EU Crises, Causes and Opportunities Part III
7: Brexit and Trump – symptoms of the same thing
Simultaneously with all these crises, the decision on a Brexit has led the EU into a new type of crisis. There is a fear of a domino effect – that other member states will be inspired to hold similar referendums. It is still unclear whether and how Brexit will take place and what consequences it will have – both for the EU and the UK. It is likely that the United Kingdom will be connected to the EU, but exactly how this connection will be is unclear. This will be clarified through negotiations, which will probably take a long time.
For the EU, it is important to avoid other countries trying to follow the British example. There is therefore reason to believe that the EU will not give Britain too many benefits (cf. “hard Brexit”). An EEA-like agreement has been proposed as an option, but so far the United Kingdom is critical of this. Such an agreement will in fact involve participation in the internal market with free movement of persons . And that is exactly what the British are skeptical about.
Just six months after the Brexit referendum, the populist Donald Trump won the US presidential election . Both events are an expression of the same thing – namely a lack of trust in the elites and those who govern as well as a desire in large parts of the population to regain control by weakening globalization with increased protectionism .
Basically, Brexit and Trump’s victory is the result of traditional political parties in Europe and the United States not having a political program that appeals to ordinary people. An image has been created that the established parties only work for the elites and not to solve the challenges and problems of ordinary people.
Such thoughts have been reinforced by social media at a time when many people get their information through these media. These have also become an arena for false or tendentious news or that certain opinions are “shared and liked” and alternative views and arguments are not necessarily heard. The consequences for Europe remain uncertain. The election of Trump could lead to increased support for populist parties in Europe. But there can also be a backlash in which voters choose stability over uncertainty. The latest measurements from Eurobarometer may indicate this.
8: Prospects for the EU: Integration – disintegration
According to EZINERELIGION, there is little doubt that the European integration process is now at a turning point where it is unclear whether the trend is towards more or less integration . It has long looked as if we are moving towards a development with less integration. But one can also imagine that the nationalism that is on the rise in many parts of the world will face a backlash. In that case, the counter-reaction will hardly be more of the same, but rather demands for reforms within the framework of continued cooperation and integration.
This year there will be a number of elections in Europe:
- In the Netherlands, parliamentary elections are to be held on 15 March. It is likely that Geert Wilders’ populist and nationalist party will do well.
- In Germany, the parliamentary elections – for the Bundestag – are on 24 September. It will decide who will be the next Chancellor. Currently, it stands between two convinced Europeans, sitting Chancellor Angela Merkel from the conservative party CDU and Martin Schulz from the Social Democrats (SPD). But the EU-critical populist party AfD has also received increased support recently.
- In France, there are both presidential and parliamentary elections . The presidential election will take place on April 23 and May 7 (two rounds). Parliamentary elections will take place on 11 and 18 June. As the French president has a lot of influence, most of the excitement is related to this election. At the moment, there are three candidates in the running for a second round: the right-wing populist candidate, Marine le Pen, the Conservative candidate, Francois Fillon, and the center-right candidate Emanuel Macron. While le Pen is best placed in the polls, few believe she will win the second round. At the same time, the surprising election of Trump in the United States has created some uncertainty. There are many indications that one is facing a new phenomenon with the mobilization of groups that do not usually vote.
Whether the European integration process will emerge strengthened or weakened by these crises depends in many ways on the outcome of these elections.
Euro cooperation and convergence criteria (also called the Growth and Stability Pact)
To ensure that members align their economic policies with each other – necessary to implement Economic and Monetary Union (EMU) – EU countries have established some convergence criteria . These must be met by the Member States in order to adopt the euro.
- Low inflation
- Low government budget deficit: Maximum 3% of gross domestic product (GDP)
- Low government debt. Maximum 60% of GDP
As of January 2016, 19 of the 28 EU countries also participate in euro co-operation (the United Kingdom, Denmark and Sweden are excluded). The countries that have joined after 2003 have transitional arrangements until they adopt the euro. The 19 euro countries have a total population of 339 million.