Britain Is Leaving. Europe Has to Change.

There’s an enormous danger in doing nothing.

Comments: 212

  1. Macron and Merkel's "condescension" is not limited to our fellow Europeans in the East and South, but for their own citizens as well. Macron is following absurd orders from Brussels and Big Finance to dismantle the French social system, a hard fought for advance in humanity, and will put the country on a permanent track to austerity and the impoverishment of the working class. Merkel's open borders have driven down wages for working class Germans and led to a cultural conflict that has given new life to an old devil, the German Far Right, with its red and black symbolism. Moreover, Germany's mercantilism has put its ordoliberal budget balancing act above the well-being of the fellow members of the incomplete and doomed Euro project. The EU can't survive if it continues to enforce neoliberalism on its Member States. Mark my words, Italy will be leaving soon, and if Macron doesn't back down, so will France.

  2. @CL Yes, the EU needs to go back to its social market economies, neoliberalism does not work. It does not work well for the people in the US either.

  3. @CL The EU can't survive if it continues to enforce neoliberalism on its Member States. ". But the only European parties that have ever supported pulling out of the EU - the Free Democrats in Germany and Le Pen's National Rally, are the most neo liberal major parties around. When they proposed exiting the EU, they got decimated in the next election. The people of Europe have never had it so good. Even the Greeks and Spaniards recognize that. All indications are that the EU will survive and thrive. The problems Bittner points out are challenges, but his idea of letting each country decide what it will sign up to, is a non-starter.

  4. @Roger Evans Le Pen is not at all a neoliberal - she's come out expressly against such policies. That is not an endorsement, simply a correction on your mistaken comment. As for Germany, in the end she may be the last member of the EU. I don't see her or any current parties taking France out of the EU. I believe the evolution towards that rupture will come from an outside player, yet to come onto the political scene. Look at the quick rise of the authoritarian government of Macron - it's not an anomaly.

  5. Britain leaving the EU will probably have a much lesser impact or import than feared, for the simple reason that it was never fully in. Retention of the pound sterling and rejection of Schengen meant that the UK’s economy ran quite separately — interest rates, inflation, fiscal policy — and traveling in and out of the UK was never streamlined as, say, between Spain and the Netherlands. Further proof? Biggest hang up to Britain leaving the EU was the matter of border crossings between two Irelands, something the rest of Europe could not care less about.

  6. So refreshing to read an opinion outside the conventional thinking on Brexit! Bravo to those who dare contemplate a positive outcome for Britain and a period of introspection for the EU. Fog on the Channel; Continent cut off!

  7. A European Union where members cherry pick where they want to be in and where to be out will not work. The burden will fall even more on the "rich" countries. Europe needs reform - whether that ultimately leads to more Europe or less Europe is not the point. Only a strong Europe will be able to achieve what it was originally set out to be: a united front against the enemy in the East (although Mr. Trump believes that the EU was started to scr.. the United States - he got that wrong, like most things he says). Europe needs reform, and Macron is doing the only right thing to do in France: reform the pension system, make France attractive for investors and entrepreneurs. And he seems to be on the right track, looking at growth rates in France vs Germany. Yes, it hurts to give up goodies, but any French in his right mind (and I count myself as one) would have to agree that the pension benefits and retirement age as they are today are simply not sustainable. Europe has to be a "give and take". If it's a cherry picking menu, then it will be only "take" - and that won't work.

  8. With its emphasis on common law and separate monetary system, it's amazing Britain was able to stay in as long as it did.

  9. Is the German op-ed author proposing the E.U. give Putin some al-a-carte menu options, too? How about Erdogan? While I agree that the E.U. needs reform, unlike the Die Zeit editor, I think the most important reforms must start with reforming Germany itself. German arrogance and obsession with austerity has been setting E.U. policy for far too long. The second important reform would be (the opposite of al-a-carte) true harsh measures against Eastern European populists destroying the rule of law.

  10. @David yep. If EU will only pretend that they are trying to prevent autocratic governments in Poland and Hungry, they will flourish blossom. Hit them hard financially. I know what works for my country. Every time national pride started to take over people minds, we were crushed by some disasters. We are small country and we would learn fast that alone we are just Putins prey. Let English backstabbers leave. They can’t be trusted and that’s nothing new. Really hope they will be good example of how populist sentiments can destroy small country. Looking forward for Scottish and Irish independence. The worst disaster Brexit is for England, the better EU will do. They don’t care about damage they done to EU, so why would we care about them. Hard negotiations, no compromises, WTO terms if they don’t like it.

  11. ONLY the top 4 or 5 strongest economies should be the EU, week economies have been the result of the problems the EU faces today. With a smaller union decisions and programs are easier to move forward, 28 is just too many to get anything meaningful done

  12. You get what you opt for. There would be no United States of America without a strong glue, it'd just be a bunch of states that never worried about joining or dying, and certainly never grew much beyond their original 13, but rather would gave competed openly. If Europe sees no benefit in the EU, in the good that comes, then maybe it should start where Brexit left off. Ending the ages old issue all together. Breaking up is really easy, non-cooperation is incredibly beneficial for local power plays, and the years of so-so benefit in our economic world for the most people is easily activated against easy targets. Let the want to be heroes scape goat their way into the hearts of the public. Let them say that spectacular competition and non-cooperation is ideal. The EU, like most unions, is only really valuable when it is wanted. Let it die if it is not wanted - I mean you should get what you want. Europe has spent more time less united than united, maybe that is what works for the people of that continent.

  13. If you join a fitness club here in Germany you have to do exactly that:you are obligated to pay for all courses yoga, boxing, meditation and swimming if it’s offered. Maybe that’s different in the US but here in your country that is how things work. You pay for health insurance even if you never need or want one, you pay for insurance in case you lose your job even if you will probably never lose it and you are also obligated to have a fire insurance for your house even if you don’t want to rebuild it in case of a fire.That is Germany and since we are the biggest bill payer in the European Union that’s the principle of the European Union too.And with regard to Britain everyone here knows that they will be the ones to break down after this not the European Union since they are simply too small to survive alone.Being all alone now, they do not have any leverage against countries like China or the US anymore and their economy is already in crisis mode. I am sorry but leaving the European Union is not going to be the success story Britain wants it to be.

  14. You may not need health insurance now, but you, too, will grow old one day. A life blessed without accidents and family health problems will still have to reckon with time.

  15. @Melanie Draude "That is Germany and since we are the biggest bill payer in the European Union that’s the principle of the European Union too." Yep and that seems why the UK is leaving. There is no need for "leverage" over China & the US and I don't see where the EU itself has that leverage. Most countries have no real problems dealing with China & the US. And the UK economy isn't in crisis mode.

  16. @Melanie Draude This is a common misconception I've heard from many Germans. Britain is not a small economy. It's a large, powerful and dynamic economy, which is well respected throughout the world, especially for it services sector. And, it will remain so after it leaves the EU. I never wanted the UK to leave the EU and I voted against it. But, we are a democracy and that is how the nation voted. Being a member of the EU will also not solve the UK's significant structural economic problems. By the way, it won't help Germany either. After a decade of near-uninterrupted growth, Germany has shifted from being the powerhouse of the eurozone economy to lagging behind. It shown prolonged weakness in its manufacturing sector shows increasing signs of seeping into services and consumer spending. Productivity remains low and the labour force is expected to shrink as it's population ages. As I said , being part of the EU won't solve these problems for Germany. But we will miss you.

  17. Your “à la carte” proposal - there is already substantial “à la carte” . Ireland, about 1% the EU population cannot be dictated to on matters of defense, neutrality, taxation. The autocracies of Poland, Hungary - stop the regress to absolutism or you exit the EU. The EU cannot tolerate, must not tolerate member states navigating towards semi-fascist status. The UK leaves, a few lessons to be learned by the EU, far less than the author assumes, a far more grave lesson to be learned if the EU demonstrates absolute, resolute opposition to the emergent totalitarian regimes of Hungary, Poland. Expel them, maybe they will find better alliances with Putin's Moscow. There is of course in this immense undertaking, unique in human history, much to criticize but the immensity of what is accomplished so far is apparent to a vast majority of the young people of Europe which is why I foresee our British neighbors back with us again in this most immense project for peace and progress in the history of mankind.

  18. @Branagh Poland will certainly not align with Moscow. They have been purchasing large quantities of American arms and aircraft for the purposes of defense, in case Russia starts to over reach. Poland is much more likely to align with Trump than Moscow.

  19. The countries that join the EU know what they are getting themselves into. It's untenable that they beg for member status and then complain about what that means after the fact. It's like a heroin addict who goes in to rehab and acts shocked that they are also being required to stop taking crystal meth. The EU would be better off if Poland and Hungary etc. had not been accepted. It should be only the core Western European Countries have common values and goals. Those countries weren't and aren't ready to be or understand the benefit of free societies. Overreach is the problem just like it is in the U.S. Alabama and New York should not be in the same country either.

  20. @Jonny Walker It is the capacity to accommodate people with divergent cultures and views that has marked the EU as as success. In a shrinking world, with ever more people, barriers are not the solution. You should look to see the actual differences between Alabama and New York as a strength, not a weakness. Diversity is actively pursued by corporations within their human resources for the very reason that it delivers far higher levels of innovation and performance. Turning your back on it impoverishes everyone and facilitates populism.

  21. @Jonny Walker Not true. None of the EU member states that begged to be admitted knew in advance that the EU would force them to open up to immigration, which is explicitly prohibited by the Consitution of many member states. As a matter of fact, only the (few) former European empires are for immigration, the other (many) countries are not.

  22. @Kieran "In a shrinking world, with ever more people, barriers are not the solution." Have you heard, good fences make good neighbors?

  23. Indeed there is an enormous danger in doing nothing, and the European Community does need an overall, but the idea that the UK is going to thrive outside the bloc is an optimistic one. The Brits are putting a lot of stock in a trade agreement with the US, but that is highly unlikely to come in a US election year and when it does, which of the two countries is likely to have the stronger hand do you think? Is a country of 70 million with no manufacturing base to speak of really going to sit down to negotiate as an equal with the US, China, Russia and the European bloc? Is the US going to open the door to Britain's one real success story, financial services, in detriment to its own? I have my doubts. It is notable that talk of 'Frexit', 'Grexit' etc. has diminished considerably across the continent as the political horror show of Brexit has unfolded in Westminster and that's before the real negotiations for a trade deal have started; a trade deal that the Brits want to complete in a record 12 months. Making predictions is incredibly difficult and there is always a coronavirus around the corner waiting to catch us unawares, but the idea that Brexit will not come without great economic instability is overly optimistic to say the least.

  24. @P Kelly I don't want to be put into the position of defending Brexit but I do need to point out that the UK is the world's eighth largest manufacturing nation (UN, 'Made Here Now' 2015, latest report). I also note that the trade deal with the US is not seen as a lifeboat by any means. It will be good for a few headlines but the coming FTA with the EU is seen as more important.

  25. The EU is complex, bureaucratic and incredibly slow at making decisions because it runs on compromise. Essentially, like the author says, all the member nations have to agree to do anything. This is why one cannot count on Europe for quick actions when needed (refugees, Israël, Syria, whatever). The nations that want less Europe are essentially right-wing, aspiring autocratic nations. On the other hand, the EU is inflexible on the 4 freedoms. This is why the UK wanted out. They are happy with freedom of trade but not freedom of movement, forgetting for a moment how many of their own citizen have emigrated to France, Spain or Italy. The UK does not want Polish plumbers to settle in the UK, forgetting for a moment how many doctors and nurses they didn't have to pay the education for thanks to the rest of the EU. One of the key tenets of EU membership is the commitment to democracy. Viktor Orban, the leader of Hungary, hates Europe because it does not let him do what he wants. If it were up to him he would close borders and run the country like Albania. Perfect for him, terrible for the average Hungarian. The EU is not in the business of abiding by the whims of local autocrats. The EU tried being flexible before. The UK did not sign on to the single currency or to the Schengen treaty, and they got a special agricultural deal. They still got out. This evidently does not work. I believe in a strong EU, not a weak, a-la-carte arrangement. Take it, contribute, or leave it.

  26. @Hugues Exactly. The solution to the EU's problems isn't more flexibility, it's actually stronger integration of the member states. Until most people there think of themselves as purely "Europeans"--as in a national identity--and not as French of German first, the EU will continue to have these problems, and may well fail altogether. I know people there bristle at the idea of becoming more like America, but they need to in one very significant way. No one in America genuinely thinks of themselves as a "Kansan" or "Oregonian" first and an American second (well, some Texans or New Yorkers, perhaps). And no one here has ever been genuinely offended because a plumber or doctor moved to their state from another. It really wouldn't even occur to Americans to think that way beyond the relatively good natured grumbling about Californians ruining the real estate markets in neighboring states. We are all Americans and, though we have real differences, our national identity comes first, always. Europe will never truly be "Europe" until this happens. And it may never happen.

  27. @Hugues Exactly! Well said.

  28. There's no need for a conference, I can tell you now what the conclusions will be: The federalists will argue that the answer is in "ever tighter union" and say what the EU needs is a president, a common foreign and budgetary policy and a common military. The minimalists will say the problem with the EU is that it already does too much and push back against the federalists. The end result will be a muddled statement which will claim to "look forward together" and everything will continue the way it has been. Years ago Margaret Thatcher warned what would happen if the EU pushed a common currency - she predicted the collapse of the European centrist consensus and the rise of populist parties ending in a British withdrawal from the EU, exactly what we see in Europe today. It's sad the EU never listened.

  29. The author forgets that the UK essentially got exactly what he’s describing - a special deal on currency, Schengen, even a special “rebate” on its membership dues. What is that if not a la carte membership, to the extent that the bloc can accommodate it? And yet it’s the UK that’s leaving, not one of the newer countries that didn’t get all those breaks. If the EU opens the door to more special arrangements, that door will just open wider and wider until there’s nothing workable left. It’s not the EU’s job to fix Britain’s issues, which are essentially domestic. It’s certainly not the EU’s job to further empower would-be autocrats in Hungary and Poland.

  30. @Elle The UK is leaving because it can. The newer members cannot, in reality, do so. I don't think leaving is a good idea for the UK but, as Mr Bittner suggests, it will not have nearly as big an impact as many suggest. Be prepared for nothing much for a few years until the real effects (almost certainly unforeseen) work their way through. I am a fan of the EU but it must acknowledge some responsibility and adapt accordingly.

  31. Spot on Jochen. The EU must change or die. Brexit is the writing on the wall. My own view is that the EU must pivot from being a top-down club of governments to something more grass roots - something that individual citizens can feel a part of, connected to, and above all, proud of. At the moment, for most people, the EU might be beneficial in some vague ways, but it is distant, and can easily be painted as overbearing.

  32. But "participation in the single market itself and the obligation to abide by its so-called “four freedoms” — of goods, services, capital and people" is bad for most Europeans, except for the billionaires and the bankers. In the long run the people will reject it. It would be best to drop the whole thing now and start from scratch.

  33. @Paul Easton “four freedoms” — of goods, services, capital and people" is bad for most Europeans. Absolutely not! This is the bedrock of the European Union and its advantages by far outweigh its disadvantages. It has never been easier to travel across Europe, work and live where you want and I also don't miss the customs checks. And I don't miss the Peseta and French Franc either.... Someone said in a comment that the EU is not doing a good PR job. I fully agree - the achievements of the EU should be sold more aggressively.

  34. @Paul Easton Actually many actions on the part of the Eu central bank are creating real hardship for people in what was E Europe-- Hungary by encouraging nasty men to threaten the neighbors and buy up their land (under duress) and get big bucks form the EU for doing so. Coercive capitalism is economic slavery -- so far as immigration -- it is often forced by economic or political circumstances. Still people need to stop over-reproduction... and how to encourage that?? when economies "need" to expand constantly thus demanding more consumers. YIKES.

  35. I think this is a slight misrepresentation - the a la carte already exists to an extent. Case in point, the UK was never part of the single currency or Schengen agreement, and it's not really on the table to force other opt outs from those agreements (e.g., Sweden and Ireland, respectively) to join.

  36. If you allow a la carte you may as well go back to individual countries. The problem with the EU is the natural dominance by Germany and France. And this is likely to strengthen with the UK leaving. It's also likely Brussels will extend its grip and become more autocratic over many EU states. The southern states still have a Euro problem, while the eastern states have a progressive liberal problem. Still Europe as a whole is probably better off with the EU than without it.

  37. @Paul You got a point there. The "natural dominance" of Germany is surely not quite unproblematic. But it is also not as simple or as bad as some might portray it: 1) Some who point fingers are merely using it (Germany, France and Brussels) as a scapegoat for their own problems. 2) If the smaller EU countries want more power they also have to act more proactively instead of waiting for some problems to encroach and then complain if the bigger countries feel urged to take initiative.

  38. Except that it was precisely the UK that had been acting as a Trojan horse to destroy the EU from within (and so far, has failed ). The UK was the main promoter of the expansion to the East at any cost - including Turkey, - with the clear strategic intention of diluting any possible chance of political harmonization and some form of (con)federation. It may be too late to reverse now the damage. The way forward has to be the creation of a new union of the willing closer to a real political union.

  39. @O Paco well put. Thanks.

  40. These are simply the consequences of countries that believe in imperialism and domination of others. Britain will be Greece in two decades.

  41. @Pilot This view doesn't make sense. The US dominated the free world in teh 20th century; is it headed for a Greece-like collapse? Many in the UK have felt "Eurocrats" were governing them without their consent; is that not a form of domination?

  42. A thoughtful article, but still a simplification. But without simplifying it would probably end up being a book. I do not think that an a-la-carte approach would be really beneficial as it would both promote cherry picking and strengthen the nation states again, One might ask now why the latter should be a problem. Well, I guess that depends both on generations and how one thinks future will unfold: 1) The younger Europeans -including me- have grown up with Europe. Many of us identify just as much (or even more) with Europe as we do with our countries or regions within them. We do not view the EU as mere instrument for all the reasons it was founded (Although these reasons are also ones to protect it.) to promote the well being of its members, but we do view it as an value in itself. 2) There are no people knowing exactly how future will look like, but if I had to guess I would predict the following: 1. More globalization. 2. China and India becoming stronger over the course of the century. 3. Environmental issues causing many problems in the world and fueling many other problems. It can already be seen now (and in recent past years) that nation states -especially ones of the sizes of the European ones- are not capable of solving many problems efficiently and on time. And others not at all. A future that is anything like I expect it to be will be one where those countries are even more incapable. The EU needs be strengthened and not weakened.

  43. Europe has to start protecting Europeans. This seems elementary, but the elite liberals in the European Commission cannot seem to understand it. Britain left because of mass immigration. British citizens found that their country wasn't theirs any more -- the country their fathers and grandfathers fought and died to defend. The other Europeans find themselves in the same predicament. Mass immigration killed the idea of Europe.

  44. @James Ribe There's some truth to this. But my reading is that Britons in 2016 were less worried by the large-scale, but organized migration of Eastern Europeans than by Germany's unilateral decision in 2015 to, in effect, eliminate the EU's external borders and seemingly make it possible for anyone who walked to Europe to stay. That and the camps in France full of migrants hoping to get to the UK left a vivid impression that the EU had entirely lost control of migration and that Britain would be seriously affected if it did not take control itself. Without Merkel's generous, but politically dangerous decision, I doubt the Brexiteers would have won the vote.

  45. Mass immigration. From outside the EU. You are aware that non-EU immigration to the UK always was on roughly the same level as EU immigration, and that it has increased since the referendum?

  46. @James Ribe Nonsense.The Poles and others from the EU were/are not the problem. They served as a cover for resentment about other more conspicuously foreign elements in the society.But no one wanted to mention the real source of resentment. Not immigration from the EU but immigration from sources that made people feel "their country was not theirs any more." Now the real problem will begin.....

  47. Mr. Bittner is right. Europeans will always be much more commtted to their nations than Americans are to their states, and the sheer variety of cultures in Europe is its joy as well as its curse. More flexibility and deference to the local rather than more moves towards the creation of a US of E would be wonderful and certainly make it easier for Britain to some day rejoin. There's a sting in the end of the article: the line that the EU will be in trouble if Britain appears to exit unscathed. It's that dynamic that makes the EU want to punish Britain. But telling proud and unruly members: "The EU is good for you because we will punish you if you leave" is not a long-run political winner.

  48. @Alexander Menzies The belief that the UK would get a great trade deal outside the EU with unfettered access to the single market was right up there with Empire 2.0. It seems negotiation will focus on regulations - if the UK agrees to match them, they can stay in the Single Market, if they do not, well, good luck with that... Divergence on standards means the UK government wants to shut the door on ever being in a position to rejoin should the public want to pursue that option... It is the only logical position for the EU to adopt - it is not a question of punishment. The UK government will simply lock itself out of the Single Market, which has to be a real irony, given it was its main designer!

  49. @Kieran You're quite right. Britain shouldn't and won't leave without losing various good things, but it doesn't follow that the EU has to make things worse than strictly necessary. But there will be an understandable temptation to do just that for political reasons.

  50. The EU is not punishing the UK. That's an utterly ridiculous notion. The UK does not want adhere to the EU's standards and regulations, which is fine (it's their call), but why then should the EU allow the UK to ride piggyback? That's just common sense. However, much more importantly, if the UK are given a sweetheart deal, especially with the British PM openly declaring that it intends to deviate, all other trading partners of the EU around the world would come running demanding the same prederential treatment (they've already said so).

  51. It is impossible to have different regulations if we have a single market

  52. Macron and Merkel's "condescension" is not limited to our fellow Europeans in the East and South, but for their own citizens as well. Macron is following absurd orders from Brussels and Big Finance to dismantle the French social system, a hard fought for advance in humanity, and will put the country on a permanent track to austerity and the impoverishment of the working class. Merkel's open borders have driven down wages for working class Germans and led to a cultural conflict that has given new life to an old devil, the German Far Right, with its red and black symbolism. Moreover, Germany's mercantilism has put its ordoliberal budget balancing act above the well-being of the fellow members of the incomplete and doomed Euro project. The EU can't survive if it continues to enforce neoliberalism on its Member States. Mark my words, Italy will be leaving soon, and if Macron doesn't back down, so will France.

  53. @CL Yes, the EU needs to go back to its social market economies, neoliberalism does not work. It does not work well for the people in the US either.

  54. @CL The EU can't survive if it continues to enforce neoliberalism on its Member States. ". But the only European parties that have ever supported pulling out of the EU - the Free Democrats in Germany and Le Pen's National Rally, are the most neo liberal major parties around. When they proposed exiting the EU, they got decimated in the next election. The people of Europe have never had it so good. Even the Greeks and Spaniards recognize that. All indications are that the EU will survive and thrive. The problems Bittner points out are challenges, but his idea of letting each country decide what it will sign up to, is a non-starter.

  55. @Roger Evans Le Pen is not at all a neoliberal - she's come out expressly against such policies. That is not an endorsement, simply a correction on your mistaken comment. As for Germany, in the end she may be the last member of the EU. I don't see her or any current parties taking France out of the EU. I believe the evolution towards that rupture will come from an outside player, yet to come onto the political scene. Look at the quick rise of the authoritarian government of Macron - it's not an anomaly.

  56. Britain leaving the EU will probably have a much lesser impact or import than feared, for the simple reason that it was never fully in. Retention of the pound sterling and rejection of Schengen meant that the UK’s economy ran quite separately — interest rates, inflation, fiscal policy — and traveling in and out of the UK was never streamlined as, say, between Spain and the Netherlands. Further proof? Biggest hang up to Britain leaving the EU was the matter of border crossings between two Irelands, something the rest of Europe could not care less about.

  57. So refreshing to read an opinion outside the conventional thinking on Brexit! Bravo to those who dare contemplate a positive outcome for Britain and a period of introspection for the EU. Fog on the Channel; Continent cut off!

  58. A European Union where members cherry pick where they want to be in and where to be out will not work. The burden will fall even more on the "rich" countries. Europe needs reform - whether that ultimately leads to more Europe or less Europe is not the point. Only a strong Europe will be able to achieve what it was originally set out to be: a united front against the enemy in the East (although Mr. Trump believes that the EU was started to scr.. the United States - he got that wrong, like most things he says). Europe needs reform, and Macron is doing the only right thing to do in France: reform the pension system, make France attractive for investors and entrepreneurs. And he seems to be on the right track, looking at growth rates in France vs Germany. Yes, it hurts to give up goodies, but any French in his right mind (and I count myself as one) would have to agree that the pension benefits and retirement age as they are today are simply not sustainable. Europe has to be a "give and take". If it's a cherry picking menu, then it will be only "take" - and that won't work.

  59. With its emphasis on common law and separate monetary system, it's amazing Britain was able to stay in as long as it did.

  60. Is the German op-ed author proposing the E.U. give Putin some al-a-carte menu options, too? How about Erdogan? While I agree that the E.U. needs reform, unlike the Die Zeit editor, I think the most important reforms must start with reforming Germany itself. German arrogance and obsession with austerity has been setting E.U. policy for far too long. The second important reform would be (the opposite of al-a-carte) true harsh measures against Eastern European populists destroying the rule of law.

  61. @David yep. If EU will only pretend that they are trying to prevent autocratic governments in Poland and Hungry, they will flourish blossom. Hit them hard financially. I know what works for my country. Every time national pride started to take over people minds, we were crushed by some disasters. We are small country and we would learn fast that alone we are just Putins prey. Let English backstabbers leave. They can’t be trusted and that’s nothing new. Really hope they will be good example of how populist sentiments can destroy small country. Looking forward for Scottish and Irish independence. The worst disaster Brexit is for England, the better EU will do. They don’t care about damage they done to EU, so why would we care about them. Hard negotiations, no compromises, WTO terms if they don’t like it.

  62. ONLY the top 4 or 5 strongest economies should be the EU, week economies have been the result of the problems the EU faces today. With a smaller union decisions and programs are easier to move forward, 28 is just too many to get anything meaningful done

  63. You get what you opt for. There would be no United States of America without a strong glue, it'd just be a bunch of states that never worried about joining or dying, and certainly never grew much beyond their original 13, but rather would gave competed openly. If Europe sees no benefit in the EU, in the good that comes, then maybe it should start where Brexit left off. Ending the ages old issue all together. Breaking up is really easy, non-cooperation is incredibly beneficial for local power plays, and the years of so-so benefit in our economic world for the most people is easily activated against easy targets. Let the want to be heroes scape goat their way into the hearts of the public. Let them say that spectacular competition and non-cooperation is ideal. The EU, like most unions, is only really valuable when it is wanted. Let it die if it is not wanted - I mean you should get what you want. Europe has spent more time less united than united, maybe that is what works for the people of that continent.

  64. If you join a fitness club here in Germany you have to do exactly that:you are obligated to pay for all courses yoga, boxing, meditation and swimming if it’s offered. Maybe that’s different in the US but here in your country that is how things work. You pay for health insurance even if you never need or want one, you pay for insurance in case you lose your job even if you will probably never lose it and you are also obligated to have a fire insurance for your house even if you don’t want to rebuild it in case of a fire.That is Germany and since we are the biggest bill payer in the European Union that’s the principle of the European Union too.And with regard to Britain everyone here knows that they will be the ones to break down after this not the European Union since they are simply too small to survive alone.Being all alone now, they do not have any leverage against countries like China or the US anymore and their economy is already in crisis mode. I am sorry but leaving the European Union is not going to be the success story Britain wants it to be.

  65. You may not need health insurance now, but you, too, will grow old one day. A life blessed without accidents and family health problems will still have to reckon with time.

  66. @Melanie Draude "That is Germany and since we are the biggest bill payer in the European Union that’s the principle of the European Union too." Yep and that seems why the UK is leaving. There is no need for "leverage" over China & the US and I don't see where the EU itself has that leverage. Most countries have no real problems dealing with China & the US. And the UK economy isn't in crisis mode.

  67. @Melanie Draude This is a common misconception I've heard from many Germans. Britain is not a small economy. It's a large, powerful and dynamic economy, which is well respected throughout the world, especially for it services sector. And, it will remain so after it leaves the EU. I never wanted the UK to leave the EU and I voted against it. But, we are a democracy and that is how the nation voted. Being a member of the EU will also not solve the UK's significant structural economic problems. By the way, it won't help Germany either. After a decade of near-uninterrupted growth, Germany has shifted from being the powerhouse of the eurozone economy to lagging behind. It shown prolonged weakness in its manufacturing sector shows increasing signs of seeping into services and consumer spending. Productivity remains low and the labour force is expected to shrink as it's population ages. As I said , being part of the EU won't solve these problems for Germany. But we will miss you.

  68. Your “à la carte” proposal - there is already substantial “à la carte” . Ireland, about 1% the EU population cannot be dictated to on matters of defense, neutrality, taxation. The autocracies of Poland, Hungary - stop the regress to absolutism or you exit the EU. The EU cannot tolerate, must not tolerate member states navigating towards semi-fascist status. The UK leaves, a few lessons to be learned by the EU, far less than the author assumes, a far more grave lesson to be learned if the EU demonstrates absolute, resolute opposition to the emergent totalitarian regimes of Hungary, Poland. Expel them, maybe they will find better alliances with Putin's Moscow. There is of course in this immense undertaking, unique in human history, much to criticize but the immensity of what is accomplished so far is apparent to a vast majority of the young people of Europe which is why I foresee our British neighbors back with us again in this most immense project for peace and progress in the history of mankind.

  69. @Branagh Poland will certainly not align with Moscow. They have been purchasing large quantities of American arms and aircraft for the purposes of defense, in case Russia starts to over reach. Poland is much more likely to align with Trump than Moscow.

  70. The countries that join the EU know what they are getting themselves into. It's untenable that they beg for member status and then complain about what that means after the fact. It's like a heroin addict who goes in to rehab and acts shocked that they are also being required to stop taking crystal meth. The EU would be better off if Poland and Hungary etc. had not been accepted. It should be only the core Western European Countries have common values and goals. Those countries weren't and aren't ready to be or understand the benefit of free societies. Overreach is the problem just like it is in the U.S. Alabama and New York should not be in the same country either.

  71. @Jonny Walker It is the capacity to accommodate people with divergent cultures and views that has marked the EU as as success. In a shrinking world, with ever more people, barriers are not the solution. You should look to see the actual differences between Alabama and New York as a strength, not a weakness. Diversity is actively pursued by corporations within their human resources for the very reason that it delivers far higher levels of innovation and performance. Turning your back on it impoverishes everyone and facilitates populism.

  72. @Jonny Walker Not true. None of the EU member states that begged to be admitted knew in advance that the EU would force them to open up to immigration, which is explicitly prohibited by the Consitution of many member states. As a matter of fact, only the (few) former European empires are for immigration, the other (many) countries are not.

  73. @Kieran "In a shrinking world, with ever more people, barriers are not the solution." Have you heard, good fences make good neighbors?

  74. Indeed there is an enormous danger in doing nothing, and the European Community does need an overall, but the idea that the UK is going to thrive outside the bloc is an optimistic one. The Brits are putting a lot of stock in a trade agreement with the US, but that is highly unlikely to come in a US election year and when it does, which of the two countries is likely to have the stronger hand do you think? Is a country of 70 million with no manufacturing base to speak of really going to sit down to negotiate as an equal with the US, China, Russia and the European bloc? Is the US going to open the door to Britain's one real success story, financial services, in detriment to its own? I have my doubts. It is notable that talk of 'Frexit', 'Grexit' etc. has diminished considerably across the continent as the political horror show of Brexit has unfolded in Westminster and that's before the real negotiations for a trade deal have started; a trade deal that the Brits want to complete in a record 12 months. Making predictions is incredibly difficult and there is always a coronavirus around the corner waiting to catch us unawares, but the idea that Brexit will not come without great economic instability is overly optimistic to say the least.

  75. @P Kelly I don't want to be put into the position of defending Brexit but I do need to point out that the UK is the world's eighth largest manufacturing nation (UN, 'Made Here Now' 2015, latest report). I also note that the trade deal with the US is not seen as a lifeboat by any means. It will be good for a few headlines but the coming FTA with the EU is seen as more important.

  76. The EU is complex, bureaucratic and incredibly slow at making decisions because it runs on compromise. Essentially, like the author says, all the member nations have to agree to do anything. This is why one cannot count on Europe for quick actions when needed (refugees, Israël, Syria, whatever). The nations that want less Europe are essentially right-wing, aspiring autocratic nations. On the other hand, the EU is inflexible on the 4 freedoms. This is why the UK wanted out. They are happy with freedom of trade but not freedom of movement, forgetting for a moment how many of their own citizen have emigrated to France, Spain or Italy. The UK does not want Polish plumbers to settle in the UK, forgetting for a moment how many doctors and nurses they didn't have to pay the education for thanks to the rest of the EU. One of the key tenets of EU membership is the commitment to democracy. Viktor Orban, the leader of Hungary, hates Europe because it does not let him do what he wants. If it were up to him he would close borders and run the country like Albania. Perfect for him, terrible for the average Hungarian. The EU is not in the business of abiding by the whims of local autocrats. The EU tried being flexible before. The UK did not sign on to the single currency or to the Schengen treaty, and they got a special agricultural deal. They still got out. This evidently does not work. I believe in a strong EU, not a weak, a-la-carte arrangement. Take it, contribute, or leave it.

  77. @Hugues Exactly. The solution to the EU's problems isn't more flexibility, it's actually stronger integration of the member states. Until most people there think of themselves as purely "Europeans"--as in a national identity--and not as French of German first, the EU will continue to have these problems, and may well fail altogether. I know people there bristle at the idea of becoming more like America, but they need to in one very significant way. No one in America genuinely thinks of themselves as a "Kansan" or "Oregonian" first and an American second (well, some Texans or New Yorkers, perhaps). And no one here has ever been genuinely offended because a plumber or doctor moved to their state from another. It really wouldn't even occur to Americans to think that way beyond the relatively good natured grumbling about Californians ruining the real estate markets in neighboring states. We are all Americans and, though we have real differences, our national identity comes first, always. Europe will never truly be "Europe" until this happens. And it may never happen.

  78. @Hugues Exactly! Well said.

  79. There's no need for a conference, I can tell you now what the conclusions will be: The federalists will argue that the answer is in "ever tighter union" and say what the EU needs is a president, a common foreign and budgetary policy and a common military. The minimalists will say the problem with the EU is that it already does too much and push back against the federalists. The end result will be a muddled statement which will claim to "look forward together" and everything will continue the way it has been. Years ago Margaret Thatcher warned what would happen if the EU pushed a common currency - she predicted the collapse of the European centrist consensus and the rise of populist parties ending in a British withdrawal from the EU, exactly what we see in Europe today. It's sad the EU never listened.

  80. The author forgets that the UK essentially got exactly what he’s describing - a special deal on currency, Schengen, even a special “rebate” on its membership dues. What is that if not a la carte membership, to the extent that the bloc can accommodate it? And yet it’s the UK that’s leaving, not one of the newer countries that didn’t get all those breaks. If the EU opens the door to more special arrangements, that door will just open wider and wider until there’s nothing workable left. It’s not the EU’s job to fix Britain’s issues, which are essentially domestic. It’s certainly not the EU’s job to further empower would-be autocrats in Hungary and Poland.

  81. @Elle The UK is leaving because it can. The newer members cannot, in reality, do so. I don't think leaving is a good idea for the UK but, as Mr Bittner suggests, it will not have nearly as big an impact as many suggest. Be prepared for nothing much for a few years until the real effects (almost certainly unforeseen) work their way through. I am a fan of the EU but it must acknowledge some responsibility and adapt accordingly.

  82. Spot on Jochen. The EU must change or die. Brexit is the writing on the wall. My own view is that the EU must pivot from being a top-down club of governments to something more grass roots - something that individual citizens can feel a part of, connected to, and above all, proud of. At the moment, for most people, the EU might be beneficial in some vague ways, but it is distant, and can easily be painted as overbearing.

  83. But "participation in the single market itself and the obligation to abide by its so-called “four freedoms” — of goods, services, capital and people" is bad for most Europeans, except for the billionaires and the bankers. In the long run the people will reject it. It would be best to drop the whole thing now and start from scratch.

  84. @Paul Easton “four freedoms” — of goods, services, capital and people" is bad for most Europeans. Absolutely not! This is the bedrock of the European Union and its advantages by far outweigh its disadvantages. It has never been easier to travel across Europe, work and live where you want and I also don't miss the customs checks. And I don't miss the Peseta and French Franc either.... Someone said in a comment that the EU is not doing a good PR job. I fully agree - the achievements of the EU should be sold more aggressively.

  85. @Paul Easton Actually many actions on the part of the Eu central bank are creating real hardship for people in what was E Europe-- Hungary by encouraging nasty men to threaten the neighbors and buy up their land (under duress) and get big bucks form the EU for doing so. Coercive capitalism is economic slavery -- so far as immigration -- it is often forced by economic or political circumstances. Still people need to stop over-reproduction... and how to encourage that?? when economies "need" to expand constantly thus demanding more consumers. YIKES.

  86. I think this is a slight misrepresentation - the a la carte already exists to an extent. Case in point, the UK was never part of the single currency or Schengen agreement, and it's not really on the table to force other opt outs from those agreements (e.g., Sweden and Ireland, respectively) to join.

  87. If you allow a la carte you may as well go back to individual countries. The problem with the EU is the natural dominance by Germany and France. And this is likely to strengthen with the UK leaving. It's also likely Brussels will extend its grip and become more autocratic over many EU states. The southern states still have a Euro problem, while the eastern states have a progressive liberal problem. Still Europe as a whole is probably better off with the EU than without it.

  88. @Paul You got a point there. The "natural dominance" of Germany is surely not quite unproblematic. But it is also not as simple or as bad as some might portray it: 1) Some who point fingers are merely using it (Germany, France and Brussels) as a scapegoat for their own problems. 2) If the smaller EU countries want more power they also have to act more proactively instead of waiting for some problems to encroach and then complain if the bigger countries feel urged to take initiative.

  89. Except that it was precisely the UK that had been acting as a Trojan horse to destroy the EU from within (and so far, has failed ). The UK was the main promoter of the expansion to the East at any cost - including Turkey, - with the clear strategic intention of diluting any possible chance of political harmonization and some form of (con)federation. It may be too late to reverse now the damage. The way forward has to be the creation of a new union of the willing closer to a real political union.

  90. @O Paco well put. Thanks.

  91. These are simply the consequences of countries that believe in imperialism and domination of others. Britain will be Greece in two decades.

  92. @Pilot This view doesn't make sense. The US dominated the free world in teh 20th century; is it headed for a Greece-like collapse? Many in the UK have felt "Eurocrats" were governing them without their consent; is that not a form of domination?

  93. A thoughtful article, but still a simplification. But without simplifying it would probably end up being a book. I do not think that an a-la-carte approach would be really beneficial as it would both promote cherry picking and strengthen the nation states again, One might ask now why the latter should be a problem. Well, I guess that depends both on generations and how one thinks future will unfold: 1) The younger Europeans -including me- have grown up with Europe. Many of us identify just as much (or even more) with Europe as we do with our countries or regions within them. We do not view the EU as mere instrument for all the reasons it was founded (Although these reasons are also ones to protect it.) to promote the well being of its members, but we do view it as an value in itself. 2) There are no people knowing exactly how future will look like, but if I had to guess I would predict the following: 1. More globalization. 2. China and India becoming stronger over the course of the century. 3. Environmental issues causing many problems in the world and fueling many other problems. It can already be seen now (and in recent past years) that nation states -especially ones of the sizes of the European ones- are not capable of solving many problems efficiently and on time. And others not at all. A future that is anything like I expect it to be will be one where those countries are even more incapable. The EU needs be strengthened and not weakened.

  94. Europe has to start protecting Europeans. This seems elementary, but the elite liberals in the European Commission cannot seem to understand it. Britain left because of mass immigration. British citizens found that their country wasn't theirs any more -- the country their fathers and grandfathers fought and died to defend. The other Europeans find themselves in the same predicament. Mass immigration killed the idea of Europe.

  95. @James Ribe There's some truth to this. But my reading is that Britons in 2016 were less worried by the large-scale, but organized migration of Eastern Europeans than by Germany's unilateral decision in 2015 to, in effect, eliminate the EU's external borders and seemingly make it possible for anyone who walked to Europe to stay. That and the camps in France full of migrants hoping to get to the UK left a vivid impression that the EU had entirely lost control of migration and that Britain would be seriously affected if it did not take control itself. Without Merkel's generous, but politically dangerous decision, I doubt the Brexiteers would have won the vote.

  96. Mass immigration. From outside the EU. You are aware that non-EU immigration to the UK always was on roughly the same level as EU immigration, and that it has increased since the referendum?

  97. @James Ribe Nonsense.The Poles and others from the EU were/are not the problem. They served as a cover for resentment about other more conspicuously foreign elements in the society.But no one wanted to mention the real source of resentment. Not immigration from the EU but immigration from sources that made people feel "their country was not theirs any more." Now the real problem will begin.....

  98. Mr. Bittner is right. Europeans will always be much more commtted to their nations than Americans are to their states, and the sheer variety of cultures in Europe is its joy as well as its curse. More flexibility and deference to the local rather than more moves towards the creation of a US of E would be wonderful and certainly make it easier for Britain to some day rejoin. There's a sting in the end of the article: the line that the EU will be in trouble if Britain appears to exit unscathed. It's that dynamic that makes the EU want to punish Britain. But telling proud and unruly members: "The EU is good for you because we will punish you if you leave" is not a long-run political winner.

  99. @Alexander Menzies The belief that the UK would get a great trade deal outside the EU with unfettered access to the single market was right up there with Empire 2.0. It seems negotiation will focus on regulations - if the UK agrees to match them, they can stay in the Single Market, if they do not, well, good luck with that... Divergence on standards means the UK government wants to shut the door on ever being in a position to rejoin should the public want to pursue that option... It is the only logical position for the EU to adopt - it is not a question of punishment. The UK government will simply lock itself out of the Single Market, which has to be a real irony, given it was its main designer!

  100. @Kieran You're quite right. Britain shouldn't and won't leave without losing various good things, but it doesn't follow that the EU has to make things worse than strictly necessary. But there will be an understandable temptation to do just that for political reasons.

  101. The EU is not punishing the UK. That's an utterly ridiculous notion. The UK does not want adhere to the EU's standards and regulations, which is fine (it's their call), but why then should the EU allow the UK to ride piggyback? That's just common sense. However, much more importantly, if the UK are given a sweetheart deal, especially with the British PM openly declaring that it intends to deviate, all other trading partners of the EU around the world would come running demanding the same prederential treatment (they've already said so).

  102. It is impossible to have different regulations if we have a single market

  103. The EU is NOT about economics. When I was young (in teh sixties) There was a cold war, that could at any moment explode and make Europe a atomic graveyard. The soutern part of Europe was fasicst: Greece, Spain and Portugal military dictatorships. In that environment Germany and France sougt a way to be closer together and started with the EGKS to integrate the coal and steel industries. With the benelux (already a close cooperation between Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg) and Italy they formed a supranational body, with the intension to ever closer cooperation. They were so succesful that after a while Spain, Portugal and Greece joined them in the EEG (the european community), after they succeeded to remove their dictators. Gemany, Netherlands and Austria were already in close cooperation and had coupled their currencies. Speculation against the French frank, forced the EU to accelarate the EMS to a real currency the euro. Whatever people may think te EU was and is a big success. Not one of the original 6 and later 12 countries is willing to give up this relationship: not the governments and not the vast majoraty of the people. After 1989 most of eastern europe was glad to join the eu. There were a number of reasons for them, security, access to the western economies, the economic help, and aid in reforming there governments.

  104. @Simon van Dijk The eastern block was happy to join the EU because in doing so they would get billions and billions in subsidies and help to try and build up their economies, they do to this day (it is much like the US where the "blue", more well off states, substitute the 'red' states in terms of taxes paid and benefits back). People in the eastern bloc with any kind of skills could move to the western EU countries and work, and were willing to do so while undercutting local wages. On the other hand, the EU had rules on things like human rights, and the Eastern Block countries were not happy about that at all, most of them were not and are not liberal democracies and they had no interest in becoming it. Among other things, in those countries the Catholic Church is still a major political force, and the EU regulations concerning equal rights for women, the rights of LGBT people, the right to things like birth control and abortion, were resented there. Letting in the Eastern bloc countries is what doomed Brexit, the biggest reason people in England voted for Brexit was the reality or perception that all you saw were eastern block workers coming and depressing wages and taking jobs that British natives couldn't get, and they rightfully point out that the eastern bloc didn't bring much in return to them; being free to move to Poland doesn't matter much when Polands economy makes Mississippi look rich.

  105. England started trying and failing in the mid-1600's to force the American Colonies into a unified entity that was consistent with the crown, the law, and the judicial systems of the other parts of the future UK. Independent America eventually evolved through bloodshed into a highly conflicted system of cooperative federalism, while the UK is still attempting to organize its constituents into something resembling a single country. The EU attempted to inject a form of American's failed original Dual Federalism on the UK, while maintaining the imposture of modern US Cooperative Federalism, injecting multiple new layers of conflicting law, and murky notions of civil rights throughout the entire society.

  106. Eastern countries have been quite happy to take EU subsidies and have repeatedly shown that they do not adhere to EU standards in terms of democracy and governance. They want less Europe, fine: maybe Europe wants less of them. Notwithstanding the incessant obstruction by the Brits, EU has never been more functional than in its 12 states configuration

  107. @smart fox Eastern countries paid their subsidies with a massive brain drain (millions of doctors and IT professionals and engineers) and by opening their markets to big EU multinationals who simply seized everything that was to seize, killing local industries.

  108. So true! And I’m from Romania! I totally agree. Being nationalists with European money foow... how low!

  109. We are where we are and have to move forward rather than start over. There are several ways to split the cake, however. None of them allows an easy way to cast off states which are already in the EU. The 'core' EU is divided by Euro membership. The non-EU states like Norway, Switzerland, Ukraine, Moldova and perhaps in the future UK, Georgia and Belarus have various loose ties to the core. The Schengen area extends beyond the core. Membership in Schengen must logically imply at least a well coordinated immigration policy in the future. Briefly, I can not see an a la carte (or have you cake and eat it) solution. That would be a food fest. What is maybe possible is a core eurozone with some teeth, safe eurobonds and possibility to be an alternative to dollar. A second circle with most economic advantages, maybe including defense cooperation - participation in weapons programs and Galileo (space) corresponding to non-euro EU members. A third circle with well-defined and similar economic and other advantages. This is a very brief sketch. Germany however, would need to wake up for any future model to be possible. It is an even bigger freeloader than the UK has been due to its obstruction when it comes to economy (black zero), foreign policy (Nordstream 2, defense) and trade (over-reliance on trade surplus). No change here and the silly club analogies will lead to breakdown.

  110. One problem with the analysis of the Viewpoint. It overlooks Britain's special relationship with the United States of America. It has been that which has drawn America ever closer to Western Europe during the 20th Century. Britain has now left the European Union, at a time when the political desire (ever increasing) in the US is to limit participation in NATO. It is one thing to discuss member economic issues, but quite another to assume full responsibility for regional security.

  111. Of course the EU needs to keep changing and adapting. However, I would say that today is an especially inopportune time to start implementing the "lessons" of Brexit. That grand experiment is just now beginning in earnest. The EU (and of course also the UK) will over the next few years find out a great deal about the questions that Bittner has posed. I'll personally put my bets on the side of the experts who mostly predict that a long period of slow growth and diminishing economic, diplomatic, and military clout awaits the UK. The many Brits who scoff at "project Fear" will, I suspect, be sorely disappointed. Most likely that will make them angry. Still, the EU right now needs to do what it can to live with its newly-independent neighbor. This will require more unity within the EU, not more "flexibility". We should all understand the situation much more clearly after a year or two.

  112. Almost all experts agree that Brexit will be a big hit for the economy, just read the consequences in Bloomberg website, how much it costs now, even before leaving. Tomorrow's leave is political only, real one will be in a year when there will be economic separation too. So no chacce at all that it will be a win. Roughly 50% of UK's export is to the EU, there are no big partners who can substitute that amount in a few years time. The biggest possible -USA and China might be a good choice, but ... both are far away, and the main volume of trade is between close neighbours.

  113. @Ron Yes, all true (and all rehashed ad nauseum) but you seem to have entirely missed the point of this piece, which is the loss to the EU that Brexit represents and the danger of further damage to the EU without radical reform.

  114. @elti9 If diagnose is bad (and it is) then supposed urgent therapy is unnecessart. And diagnose in this article is bad. I don't want to post a lenghty explanation but only one fact: net approval for the EU increased after Brexit. So any claims that the EU is endangered are exagerated. I would even say that it is the opoosite: the EU is in its best form now. Aldwithout another lenghty explanations: follow the UK's political contribution through last 10 years to the EU. You will see a strange pattern. Thats why the EU is in better position now.

  115. EU leaders love rules, regulations, taxes, fussy obfuscation, red tape, and so forth. They admire the central planner just a bit less than the Soviets. Unless these proclivities change, the EU is doomed

  116. That don’t aspire to be a member, as long as you see Europe as a new Soviet Union (which analogy is poor).

  117. Yes, when there is failure or disruption, mature functional people look inward to what may have gone wrong and how things can be done differently. They do not double down on their own righteous and endlessly blame others. If the EU leadership had been less concerned with aggregating their own power and privilege and more concerned with how the single market, specifically, and globalization, generally, were effecting the worker classes, this could have been avoided.

  118. Flexibility would mean that instead of punishing the UK for Brexit, options are explored for it to become more like Norway or Switzerland. It would also mean offering gradual integration with the Western Balkans. Both good ideas, which in fact the EU is already pursuing in both cases. But I do not see how doing either addresses the threat from neo-nationalists, who have issues not just with the four freedoms but also with the fundamentals of liberal democracy itself, like an independent judiciary. Instead, I think more attention must be paid to the malicious influence of Mr Putin, his disinformation campaigns and his largess. Is Russian support of neo-nationalist political campaigns acceptable, for example, and if not, who is doing something about it?

  119. The basic problem with EU is that it was originally created as an economic organization (European Coal and Steel Community: ECSC) and it never stepped away from that approach to embrace a more cultural point of view. I have been calling for years for the creation of a Federation of European Provinces, where States such as France or Germany would cease to exist to be replaced by their old provinces (or Landers), united in a Federation somewhat similar to the US (but without some quaint clauses such as the electoral college). Oh well nobody ever listens to me. Too bad!

  120. The real issue is that European leaders did a bad job of touting the benefits of a united block; chiefly the longest war free period of history in the continent and a commercial force which competes as equal with other global powers such as the US and China. You’re correct, the inclusion and forced integration of eastern European countries was a mistake and if anything I think the EU core should include countries with strong cultural and historical ties i.e. the initial founding countries; Germany, France, Italy, Benelux and maybe Spain and Portugal.

  121. @FCH Maybe because they couldn't in all honesty take credit for the peace. From 1945 until 1989 only NATO and the Warsaw Pact could determine whether there was war and peace. NATO remains the primary military organization on the continent.

  122. Are you perhaps forgetting those minor conflicts, World War I and World War II. In terms of peace, the point of the EU is to prevent war between European nations, not to defend Europe from external threats.

  123. We should be careful about accepting the premise that change in the EU is necessary because of Brexit. All relationships evolve and, yes, we should continually evaluate how we might improve them. But we should remember that to date no one has been able to articulate a single benefit of Brexit. The assertions upon which the Leave campaigns were built were simply untrue, as Britons have learned since. One might equally make an argument that the lesson of Brexit is that the institutions built by liberalism aren’t as strong as we think they are and that the threat of right-wing populism requires a more robust response. Or that the value proposition of the EU needs to be more clearly articulated so that its benefits don’t only become apparent when they’re taken away. The EU member states should - to borrow a phrase from the US Constitution - always strive “to form a more perfect union” but Brexit hasn’t yet demonstrated that there’s anything structurally wrong with the way it is today.

  124. @Andrew Are you saying that the British people's December general election that put Boris J in power did so without good reason? That a majority of UK citizens don't know what's good for them? And your statement that "assertions upon which Leave campaigns were built were simply untrue" is itself false. Because you say it doesn't make it so. It could not be clearer, both in the UK and the US that many people are tired of arrogant, condescending, self-important people making decisions for them. Amen.

  125. With the setting up of state thought control in EU vs. Disinformation, the EU has taken the final step toward a liberal McCarthyism. This affront to democracy investigates media articles, especially but not exclusively from Russia and saves one the trouble of deciding whether it's "pro-Kremlin propaganda". Once the determination is made, if one comes up with a forbidden idea, one is labeled a source of "pro-Kremlin propaganda". I am myself a propagator of such criminal thoughts. I had two reactions when I learned of this EU institution: (a) get rid of it if you want anybody worthwhile to hang around or join; (b) well, Europe's decided to commit suicide again.

  126. It is easy to misinterpret Brexit. . The Oil industry is the only major sector of the British economy that was in favour of Brexit. . The oil industry and Russia shared the common goals of not want J-C Juncker, and not wanting policies to fight Climate Change. The British referendum on the EU gave them their opening to fund the Leave campaign, and, in the case of Russia, to upend the democratic process in the UK. . But that does not change the fundamental weaknesses of the EU. . First and foremost, the administrative machinery of the EU is both arrogant and astonishingly undemocratic. The Swiss solved that problem by pushing decision-making down to the lowest elected body that can deal with the issue. If an issue can't be handled appropriately, then it is pushed to the next highest level, and so on. . Second, the EU is unable to take hard decisions concerning critical interests in foreign policy. Foreign actors find it far too easy to split members of the block from each other, and to cause them to fight amongst themselves. . Third, sometimes it takes military force to defend the EU's foreign policy interests. For example, right now the EU is losing a war on its doorstep in Libya that democracy really needs to win. Given the size of the EU economy compared to its rivals, it should be an easy task. But negotiations aren't going to do it. It is going to take boots on the ground, in large numbers. The EU has neither the will nor the military means to do it.

  127. @Richard Blaine Well why would we expect the Brexit drama to be anymore insightful than the GOP drama. No plans, just enrichment of the elites. No witnesses in both cases, just hot air from people who do not want the best for their respective countries. Both leaders have difficulty telling the truth but trust me is the slogan of the day. We have a chance to stop the insanity but the elites wont be bothered doing anything but make money and talking

  128. As the Brits showed, one of the best advantages of EU citizenship is mobility. For retirement, why stay in the cold north ? Get a winter home in a southern nation, and if you are a EU citizen, your healthcare benefits from your native country will be valid there too. The people that want to break away from the EU are those that have little or no identity beyond their nationality. The flag wavers, rooting for their own team. The British author, Peter Mayle, author of « A Year in Provence », that is the upper classes, and they are the folks that like being EU citizens.

  129. @David Martin You left out the other side of that, and that is while the upper classes could retire in Provence and Majorca, the mobility rules did something in reverse. It allowed people from especially the Eastern block (Poland, Rumania, Bulgaria, etc) to move to England and work, and undercut the wages of natives. The EU was originally a collection of relatively high wage states, the problem was the new states were often economically disadvantaged, where they had trained workers but didn't have the industries to hire them (it is much like India and its relationship to the west). Businesses loved it, they could undercut local wages (the EU had no laws about wage floors to stop this), and in the end there was no reciprocity, since the eastern block countries offered little benefit to people in the original block. Not to mention that the eastern block countries loved the subsidies from the EU, but then turned around and wanted to ignore EU rulings on Human Rights (especially anything to do with LGBT people, the eastern bloc is the one area where the Catholic Church still rules with an iron hand).

  130. The concept of the European project as embodied in the European Union was flawed from the start. The need for reform both of the EU and single currency became particularly evident at the start of the crisis that originated in Greece. Yet, the big kids, ie Germany and France wanted none it. When the pressures for Brexit were growing, David Cameron spent months touring Europe in search of reform in order to make a case to win the referendum on staying in the EU, The EU refused to budge. That lack of flexibility and sticking to Brussels EU orthodoxy is what won the cause for Brexit. The same pressures are building up in most parts of the EU, even in Germany. I recommend Ed Ball's excellent program on Populism in Europe and you can see why the pressures within the EU for real immediate reform are necessary. The EU has set itself against the nation state, against regional and local people and is seen as arrogant, rigid and decidedly out of touch. The EU is and increasingly seen as a club that only acts in its own best interest, not that of the member states or people. With that as the EU's mindset, how can it reform itself? Unless lessons are learned quickly, Brexit is only the start of a EU crisis, not the end!

  131. The idea that the failure of Remain in the 2016 referendum was largely the fault of EU intransigence is deeply ingrained in England, but remains untrue. You need only look to the Scottish Independence referendum to see how a referendum on a really vital topic should be organized. For example, allow more younger people to vote (in Scotland 16 year-olds were eligible) - it is their future that is being decided. Also, many referenda or votes to change foundational documents require more than a simple majority to approve a change in the status quo. Requiring a larger threshold majority for change also means less divisiveness after the referendum. I’m not saying the EU is entirely without fault, but the main culprit here was Cameron and those who designed the referendum.

  132. EU needs to do nothing, thanks to Brexit which brought an increased togetherness to the remaining states. The outright support of Brexit by the USA is redirecting resentment from "Brussel" to a more selfish attitude necessary to compete with the USA and China. This will include expansion, including Ukraine (a Texas size country) and eventually Russia. Russia improved under Peter the Great by opening to the west. She will have no choice, as the increased influence of China in the eastern part and American sanctions in general are major threats. Short of war, Brexit is the most dramatic contribution to an EU need for self interest. Russia's also.

  133. From the outset the main objective of the EU was a way to devalue the Deutschmark for German export needs. That has happened and all the rest of the errors in EU planning have come, like chickens, home to roost. It is unlikely that the EU will "reduce Britain to misery" since Brexit will allow Britain to do what it has always done best, muddle through.

  134. What people forget is that Britain lost an empire, for which many Brits still have a yearning. When joining the EU they were expecting to rule it, as they had ruled the waves previously, but this did not happen. They felt that they were a special nation and could therefore expect special treatment, which did not happen, and it is this they can't forgive the EU.

  135. As a Brit who voted for Brexit, I can assure you that essentially no one in the UK cares about the Empire anymore. The idea that Brexit is driven by yearnings for Empire is lazy thinking. Most people I know who voted for Brexit were motivated by the idea that the EU was becoming too large and too dysfunctional to respond rapidly enough to the changes of the 21st century. Far from being motivated by the thought of reclaiming old imperial values, most of us are aware that the future is being made on the shores of the Pacific, not on the banks of the Rhine, let alone on the banks of the Thames. We are a small island and a small part of the global economy, we need to be flexible not tied down by EU bureaucracy.

  136. @John Stroughair LOL, I agree. Marion has watched too much Masterpiece theatre.

  137. @Marion I disagree with your premise wholeheartedly. Brits would much rather of never had all of those colonies that they later had to extend so many entitlements to. Those former colonies citizens that arrived on Englands doorstep along with the migration (and globalization issues)allowed for E.U. members especially from the poorer Eastern bloc did much to push the NHS and other programs to the brink, led to the disappearance of once middle class London for British citizens and ultimate Brexit. The E.U. benefited Germany largely, the rest not so much. Switzerland and Norway were the smart ones electing not to join, twenty years from now their won’t be an E.U. and unless we make changes rapidly in America there I’ll be no middle class whatsoever.

  138. As a citizen of one of the six founding countries (like Germany) of what has evolved into the current EU, I wholeheartedly disagree with the author’s suggestion of an a-la-carte arrangement. You are either a member and share all of the core values of the EU or you are not. In the 1990’s, just after the collapse of the communist regimes, I was heavily involved in setting up financial services companies in countries like Poland, Hungary and Czechoslovakia. The governments of these countries were begging to become members of the EU as soon as possible, and they were speedily admitted. They benefited hugely from EU membership, economically and with regards to the formation of democratic institutions. I am deeply disappointed with what has happened since in Poland and Hungary: i.e. the establishment of right-wing almost fascist, nationalist, would-be dictatorships. These governments still want to benefit from al the economic advantages of EU-membership, but are not willing to live by the core principles of a democratic state, based on the rule of law. They should not be offered some flexible a-la-carte arrangements; they should be thrown out!

  139. @Ton van Lierop maybe you should not have been in such a rush to admit them and considered the possibility that they would swing to the right once they recovered from Communism and their societies reorganized rather than stay centrist? The EU has only itself to blame. Frankly it is not difficult to view the collapse of the greek economy and others as the result of Germany seeking expanded markets financed by ECB money. If you lend money to people with no record of fiscal discipline and no proper tax regime so they can buy expensive German knick knacks what do you expect?

  140. @John Wallis Your austerity logic is flawed. The Euro is the modern version of the gold standard: without flexible currency, countries cannot adjust except through deflation. Austerity makes that much worse - markets are not "self correcting".

  141. @rjkrawf this has zero to do with "austerity" I have no idea what gives you that idea. The fact is Germany produces far more than the rest of the EU in terms of durable and consumer goods and has to find markets for that material or slip back into the stagnation they faced have faced since the early 2000s. What has happened here is the equivalent of a department store issuing credit to customers with less than good credit so they can sell more product, it's really that simple except that in this case Germany's department store loans were guaranteed by the ECB. Austerity is the imposed result of the Germans encouraging the other members of the EU to borrow money without bothering to consider whether they would actually pay it back. Austerity was inflicted on the Greeks by a Germany that refused to admit that it was actually responsible for the financial mess. If you give money to people who have no record of financial probity whose fault is it when they don't pay it back?

  142. How about playing to their strengths. Europe transformed the world already with the Renaissance and the Enlightment. Europe is the perfect cauldron for showing the world what the future can be. Start with a World's Fair to imagine the future. Create musical, artistic, and literary festivals that show the wonders of their various cultures. Bring the scientists together to openly discuss how to solve climate change and address other scientifc problems -as they did with the HIggsBosen mystery. Set the example Engage the world.

  143. The EU reminds me of what the USA was like under the Articles of Confederation. No other country took us seriously because there was no national policy. individual states acted in a way that benefitted that state. Schmidt is absolute correct. The EU is way too big and the parliament filled with hundreds of failed politicians from all over Europe. Eastern European countries revering to dictatorships take billions of Euros in subsidies and thumb their noses at the EU policies of basic human rights and the EU does absolutely nothing to punish them. But the basic flaw is the lack of a Federal Reserve Bank. That was glaringly evident in 2008 when German influence alone imposed austerity on countries that needed a stimulus and they could not devalue their currency to increase exports because they had no national currency so were in the worst of situations. That misery is one of the causes of nationalism and populism today in Europe. I have no hope there is any will for change in the EU.

  144. @Edward B. Blau I couldn't agree more. As a confederation, the EU is impotent.

  145. I feel ambivalent and frightened about what is coming next. Emerging from WWII, the EU ranks among the most successful political experiments in history: it brought Germany into the West, then promoted a friendly confederation. But all that is now taken for granted. As Europe grew, from the 1970s, its supra-national institutions were less well fitted to the super-ambitious political tasks that it undertook. It sounded good to integrate and develop fledgling capitalist democracies, but led to disastrous economic projects like the Euro and then impotent social engineering for post-communist nations that had authoritarian legacies. As as a confederation that lacked enforcement powers, it fell to the strongest members (like Germany) to impose solutions like "austerity". Now, as Europe faces new economic and political crises, the EU has become a populist whipping boy. Its institutions are run by inflexible, neo-liberal bureaucrats with far less power than demagogues claim. Clearly, the EU must change, perhaps Europe's developed economies have outgrown the original political program, but fragmentation carries consequences impossible to foresee.

  146. @rjkrawf The growing pains of the euro are now largely behind them. Spain and Portugal are booming, and their labor market is much more aligned to the northern countries now. Greece, after committing to the euro and what it takes to stay in it, has been in recovery now but has a longer way to go.

  147. @Liz I see the Euro as a disastrous resurrection of the Gold standard. Yes, Greece's economy was weaker, but it was unable to adjust its currency rate so the result was severe deflation and default. Austerity, as imposed by Germany, compounded Greece's difficulties. The debacle has shaken Europe to its core. All the talk about discipline and learning to play the game correctly as simple nonsense.

  148. Before I had read the words "Team European Union," I had only suspected the E.U. was finished. Now I'm sure of it.

  149. I suspect the bureaucracy will act in its own best interest and resist change. The nimble flexibility suggested here would require the comfortable Brussels folks to reimagine their jobs. Unlikely.

  150. Brussels bureaucracy is hardly bloated. Not only has the EU (500mn inhabitants) got a budget smaller than that of Denmark (5mn inhabitants), it also gets by with approx. 40,000 civil servants = less than 1/10 of the civil servants required by the UK for its 65mn people. I don't know about you, but I would say that the gravy train doesn't stop at Brussels Central Station.

  151. @Teo You're right it's not overly big, but how about things like the monthly relocation of the EU Parliament from Brussels to Strasbourg for four days of sessions (and back)? That farce costs some €114 million a year and serves no practical purpose except as a symbolic reminder that the Germans and the French have buried the hatchet, pour le moment. I'm a happy EU citizen for a variety of reasons, but the Brexiters, along with others in the EU, were and are right about the uncontrolled nature of the EU's machinery of administration. Doing good for the most part, but without political oversight. Of course we can say that the same goes for bureaucracies everywhere, but this can get really out hand while far-reaching if the federalist tendencies of the EU gain ground. For me, EU OK, preferably pared down with à la carte alternatives as Bittner here suggests, but a United States of Europe, with a civil service inspired by the good old French statist tradition, no thanks.

  152. Professor Robert Tombs of Cambridge states in The English and Their Identity that the English in the 10th were the first people in Europe to have a NATIONAL Identity (English they called themselves not Anglo-Saxons). Since then they have resented domination by anyone from the Continent as they pursued their peculiar and idiosyncratic way. Even their half-baked 16th century Reformation evolved into a "Are we Catholic or Protestant? yes and no." True to themselves they by a small margin decided they didn't want somebody over the Channel telling them how to make marmalade; and in their hearts they wanted a trade union, not political, esp. by bureaucrats. They wanted to run their own show. By the way England until the 19th century was the most highly centralized State in Europe with the central smallest bureaucracy and much power and authority outsourced to the nobility and gentry in the counties. America, whose predominant cultural trait is English-derived and evolved preserves this mentality in its own peculiar but in some in outdated 17th and 18th century modes, but not when it comes to a fierce desire to preserve local and personal rights.

  153. Simple number - there are 4x polish workers in Britain than next door Germany. There are rules for Germany, and then rules for everybody else. The Refugee Crisis is of German making yet the whole EU needs to share the pain. Heck- the Greek Crisis was was about to default on German Bank Loans (which they should have done at the start). Some of those loans were to finance overpriced Siemens equipment (through bribery) and for submarines that don't work. Germany took the loans off the Banks books and now Greece can't default on Germany.

  154. “The British always had one foot in the E.U. and one foot out — now with Brexit they want the opposite,” Jean-Louis Bourlanges Even with the formal Brexit the UK may (and be forced to) in fact enter all sorts-of agreements that will look like a soft membership. Perhaps not even very different from the current one.

  155. The fact is that we already gave Great Britain a lot of concessions and they still left. But instead of giving countries an a la carte menu, we need to launch better public relations to show what the EU does for you.

  156. @Pablo Well said. A part of that PR should be a reminder to EU citizens that the US too is union of 50 sovereign states that have agreed to pool their sovereignty over a small number of specific areas, including, of course, military and foreign policy and interstate commerce. There are more laws on the books in every state than there are at the Federal level. Education and social services are administered at the State level. You won't be charged for murder at the Fed level, only in the state in which it occurred. Imagine if a handful of states pulled out and established their own currencies, military and foreign policy - chaos. We hear from time to time about Supreme Court decisions that impact contentious social issues. But the overwhelming majority of decisions are never heard of and deal mostly with commerce matters. And every state has a Supreme Court and a legislative body. While there are weaknesses and flaws in the US system of pooled sovereignty, there are also huge benefits that all share in.

  157. @GlobalCosmopolitan Don't use the US as the model for how the EU should work. We are in the midst of a cold Civil War, with many many Americans thinking we would be better to separate our states from others that are too unlike our own. We have had it with this experiment, and realize that after our first Civil War we should have let the southern states go. A huge mistake and far too late to fix it.

  158. @MJ I tend to agree with you. But before you end the union and the experiment, try first to reconfigure the states, about 21 with 15 million each, with single states around large metro areas, and others with large geographical and mostly rural areas. Nearly all states were formed without a criteria and any idea of where populations would cluster. CA was formed with less than 100 thousand people, and now it has 43 million. It the US created new states of roughly equal population size, and more control over domestic matters, it would go a long way to lessen the bitter partisanship.

  159. Being an EU citizen, I sometimes wonder if the best years of the EU might now be behind us. The core values, the commitment to a more robust safety net (compared to the US), and desire for balanced inclusivity of all the various European nationalities, they definitely seem to be taking a beating lately, especially from right-wing populist parties which prey on xenophobia. However, if the EU's long-term survival means that we abandon core values, or simply adhere to them "a la carte", then this is not a union in the true sense of the word, but rather a regression to nation-state level realpolitik. I am sure that this is true for many other Europeans, that despite the sheer difficulty of uniting so many different nationalities under the EU umbrella, I am strongly attached to my EU identity. Even the act of receiving change in Euros at a kiosk in Greece makes me a bit sentimental when I see my coins have come from every corner of the EU. To see this identity break-up because we have decided to succumb to the easy way of xenophobia and short-term interest, as I believe the UK has, will be a historically poor choice.

  160. @Odysseas As a European living in the US, I think the best days of the EU are ahead of them. To put it in a cynical Wilbur Ross kind of way, the problems of America will be Europe's gain. Trump is creating a debt-fueled economy, which ended badly in Turkey. He's also creating a toxic anti-immigrant environment despite the US relying heavily on immigrants in both low- and high-skilled jobs. The poor output of the heavily restricted US education system just can't afford that. An emboldened, re-elected Trump is the worst thing that could happen to the US. As democracy wanes, I wouldn't be surprised to see multinationals starting to downstaff in America and moving HQ to the more stable Europe, where it's guaranteed their personnel from around the world can reliably enter to visit or work and feels welcome.

  161. An a-la-carte approach to governance doesn't work. People and governments have to eat their vegetables too. You hear this all the time at the local level as well (e.g. I don't have children, so why should I have to be pay school taxes, etc.) Governing bodies don't survive for long in this type of arrangement. If the European Union is confident in their approach, why change now instead of sitting back and see how Britain does? If Britain suffers the consequence that everyone has been predicting then the European Union will be proven as a more viable alternative. If Britain doesn't suffer and then others leave, it won't be that enormous danger to the economies that is being touted and only those in Brussels might be out of a job.

  162. @Casual Observer The a-la-carte option is crucial for the optics of the EU as something countries want to join not something compulsory like a soviet republic and a dictatorship once a country is in.

  163. From a perspective of an American who lives in Europe, I think Mr Bittner's argument is exactly right. The EU is an extremely rigid top-down organization that tolerates no dissent on the party line of its True Believers. In my view, the EU needs to revert to being essentially a free trade zone (within the EU) and a trading bloc (for negotiations with countries outside the EU). Just that & nothing more. And, oh yes, and let those countries that want to leave the euro currency zone do so without threats of economic blackmail. But I would up Mr. Bittner one on his hand of the so-called "four freedoms." These should be reduced to three: goods, services, and capital. The last of these four "freedoms," open-ended migration within the EU, was one of the main causes of the pro-Brexit vote (the British working class getting sick of having their wages undercut by Eastern European migrants). Freedom of movement needs to be dumped and replaced with some sort of managed migrations system put in its place. A much less grand, but much more sensible and flexible scheme.

  164. The freedom of movement for people is essential for a smooth running of both goods and services industries, and is great for the tourist industry. Furthermore, the member countries have the right to (and do) expel anyone who after three months in a country cannot prove that they have permanent job or independent means to support themselves. Non-EU migrants don't automatically get a passport (far from it, it takes up to 5 years), and are subjected to rigorous checks.

  165. @Teo Free movement of tourists is different from free movement of workers. I can travel as a tourist to more than a hundred countries without a visa, but cannot work in many of them without a special permit.

  166. @Lotzapappa The four freedoms are essential and bound together. Breaking them up is not at all what Mr. Bittner is suggesting. Even Switzerland, a EEC but not EU member, has to reluctantly accept the free movement of people, not for a lack of trying to get out of it. Rather his point is that the end goal, euro and Schengen everywhere and possibly further integration, is perhaps overreach. New members are now required to adopt both, for example.

  167. The EU has some problems reminiscent of the US -- regions with vastly different economies and whose populations have vastly different ideas about politics. In the US the various legal rights of cities, counties, states, and the federal government try to counter excessive moves one way or the other by any such entity. Sometimes it works well, sometimes not. But so far for the last 150 years we have not gone to war with each other. Recently, under the Bush oil men and now under Trump the differences are ripping us apart. Not just rich vs poor, but business vs the environment, and the rising assertiveness of racism. Sometimes it sounds like it would be nice just to jettison the Southeast of the US, along with some of the empty lands of Wyoming etc. But that would hurt too many folks there. The same goes for Poland, Hungary etc. for the EU. Giving these folk more leeway might lead to more of the bad, rather than a relaxation of tensions. The US might be going down a continuing hole of disintegration and negativity. But a defeat of Trump, some good Democratic policies, and a chastised Republican Party might enable our political system to right itself. Same for the EU -- trying to get through the latest revanchism might lead to a better future. But not getting through it to a better future can mean trouble. It is still worth it for all of us to work for this better future while the chance is still before us. Vote! and stay engaged.

  168. @Just Thinkin’ How bout a democratic party that just implodes. Let the country be run by the republicans we dont need a nanny state,let the men run things.

  169. With so many self-righteous and aggressively narcissist Colonial European powers at its helm, EU was never a realistic union to act efficiently as the interests and past glories of these nations often confront each other. That's one of the main reason it's almost impossible for these nations to take meaningful decision on almost any issue of urgency. It's almost always half hearted and to satisfy so many contradictory ego and interests. The situation worsened as former communist countries joined it, mainly to get free money but with almost no intention to accept western democracy and open society. If UK proved more successful in near future, say 10-15 yrs from now, increasingly more people in many EU member countries would start demanding leaving EU. That pressure is expected to be more in more prosperous and relatively well governed Western European and Scandinavian nations.

  170. I lived in Brussels through most of the 1980s and even then in that EU capital I was struck by the fact that not one of the Europeans I came to know had any positive things to say about the union. The writer makes good points, and from what I've seen in the years since, the first thing that nations should be allowed to opt out of is the common currency.

  171. The article mentions the EU's core questions; money and immigration. Those are the core questions of the entire developed world. How do we keep up our lifestyle for our citizens in the face of limited resources and ecological threats, and to what extent can we mitigate the problems in the rest of the world by allowing some immigrants in, without them dragging us into the same conditions that they left? A bit more than half of the Brits decided that they didn't like the EU's answer to those questions so they opted to leave. This brings up a third existential problem: on most important issues, the people are split just about 50/50, and their solutions are diametrically opposed. That makes it difficult or impossible to craft a compromise.

  172. Yes, there will inevitably be a Europe of two speeds. But not à la carte, as that would just make the EU unmanageable. And let's not overstate the Visegrad threat. Yes they complain, but they're happy to take EU funds and are not going anywhere. The most natural place to start EU+ would be the founding six minus Italy: France, Germany and Benelux. The first challenge will be for the EU to build a powerful military as opposed to a loose collection of mini ones with too many troops and not enough sophisticated weapons. Specialization per country makes sense. Belgium and the Netherlands already started with a joint air space defense.

  173. Europe’s first move should be to protect the status of British Europeans resident in EU countries. We desperately need an equivalent to the US green card. The powers that be must do this if there is to be any meaning to the word European.

  174. Britain is leaving the European Union to morrow and she will go fast to head offshore without the burden of European bureaucracy and too much discussions. Supported by the tenacity and their expertise, British citizens will completely change the country with a new mode of governance, by matching citizen s projects and scientists knowledge, for instance moving towards a more sustainable agriculture and forestry....etc to continue !

  175. The biggest mistake the EU made was to expand into Eastern Europe. Those countries were not ready for the western value system plus the economies were not equal. There should have been a longer runway to get membership and the countries that wanted to join the union should have had to go through a rigid membership criteria approval process that included economic and social factors.

  176. That same idea, that the EU should be more flexible , and open to junior memberships, and more restrictive of borders and travel would make the individual countries more vulnerable to the fascism and xenophobia which scared the British into a bad decision. Look at our own country and what we have done to ourselves . Look at the leader we have elected. Osama Bin Laden did a number on us and the world. We are afraid of our shadows and enough money has never been printed to affect the security we desire. The only cure is openness but there is no stomach for it.

  177. Agree wholeheartily with your assessment, the EU must change, and fast, so it can survive in a more pliable form, so to keep European peace for at least another 70 years. Those Eastward nations like Hungary, unfortunately are abusing EU's rigidity for their it's Orban cadre of kleptocrats. Change is vital for EU's survival, and the sooner the better.

  178. Eastern Europe's right-wing leaders can blow all the hot air they want at the EU, if they were to seriously propose leaving, the citizens of these countries would be in open revolt. The EU has given eastern europeans freedom of movement, pays for their infrastructure and has improved their quality of life. Young people can study in western Europe, thanks to Erasmus. Also, eastern european workers in more affluent, aging countries are a vital part of the labor force. The British complain about the eastern europeans, but they're going to be in for a rude surprise once they drive these workers out of the country post-Brexit.

  179. The solution for the Eastern portion of the EU (as well as some states in the Med) is probably a form of leaving the political EU and have some form of association whereby they would be able to conduct privileged trade (more or lass along the lines likely to be offered to the UK) and export a certain amount of labour. Should those countries assimilate politically, they might be invityed to rejoin the club under strict conditions. Most likely those conditions would be unacceptable to the authoritarians. But Western Europe is under no obligation to be charitable toi the likes of Orban el at and the real politik benefits are yet to be demonstrated. In addition, those former Comecon countries are not great contributors to the EU economy in the form of markets or sources of supply. Finally, labour mobility of the kind enjoyed by their citizens is probably not good for the development of their own economies.

  180. The origin of discontent is not a lack of flexible membership. Flexible membership is an attempt at a fix and a poor one. The EU has systematically failed, for decades, to develop inner-European movements of people. Merkel then made the cardinal mistake of assuming her interpretation of quote open borders quote to be the dominant or valid one. If the EU goes down, Merkel dealt the fatal blow. Growths comes from inside, Merkel never learnt that lesson.

  181. @Lala I strongly disagree. It is a fact that changes in political boundaries - or even geopolitical ones - have been primarily driven by economics, in particular access to cheap labor and resources. That is not a new concept and is readily verifiable by quickly looking at reasons for countries going to wars in the past. The US civil war was in large part driven by the same factors and even today's South Korea's push to unify Koran Peninsula or India's takeover of Kashmir are driven by the same factors. Frau Merkel's vision of open borders - thus, free movement of labor and material throughout EU - is designed to make labor and resources within Europe accessible to all EU countries; hence obviating the need for any country to resort to wars. Only those who are nostalgic about past wars would call that vision "a cardinal mistake".

  182. @Lala Germany has a huge problem with aging population and population decline. The EU doesn't work in the same way the US does, otherwise more Greeks would move to Germany. I guess it's a cultural thing: the Poles, by contrast, they just pack up and move to where the jobs are.

  183. "Britain Is Leaving. Europe Has to Change." Sadly, it is Britain that has to change. And, I am sorry to say, it has no choice but to do so. First, there will be no Britain. Scotland and Ireland will be joining EU soon. So, in no time your Britain will change to the lonely England. The England will soon find itself at a historic fork: it has to either strongly reject demagogic characters such as Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson, or fully endorse them and turn into Il Duce's Italy. Regardless, it not going to be pretty.

  184. It's a tricky situation for all involved. I'm American, my wife is a diplomat from an EU member state and our little boy attends local school here in Brussels. The part I don't seem to understand is why or how they, the originators, forgot to define what it means to be European. We certainly couldn't tell you as we are just people living in Europe. Maybe it's time to define what that means and then commensurately, club membership might not seem so daunting and complex.

  185. I really hope the EU will consider the wisdom of Mr Bittner's proposals! Very smart, logical, practical, compelling!

  186. This column mixes together several distinct questions, that are better answered separately. For example, the Euro is not co-extensive with the EU. The problem with the Euro as a currency is that it lacks by design the ability to be flexible in down times, and especially when the down hits some regions harder than others. An example is the downturn that caused Germans to pull out of vacation home purchases in Spain, and left Spain with a sudden banking and real estate problem that had to be paid in Euros, yet Germany resolutely refused to help fix the problem Germans had left in Spain; Spain did not have a debt problem until that happened. Another is the issue of neo-liberal economics. In France they called it the American system, when Sarkozy tried to push it. Some won't, some can't. Some small nations just did it and let the weaker members of their population move abroad, as for example Latvia. Who is going to tell the Danes they are wrong about their economics, or the Eastern Europeans that they must fail because they have inferior economies? Then there is bureaucracy vs democracy. It means different things in different countries. France has a centralized system that is simply unacceptable in some other countries. What seems normal to France seems undemocratic to others. Then there are values. The religious wars were settled by separating these sovereignties. Just jamming them back together ignores what were real problems of values and basic assumptions.

  187. The original purpose of the European monetary union and the EU was to reduce currency instability as well as political instability. These remain progressive goals. Like any economic or political agreements, they need adjustments to changing facts, but not a complete revision. Brexit on the other hand came about because of growing nationalism, xenophobia, racism, and anti-Semitism. It will lead to economic recession, unemployment, travel restrictions, and disarray and uncertainty for business. As a result, investment and growth will decline in England.

  188. I’m an expat Brit and I have to say this day gives my great sadness. The British people have been lied to for years by the right-wing press and the blame for all their woes was laid at the feet of Europe. But Europe does need to change, and that change has to be greater political unity. The common currency ties countries together but in the most basic manner. Making the union mostly financial means that politicians can easily point to who is putting strain on the local economy. I asked a French friend what happened to “ever closer union” and he said that political union was supposed to closely follow economic union, but the failure of the ratification of the EU constitution derailed it. Until the EU can overcome the political hurdle it will continue to be a target of right-wing nationalistic ire. Britain, though, had the best deal of any country in the EU and it walked away. Sad.

  189. I like the general gestalt of the EU. I will not travel to England (or is it Great Brittan as a famous man once asked?) now that it is led by a mini Trump and has decided to try to return 1922 (watch out India!). As for tossing the federal government here in the USA does that mean that people in the South will own slaves again? Will the South West take the vote away from women? Will the Northeast get kids back in the mines? Will the Midwest establish a theocracy? Will the West slaughter the few remaining indigenous people? Sounds like fun and things will only get better when we move from independent regions to tribal domains.

  190. A reasonable argument. The only alternatives are disintegration; a flexible union would allow member states to slowly grow accustomed to integration at their own speed.

  191. What I fail to see in any of these comments is an understanding that the whole idea of the European Union was to create a Europe that rejected the nationalism that lead to both world wars. The "Four Freedoms" were designed to undercut economic nationalism and intergrate the Europe economy and as Britain will find out fairly soon that has happened. Europe has had 75 years of peace so the EU has worked. To the argument that the EU is "rigid", what I see having lived in the US is that the EU has created a lot of rules that have protected the consumers across the EU. There isn't the product manipulation that I experienced in the US. Is it perfect: no. But when I look at the fact that thousands of people are dying of bad food in the US each year because safety rules either aren't enforced or don't exist, all I can say is be careful what you wish for.

  192. This article feels like it's written three years ago. Today there is a strong consensus in Europe around limiting the amount of non-EU immigration and the general opinion of Europe in most core EU countries is positive. If I received a penny every time the EU or eurozone have been declared dead, I'd be lying on a beach retired. The Visegrád four have been more than a bit thankless. The EU acceptance of them and huge infrastructure investments in their countries is paying off large dividends, they have been growing like crazy. The Czech Republic and Slovakia have benefited enormously from car manufacturing moving to their country because of lower wages, the Czechs have 2.2% unemployment. Talk about biting the hand that feeds you. And to be clear, they do not want to exit. I guess it's just part of their growing process, and like racism and misogyny it will fade out as they become fully advanced countries. Macron is walking a fine line between pushing through the reforms his country desperately needs (pensions are next), facing strong opposition. This has little to do with the EU. More to the point, an EU à la carte is a bad idea. It's a recipe for freeloading (e.g. opting out of military integration) and cherry picking. It risks reversing the growing EU identity in the core countries and opening cracks for EU enemies (Putin, Trump, ...) to exploit.

  193. You don't need a bloc for Bittner's proposals. Just scrap it. The financial crisis was telling. Everyone wanted the benefit of the E.U.'s low borrowing rates but when the music stopped the usual suspects didn't want to pay and couldn't deflate its currency. It's unworkable all the way around.

  194. Be patient, Mr. Bittner. Britain and Trump's America are advancing European integration. All the things Europeans have been taken for granted are finally getting appreciation: a safe food chain, care for the environment, antitrust enforcement (no 100$ internet in the EU), universal healthcare, 20 minimum holidays, etc.

  195. Seems to make an awful lot of sense, therefore it probably will never happen. Eurocrats and strong supporter of the Union aren't revolutionaries, they aren't flexible thinkers. What feels most comfortable and safe to them is to sustain the status quo, don't rock the boat. In reality, sometimes the boat needs to be rocked, changes need to take place to ensure that the boat doesn't end up like the Titanic, with a crew of leaders unwilling to see the dangers of their situation.

  196. An à la carte Europe is a ridiculous proposition.

  197. I don't know why Iceland, the Iroquois Confederacy and Anabaptist communes have worked so well for so long... or why big shot cultures don't wonder why they haven't.

  198. England: from mistress of the seas to making sweaters in less than 100 years. England will regret this move for centuries to come. Can’t wait to see the new sweaters that come out!

  199. Hmmm. A la carte membership in the union. Maybe we should try that here.

  200. "The bloc has grown too big to accommodate ... all of it's member." Can be said about any bloc, any time. Without military suppression of the Confederacy, the U.S. would have become at least 2-nations; by now maybe 50 nations. Or more ( Long Island having seceded from NY State, etc). Or, more likely, by now N. America would all be part of a greater Germany (WWII - or even WWI - having been lost).

  201. A “pick and choose approach” misses the entire point of the EU. While I can understand the some of the frustration of Brexiteers, the central arguments for leaving reveal their own small minded approach to world economic and political realities. Yes, theEU is a bloated bureaucracy—it needs reform, but the idea that a have your cake and eat it too kind of membership is progressive reform is commentary that shows a severe lack of understanding about the EU project. This feels very much like an editorial written by a smarter group of Farage-ists.

  202. How ironic, brexit and now likely t's acquittal on the same day, January 31, 2020. On January 30, 1933 an other highly deceptive leader came to power which resulted in near destruction of the then-time world. This was eventually largely prevented by a combined effort of the US, UK saving Europe and eventually resulting in what would become the EC . And now........with many I am at a loss for words, January 31, 2020.

  203. PUTIN HAS SUCCEEDED In sowing mayhem--Helter Skelter--in one of the world's democracies of longest standing, has outdone himself. He not only ordered the poisoning of former Russian citizens by using weapons grade nerve agents, but he poisoned, more successfully, the entire government, along with the royals who were enabling final defeat of the British Empire. I cannot see how the Brexiteers will get through this ordeal without bringing down the economy of Britain, the financial center of gravity in the EU. Banks will all flee to relocate in safer environs. There will be shock waves through the world economy, bringing down stock markets globally. For the Brits have killed the goose that laid the golden egg. Brexit represents the triumph of Putin's evil, propelled by the white supremacists in the UK. The Sun will finally set on the last remnants of the British Empire. And Britain ever, ever, ever shall be shamed. The long shadow of the economic chaos that will follow today's Brexit will cause massive economic disruption worldwide. For the Brits will pay the piper's bill sooner than later. For they're marching to the beat of the piper's tune. A pall of silence, an economic ice age, will descend upon Britain. Other nations will fall like so many dominoes. I dearly hope that I'm wrong. For it gives me no solace to see destruction to the horizon and sound the alarm that will go unheeded. So dear readers, the time has come to bury your gold and ride out the storm.

  204. This piece seems to ignore the motivation for Brexit. According to Neil Farage, its architect, in a recent Newsweek Op Ed: "In most areas of our national life, Britain follows trends that are set by the USA. This particularly applies to American business and culture. But in the case of...Brexit...we set the hare running that led to Donald Trump's extraordinary victory...He is seen to be on the side of ordinary American citizens and against the elites...I fully anticipate four more years of the Trump administration, and I will continue to be his biggest cheerleader on this side of the Atlantic...As [the World Economic Forum] champion diversity in everything but thought, this annual gathering belongs firmly in the past eras." Let's sum Farage's words up: England should follow America's practices in business. Trump's extraordinary victory has produced a leader fighting against the "elite" and for the ordinary American. Diversity is bad. Neither Farage nor Bittner seem to have a good understanding of what's really happening in the world. Bitter defends a desire of countries to only partially participate in the union they want to join -- kind of sounds like take the aid money and run. As for culture? It's not clear what Farage means beyond immigrants are bad. 95% of American culture is based on the traditions of the immigrants - we killed the Natives before we could learn theirs. Farage and Trump are the problem, not the solution. Bittner is spreading their trash.

  205. Gee I don't know maybe the EU could stop being a bureaucratic dictatorship run by unelected wonks who have zero engagement with the people they inflict their policies on?

  206. Maybe Britain will have to change more than Europe. If the Brexiteers think Trump will make up for what they lost in the EU they're dead wrong.

  207. Brexit could leave the country relatively unscathed, but certainly much isolated. Or do you see UK as a major power, along with USA, China, EU and Urss? Most probably it will be the puppet-colony of Washington.

  208. How could one be disappointed with Europe in the Eastern countries while they all are what they are today mostly because (due to) Europe’s money!? For example, Poland - the country with the highest European funds absorption! What does Poland want from Europe? Disappointed of what exactly is Poland? Of the fact that Europe didn’t do more? More, as in what? Only the weakest have fear of liberalism (European liberalism, not leftism). Only the weakest fear they might disappear because their “identity” vanishes.

  209. I agree. EU change is necessary, but Britain is about to get intimate with that sinking feeling of powerlessness that comes with being an outsider, and a citizen of pariah country. Empire is entirely gone, and I guess that's a good thing. Prosperity will not follow, except for the filthy rich people you decided to believe when you voted. Same goes for the U.S. Swan song for democracy...

  210. In 1977 my brother and I built a fort under a weeping willow tree behind our house. Over my objections, my brother allowed the overbearing neighborhood tattletale Angelica access to our clubhouse. The next day, I returned to our fort to find every corner of it to overrun with rules and labels. There was a "reading corner," a "writing corner," and even a "listening corner." I proceeded to thrash the place in a fit of anger. And, thus was my first experience with European Union-style liberalism. Where freedom and equality is guaranteed by many, many rules preventing exactly that. Where thousands of mindless bureaucrats attempt to over-regulate every aspect of life, in search of that great utopia. Let's be honest, Brexit is really about racism, in reaction to the waves of Muslim Africans who have been flooding European shores. But it has revealed what has been known for a long time: the European Union is a bureaucratic paradise. And what's the point of being a member of an organization that provides absolutely no benefit?

  211. Angela Merkel is to blame. She had the power in the most powerful member of the European Union and failed abysmally to understand the divisive nature of substantial immigration, especially from failed mideast and african states, as well as the rich countries' obligations to ameliorate the damage that German bankers did to Greece, Italy, Spain, Portugal and Ireland. Odd that only England has so far rebelled.

  212. I find amusing that an American should propose reforms in Europe. How about constitutional reforms in your own country? How long as it been for the ERA?