informed of the economic consequences if they were to leave the EU, which would not be painless by any means.
In a speech given in Zurich in 1946 Winston Churchill urged France and Germany to construct a United States of Europe, but declared already then that because of history and culture he did not feel called to participate. In his speech Churchill affirmed that Great Britain should maintain its own role as a bridge between the United States of America and the United States of Europe.
Maybe the French economist Pierre Larrouturou is right when he says: “Why not give recognition to the UK today for this particular position? No one should be forced to go farther than they want to go. But at the same time, no one has the right to excessively hold others back.”
But with Obama as President, not even this option is viable for the English to uphold anymore.
Let’s try to convince them to join the Euro.