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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