Statement by Prof. Dr. Mathias Jopp vis-a-vis the outcome of the British referendum

Brexit: the need to maintain EU-27 unity

Today is a sad day for Europe. The British electorate unequiv­o­cally voted to leave the European Union. Populistic slogans on the repatri­ation of national sover­eignty osten­sibly resonated with the public, even though sover­eignty in the inter­de­pendent world of the 21st century can only be exercised effec­tively in a collective. Even a powerful state of the size of the UK faces a dimin­ishing clout in the global economic and political system.

The Brexit damages the European reputation and thwarts its political weight in the world. Likewise, it implies immediate conse­quences for Germany. The current balance of power between the big three – London, Paris, and Berlin – is unsettled. Germany loses a partner, who has been a crucial contributor to the EU budget, rallied to limit EU-expenses, and insisted on rules-based behavior. As leading free trade nations, the UK and Germany frequently pursued overlapping interests regarding the single market and trade policies. The UK now has to renego­tiate all free trade deals with third countries, most likely from a weakened position.

What does that mean for the EU as a whole? Europe, the six founding members as well as the other twenty-one EU-member states, must stand together. It now requires negoti­ating an agreement on the exit of the UK from the Union swiftly and preventing a longer lasting ailing UK-membership. This ought not to drag on to prevent diverting the attention of the EU insti­tu­tions from other pressing issues such as stabil­ising the Economic and Monetary Union, safeguarding the EU’s external borders, and dealing with the foreign political challenges in the eastern and southern neigh­bourhood.

Now more than ever, Germany and France constitute the backbone of the EU as the largest member states. A closer bilateral cooper­ation between the two, as well as within the struc­tures of the Weimar Triangle and with Italy is paramount.  The other member states should, likewise, be incor­po­rated into common initia­tives. In the medium term, the Brexit should also be seen as an oppor­tunity to push for further integration and rectify the current flaws, as blatantly revealed by the sovereign debt and refugee crisis. Oppor­tu­nities for enhanced cooper­ation and more efficient law-making should be materi­alised within the confine­ments of the treaties to make the EU work better for everyone, counteract the centrifugal forces, and strengthen the unity of the EU.


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