Future of the EU: Not the moon, just a telescope
Perhaps we don’t give Jean-Claude Juncker enough credit. The President of the European Commission, the man the British tabloid press most loved to hate until they got Michel Barnier into their sights, has proven to have some significant oratorical skills. This week he had the job of introducing the Commission’s “White Paper on the Future of Europe”, a 32-page document setting out five scenarios for development of the Union in the wake of British withdrawal. When he presented the paper to the European Parliament, Jean-Claude said it was very much about being realistic about the EU’s capabilities: “We cannot offer the moon. In some cases all we can do is offer a telescope.” Not bad for a man who has been called a faceless Eurocrat and worse.
The tireless wonk.eu blog has a snappy summary of the scenarios, so we can be even snappier:
- Business as usual for 27 continuing members
- Reduction to a focus on the single market (could be called the old British option)
- A multi-speed union with some states forging ahead with unity projects
- “Doing less more efficiently”, focusing on delivery in high-added-value policy areas valued by EU citizens
- Deeper co-operation, with the 27 sharing more power, decision-making and resources.
The Commission expressed no preference among the options which it said were meant to kick-start a debate, although it pointedly referred to member states blaming Brussels for their own problems and failing to accept ownership of joint decisions. The White Paper will laid before the 27 governments at their Rome summit on 25th March with a request for ‘structured responses’ by December. Whatever preferred scenario emerges is likely to have an impact on the crucial stages of Brexit negotiations. It’s not all about transactions and regulatory detail, the EU is back in the vision business.