A roadmap for a post-Brexit EU Petros Fassoulas is Secretary General of the European Movement International An entire summer has passed since the British people made the historic decision to leave the European Union. The outcome itself is a blow to the European idea, yet it also presents an opportunity for Europeans to stand up, take responsibility, and openly discuss a realistic future. In doing so, we must not shy away from offering and proposing bold solutions in order to deliver a better and more prosperous future for the European Union and, more importantly, for its citizens. Over recent years, a dark cloud of nationalism, isolationism, fear of the other, and euroscepticism has swept the continent. These factors were brandished in the UK referendum and influenced the outcome, signifying the dangerous power that these bitter elements hold. The result was a nightmare-come-to-life for pro-EU European citizens, while it has added fire to the flame of eurosceptics everywhere, who may now eagerly await their nation’s turn to follow the path taken by Britain. Therefore, it is at this time more than ever that we as citizens need to stand together, united in our belief that we can confront these challenges head-on. Whether it is in facing the issue of Britain’s exit from the EU, migration, the economy, globalisation, climate change, or security threats both within our Union and on our doorstep, we need a clear political vision. The European Union in this post-Brexit world must be built on solid and meaningful pillars that deliver for its citizens. The European Movement aims to deliver just this type of thought-leadership, which we are developing on several fronts: Legitimising politics Leave-voters in the UK and large swathes of demographics across the EU feel that their voice is unheard and diminished. They no longer feel represented by politicians, both nationally and particularly in Brussels. Rebuilding this trust between European citizens and the role of politics and policy-making at national and European level is critical to building legitimate European policies that tackle real problems. This means establishing greater participation in the democratic process for citizens and a clearer role for civil society organisations in keeping a check on the work of the institutions. Each and every citizen of the EU must feel that their voice is valued and that the path of the Union is influenced by them. Only then can we encourage meaningful participation that will create a brighter post-Brexit EU. The lobbying process should be made more transparent and the presence of the European political parties more obvious. Moreover, the European political system needs to be updated for the twenty-first century with more online accessibility, and more emphasis on generating public debate around policy issues. Fighting economic frustration Europe is facing a period of economic stagnation and widespread unemployment, particularly youth unemployment in the likes of Spain and Greece. These citizens hardest hit by the global recession, policies of austerity and globalisation feel left behind. This pattern is extensive across the north of England in regions of former traditional industries and this frustration was evidenced in the UK referendum on its EU membership. To ensure that this is not repeated, we need to create sustainable economic growth with enhanced social rights that will help even our least protected citizens to prosper. This will mean securing greater investment to build a system that works for everyone, and offering incentives such as minimum wage criteria across the Single Market. Enhanced social convergence must also be at the forefront of a post-Brexit European Union in order to help the least protected citizens of our Union. The Brexit referendum has thrown Britain’s access to the European Single Market into question. Months of negotiations between both sides lie ahead as the UK aims to retain this privilege while gaining greater control over its immigration and stopping the complete freedom of movement of people, something that the EU is vehemently against. However, while these talks take place, we must not be distracted and must ensure we strive to improve the Common Market for the remaining 27 EU states. There are many important innovations currently being considered to further the effectiveness of the Single Market, and these should provide opportunities for more job creation and progressive citizen-centric policy-making. However, one crucial area for improvement is to ensure businesses, especially SMEs, face fewer barriers to trade and are thus at the forefront of adding skills and jobs to the workforce. Lastly, much debated trade agreements such as TTIP and CETA can only succeed if the concerns of all stakeholders and citizens are thoroughly recognised and addressed in an open and fair manner. A post-Brexit EU needs the greater prosperity that these trade agreements can deliver, but only if citizens are adequately consulted. Fundamental freedoms The four freedoms of movement of the EU are foundational pillars upon which the entire Union has been built. Without these core freedoms, the EU we have today and all the benefits it brings to its citizens would cease to exist. In addition, the Schengen Agreement has directly benefitted Europe’s economic prosperity through the reduction of internal barriers. While Britain may have voted to leave the EU largely in opposition to the principle of free movement across borders, a post-Brexit Union must be steadfast in its commitment to maintaining this principle. The greater freedoms associated with the free exchange of goods, services, labour and capital has led to the exchange of ideas and best practices across our continent. Greater travel opportunities have also led to increased cultural exchanges and understanding as a result both of targeted programmes such as ERASMUS and increased cross-border interactions. The European Movement will continue in its work to promote all forms of European exchange that aim to offer shared solutions to common problems. The recent refugee crisis has been a point-in-case for many who are keen to highlight both the weaknesses of Europe’s external border management and the problems of shared internal borders. However, the large-scale and human nature of this challenge means that we must forge ahead with a Common European Immigration and Asylum System, which should respect EU citizens’ and refugees’ rights alike. One voice on the global stage Britain’s decision to leave the EU impacts on the EU’s international position, but not as much as eurosceptics hope. The remaining 27 states will continue to stand as a leading voice and figure in an increasingly competitive global environment. However, we must do so in a united manner, offering one voice on the global stage. Unfortunately, Brexit has come at a particularly unstable time in global security. The deterioration in relations between the EU and Russia brought about by the annexation of Crimea has deepened fears on our Eastern border. Radical Islamic terrorism has intensified as horrific atrocities are committed across our Union. Future challenges will include further cross-border assaults, including cybercrime, which necessitates joined-up security thinking that is above any one member states’ individual interests. While Brexit may impact on the stability of the European Union, it will not break it. It is built beyond one member. The enlargement policy of the European Union has undoubtedly been one of its most successful policies, and has spread peace, democracy and security across our continent. The outcome of the UK referendum has thrown open the door to further enlargement prospects, which should be foreseen as an integral part of the EU Global Strategy on Foreign and Security Policy. Indeed, a clear enlargement perspective is the surest way to develop democracy and the rule of law in areas such as the Western Balkans. Inalienable rights The European Union is a values-based entity - respect for human dignity, liberty, democracy, equality, the rule of law and human rights are its inalienable features. Whether it is the challenge of the UK leaving the EU or any future obstacle that may present itself, the Union should never and will never stop defending these core European values and rights. As such, these rights should be demonstrably linked to a notion of EU citizenship alongside other EU-level guarantees, including certain social, environmental and employment protections. A post-Brexit European Union must make it its priority to ensure that no citizen of the Union ever suffers the loss or deterioration of rights. We at the European Movement International will remain committed to building a Union that protects the citizenship of every individual. A European Union without one of its strongest members will no doubt be severely tested and strained. The challenges may seem potentially overwhelming. However, the Union, which was born out of a period of immeasurable conflict, has overcome difficulties in the past and will do so again. Perhaps the fallout of the UK referendum will act as a reminder to European citizens of the wealth of benefits that the EU brings to every individual. Too often we take such rights for granted and politicians are quick to smear the EU as the cause of any setbacks that arise, rather than standing up and taking responsibility. We should take pride in the fact that we are citizens of such a unique family of nations. That said, we should not be distracted from acknowledging the faults that lay within it. Bold decisions and courageous acts are needed by all citizens of this Union if we are to deliver a better, safer, and more prosperous European Union in this post-Brexit world.
Bold decisions and courageous acts are needed by all citizens of this Union if we are to deliver a better, safer, and more prosperous European Union in this post-Brexit world