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Emmanuel Macron: A Manichaean view of Europe

What will Brexit mean for Europe? To a large extent its impact will depend on whether a deal is reached and on what terms.

One possibility is that, by the end of it, the UK, having had one foot out for most of the time it was in, will keep one foot in as it goes out. Plus ça change? Not quite. With Brexit, the EU will lose its financial centre; its second-largest economy; the second-biggest net contributor to its budget; and a member with a political and cultural reach across the globe that not even France can match. Yet a comprehensive deal would at least all but cancel out most of the geopolitical risks associated with Brexit. Relations between the UK and European countries will remain the closest and friendliest; and no one would have reason to doubt British commitment to European security. As long as that commitment is in place, and provided in particular that the Anglo-French defence partnership is unaffected by Brexit, European defence will still look credible on its own — that is even if, for whatever reason, US resolve were to falter.

A smooth Brexit that keeps Britain engaged with Europe, on terms that are acceptable to both and preserve their stability, is also likely to mean that the UK will side with the European bloc in many other critical questions — from “trade wars” (whether against the US or China) to climate change. Over time the UK will no doubt develop other trade relations, deepening ties with the Commonwealth, joining Nafta or, as indicated by Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe recently, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But these developments would only enhance the UK’s commitment to free trade and a rule-based order.

In a no-deal scenario, however, the geopolitical risks of Brexit would be significant. It may seem unthinkable in present circumstances that Britain’s security commitments to its allies on the continent could weaken; that we could, for example, ever find ourselves in a situation where Britain chooses to reach out to Russia — as it did before when it faced a hostile hegemonic power on the continent. Even Putin — one not inclined to miss opportunities — must not rate the chances of severing Britain from Europe. Not only has he not tried to woo Britain since Brexit, he seems to have done the exact opposite. Had Italy or Greece chosen to leave the EU, Putin would have no doubt spotted the opportunity to split the West. He knows that this does not work with Britain. But that too may change with a no-deal Brexit.

Imagine how a breakdown in UK-EU relations would play out. Security and intelligence cooperation would immediately suffer, and the UK would look at alternatives in areas, like sat-nav development, where its contribution to the EU has been critical. There would be a political crisis, and probably a general election. A recurring theme, perhaps the main one, would be one already hinted at in Theresa May’s post-Salzburg speech: they tried to divide the UK. If Jeremy Corbyn emerged the winner against the background of such a campaign, it would be foolhardy to assume that the UK’s fundamental strategic posture would not be in question. Even if he did not win, things would probably change.
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Michael Layden
November 26th, 2018
9:11 AM
Lawrence James, your point about the cause of the 1812 and 1941 Alliances is correct, though 1914 was a different scenario. But you don't have to be a "Music-Hall Russo-phobe" to have reservations about aligning with the present gangster regime in the Kremlin. I have dearly loved relatives of both White and Red Russian origin, but I can see no possibility of any honourable accommodation between the UK and Putin's Russia.

Lawrence James
November 11th, 2018
10:11 AM
The roundabout statement that Britain 'reached out to Russia' to rescue Europe from French and German domination is incorrect. In 1812 and 1941 the Russo-British alliance was the consequence of invasions of Russia by the delinquent powers.French and German attempts to dominate the continent are and may still be the sources of all its misfortunes. An entente with Russia would be a good thing whatever the Music-Hall Russophobes may say.

November 8th, 2018
5:11 PM
The Euro is the biggest problem by far. The empire-builders have the instruction manual and are working their way through it. Imagine their surprise when they read that their own currency is an essential component. So they wished it into being, not caring that most of their statelets are enthusiastic devaluers. Fortunately that nice Sr. Draghi has been able to arrange for the ECB to accept the devaluers' worthless IOUs and as each day passes the situation deteriorates. The next page of the manual concerns the armed forces. Whatever next?

November 4th, 2018
12:11 PM
The Foreword to the Europa Diary 2010-2011: Dear students, As we begin the second decade of the 21st. century, you have been given the seventh edition of the Europa Diary. This educational tool has become much sought after and highly appreciated by three and a half million teenagers, just like you, all around Europe. We believe that education is an essential prerequisite for individual development and progress of society as a whole. Education is one of the key elements that will enable us to restore the social market economy of Europe by 2020. By then you will be preparing to take over the leadership of Europe as well as presenting your plans for a bigger and stronger European Union. Make sure you are ambitious, responsive and.responsible for your own future! José Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission

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