This article looks at the European Union’s future political development and current EU reform proposals, identifying connections between Brexit and the proposed plan of the “United States of Europe”.
In December 2017, former Leader of the Social Democratic Party, Martin Schulz, proposed a plan – supported by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron – which called for the creation of a “United States of Europe” by 2025. The “United States of Europe” is a proposal that calls for a constitutional treaty which integrates EU member states into a federalist institution with common foreign, security, and defence policies designed on a federal basis of the “union”.
The idea of the “United States of Europe” or a “Super-state Europe” is not new. On the 19th of September 1946, Winston Churchill delivered his famous speech in Zurich calling for the creation of a “United States of Europe”. Following the defeat of Nazi Germany, he called for a reconciliation between France and Germany, and “the re-creation of the European family” bringing up political and social stability and integration in the region. He suggested that, instead of Britain become a member, it should, along with the US and the then USSR, be the “friends and sponsors” of the project.
Nevertheless, the present plan seems to be a dream of Eurocentric governors’ who seek to promote European ideals and refute nationalist ideas and movements. For example, the European People’s Party leader, Manfred Weber, said on February 6th that “we are equal, we are all Europe and that is our future idea…The nationalists, dear friends, are stupid and naïve”. His comments reflect the wider arguments over a “United States of Europe” that were born in the wake of the Brexit negotiations and the rise of nationalistic parties across the EU’s member state.
Alongside the divisive issue over a “United States of Europe” are questions concerning to what extent European defence should be coordinated. In 2017, the European Commission launched the European Defence Fund, which is intended to encourage member states “to spend taxpayer money more efficiently and reduce duplications in spending”. Crucially, the fund aims to coordinate, supplement, and amplify national investments in defence research, in the development of prototypes, and in the acquisition of defence equipment and technology.
It also established the first ever single command centre for EU military training and advisory missions (called the MPCC), launched as a Centre of Excellence to improve analysis and capacity to address hybrid threats and stepped up cooperation with NATO.
On Friday 23th February 2018, European leaders also unanimously agreed, to expand on a common defence and security policy and deter illegal immigration in their next long-term budget.
The European Commission also intends to reform the Financial Supervision (ESFS) and EU’s supervisory architecture.
With these reforms, the European Supervisory Authorities (ESAs) are likely to make decisions more transparent, while newly-created Executive Boards will lead to EU-oriented decisions. The EU budget will continue to contribute a share of the ESAs’ funding and the rest will be funded by contributions from the EU financial sector.
But what does this mean for Brexit? The ESAs are expected to be given extra resources, taken from UK-headquartered firms, under order to enforce and regulate the City. The new reform proposes that the ESAs will report to the European Commission which implicates an influencing role of deciding which firms have access to the Single Market post Brexit.
The ESAs reforms are one aspect of th 37 EU laws that could be imposed on Britain during the Brexit transition period. Among the directives proposed, the EU would be allowed to force “clearing houses” in order to withdraw from the City and to be relocated to Europe before Britain’s official departure from the EU.
Brexit and institutionalism
The EU published its plan to keep Northern Ireland in the single market and customs union post Brexit, yet British PM Theresa May has ostentatiously rejected it. This has led EU leaders questioning the ability of UK government to take a lead on Brexit negotiations. At this moment both Ireland and Northern Ireland are part of the single market and customs union. The plan therefore is designed to stop a return to a hard border between the UK and Northern Ireland.
The EU’s institutionalism seems to be in an ongoing process of transforming its roles and proceedings alongside the Brexit negotiation process. Whereas its Eurocentric governors are proposing the creation of the “United States of Europe”, expanding the organisation’s influence over its member states and reinforcing the idea of the “union” that seek to negate nationalistic ideas and strengthen organisational autonomous policy-making.
Maria Ioannou is a graduate in International Relations from University of Amsterdam, and interested in international relations, current political affairs, European politics, political parties, Brexit, and industrial growth issues.