The risk of Brexit: an opportunity for the EU?

Jo Ritzen and Klaus F. Zimmermann

Jo Ritzen is chair of the Vibrant Europe Forum and a former president of Maastricht University. Klaus F Zimmermann is a member of the Vibrant Europe Forum, a professor at Bonn University (on leave) and at Harvard University (visiting), and founding director of the Institute for the Study of Labor.

As the threat of fragmentation looms, the EU must seize a chance to redefine itself. There is a case for greater cooperation, but with less infringement on national sovereignty.

We propose that the current Dutch presidency of the EU takes the initiative before waiting for a possible Brexit in order to address concerns rising in various member states. A way to meet the challenge is to create both more and less Europe. We need both less bureaucratic interference in matters that can be done and should be done by national governments and their parliaments. And we need to deepen essential parts of Europe like the common market, solid solidarity and reciprocity foundations, and a sense of common European identity.

When Prime Minister Cameron announced a referendum on UK membership of the EU in February 2014, it was felt to bring about the beginnings of a crisis in Europe. The subsequent Greek financial crisis, followed by the refugee crisis, then the terror sown in Paris, all make such an EU crisis more likely. We ask ourselves here the ‘what if Brexit’ question, in order to see how the draft agreement between the UK and the EU put forward by Donald Tusk last month should be expanded to reduce the risk of Brexit as well as the cascade of events that might follow.

The full article with references has been just published by the British policy network, read it in detail here.


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