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Is the EU about to crumble? The bloc has never been so weak — just ask the Dutch

Not again! (Photo by JOHANNA GERON / POOL / AFP) (Photo by JOHANNA GERON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Not again! (Photo by JOHANNA GERON / POOL / AFP) (Photo by JOHANNA GERON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)


June 16, 2021   4 mins

Almost five years after Britain voted to leave the European Union, the bloc faces an existential question: which, if any, of the remaining 27 countries will be next?

European cohesion is threatened by a range of serious issues; some internal, some external. Mass migration and the challenge it poses to integration remains the most daunting challenge. Last year may have seen a lull in migrant crossings as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, but they are ramping back up, largely from Libya. (Indeed, it is surely only a matter of time before politicians fall prey to their usual smoke and mirrors rhetoric about the “benefits” of mass migration in the context of an ageing population, without much credence given to concerns for cultural integration or assimilation.)

Meanwhile, the EU remains plagued by recurrent tensions over its pandemic response, particularly in regard to vaccine distribution. The European Recovery Fund also had a shaky path to approval, which left many member-states dissatisfied.

But will another member state leave? If you believe the bookies, the odds-on favourite is Italy (available at 3/1) — followed by Greece (6/1) and France (8/1). But as the Brexit referendum demonstrated, the bookies don’t always make the right call — and it would be unwise to rule out the country sitting in fourth place: the Netherlands (12/1). In fact, I believe it’s a strong contender. 

Of all the EU-27 countries, I am most familiar with the Netherlands, where I served as a Member of Parliament from 2003 until 2006. One of my strongest memories of that period was my first trip, along with some of the freshmen Dutch legislators, to the European Parliament in Brussels. Compared with our modest parliament building, the EU building was grand and impressive.

At lunch, which started as early as 11.30am, we were welcomed with trays of tall flutes filled with the best champagne. We were then served a lavish meal, accompanied by bottle after bottle of wine. This “working” lunch went on until 3.30 p.m.

The week after, back in the national Parliament canteen with its modest assortment of sandwiches, my Dutch colleagues and I were obsessed with one question: who paid for this scandalous extravagance? In the years since, the Dutch have continued to question the financial benefit of remaining an EU member — and it’s not hard to see why.

In 2018, for example, the Netherlands contributed €4.845 billion to the EU; but in return, Brussels spent only €2.470 billion in the country. The European Union’s own website claims that “the EU budget doesn’t aim to redistribute wealth”; in the Netherlands, that doesn’t seem to quite add up.

Over the past decade, the Dutch, who are notoriously frugal, have become increasingly frustrated with the frivolity of EU spending. Exacerbating this irritation is the fact that the Netherlands is the largest net contributor to the EU budget per capita. Meanwhile, the Dutch parliament is grappling over how to afford the maintenance of the equivalent of their NHS and the rising costs of healthcare for an ageing society. Dutch health authorities estimate healthcare spending will double between 2020 and 2040, to €200 billion euros per year, up from €106 billion in 2019.

More important, though, are questions pertaining to national sovereignty and control over sensitive political issues. Every Tuesday morning, I and my fellow MPs would gather to debate both domestic and international issues. Naturally, these discussions sometimes became heated — but this principally occurred when we were told that a decision had to be made by an anonymous, faraway EU official, rather than by us.

Increasingly, we found that we didn’t have the last word on many of the issues that mattered most to us: immigration, terrorism and agriculture, among others. Nor was this feeling confined to the Dutch political class. When, in 2005, EU countries were presented with the prospect of creating a bloc-wide constitution, only two countries held a referendum that ultimately rejected the proposals: the Netherlands and France.

True, there are still glaring differences between the UK and the Netherlands that make “Nexit” seem impractical. The UK wisely never joined the monetary union, while the Netherlands was among the first to adopt the euro two decades ago. Not only do they share a currency with much of the continent, the Netherlands is also more dependent on the single market than Britain was. And then there’s the fact that the United Kingdom is the sixth-largest economy in the world, while the Netherlands trails a distant 17th (with four other European Union countries ranking higher). While the Dutch see their country as the gateway to Europe, they are not their own island, separated by a Channel, apart from the rest of Europe.

Yet, since I left office, the frictions between the EU and the Netherlands have only worsened. This month, I&O Research, a research agency for the Dutch government, released a report that showed “a larger proportion of the Dutch are still dissatisfied (43%) than satisfied (37%) with what the European Union is doing”.

And while this same report confirmed that there is still nothing close to a majority for “Nexit” — a position with adherents only among the populist FvD and PVV parties — it did reveal that “in a referendum on whether the Netherlands should remain a member of the European Union, 61% would now vote for ‘remain in the EU.’” Less than a year ago, the figure was 72 percent. That is a striking decrease of support for the EU. The 61% figure is also striking for another reason — it’s lower than the proportion of Brits who supported Remain a year before the Brexit vote (66%). And we all know how that turned out.

Context was everything in the UK five years ago. We forget now how unlikely Brexit seemed to most commentators — until the first, stunning results came in from northern English cities such as Sunderland.

Today, the context has shifted for one fundamental reason. Brexit has happened, and it has not been the unmitigated disaster that so many Remainers predicted. On the contrary, the UK’s superior vaccine strategy — nimble where the EU’s was lumbering and bureaucratic — provided a better advertisement for “taking back control” than anything in the original Leave campaign.

Could watching a successful exit by the UK push the Dutch population further in this direction? Don’t rule it out.


Ayaan Hirsi Ali is an UnHerd columnist. She is also a research fellow at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, Founder of the AHA Foundation, and host of The Ayaan Hirsi Ali Podcast. Her new book is Prey: Immigration, Islam, and the Erosion of Women’s Rights.

Ayaan

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Peter LR
Peter LR
2 years ago

I think the EU is an existential threat to world stability. This is because it pretends to be a “country” when it has no national heart. It lacks the uniting qualities of nationality but pretends with a flag and ‘anthem’. It has no uniting history or moral roots. But most dangerously it attempts nationality by the Euro which is arguably the world’s most unstable currency per capita in how it was applied across unequal economies and is being supported in these economic testing times.
Reading Douglas Murray’s ‘The Strange Death of Europe’ again reinforces this article’s point. You cannot create a national “soul” based on historically unproven ‘European values’ based on 20th century secularisation. It was conceived as a political idea to overcome the ‘deficiencies’ of democracy through rule by unelected technocrats who can’t be voted out. These are usually failed national politicians as the article artwork shows.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

I’d agree with you except that the EU reminds me more of the Holy Roman Empire in about 1799. It’s a rickety and undemocratic assemblage of divergent interests that are, in practice, all subordinated to those of one member state: Austria then, Germany in the EU now. Back then all it took to bring the whole thing crashing down was Bonaparte, whose name was already known but who didn’t apply the boot for another six years.
To replace the HRE Bonaparte kludged together arbitrarily-selected bits of Germany, Denmark, Poland, Italy and the Adriatic coast into fake new “countries” – Westphalia, Wurttemberg, Naples, and whatnot – that were puppet-ruled (so as to be milked) by his placemen: Bonaparte family members and successful generals. These weren’t countries any more than the EU is, for the reasons you give.
The trouble is, I don’t see how you exit the EU if you are using their currency. That’s why it exists. It’s not to save tourists money when they change their travellers’ cheques on holiday. It’s to make sure they can never leave the EU.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

In the case of Italy it is of course the currency which is fuelling the dissatisfaction with the EU – the whole economic history of Italy is one of devaluing the Lira when things get tough.
A feature of all politicians is that they try to make a name for themselves by following the fashion, not creating the fashion which can often lead to failure. I think that Italy will find a way out of the EU when a risk-taking, high profile politician comes along.

Last edited 2 years ago by Chris Wheatley
Pamela Booker
Pamela Booker
2 years ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

That could be true of all EU countries

Alan Thorpe
Alan Thorpe
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

I believe one of the reasons the Roman Empire collapsed was that its currency became worthless because so many people depended on state support. The EU seems to be following the same path, so the countries who get out now will be the sensible ones.

Stewart B
Stewart B
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

Shared history is whatever people want it to be – ask Catalans, Scots, Flemish.
You cannot create a national “soul” based on historically unproven ‘European values’ based on 20th century secularisation” Lord knows what that means.
Rule by unelected technocrats? SAGE, Fauci, the NIH, WHO? If this year has taught us anything is that we are ALL ruled to some degree by unelected technocrats.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  Stewart B

And look what a bad job they make of it.

Peter LR
Peter LR
2 years ago
Reply to  Stewart B

Hi Stewart, sorry I’ve been out. SAGE etc are advisers not law and policy creators; the politicians are the ones making the decisions, admittedly perhaps taking too much notice of them.
Europe was built on Christian values and practice. The EU dumped belief in God in its Constitution drafts and is bringing in secular views and values. Hence their unease and threats against Eastern block countries which want to maintain their Christian foundations. Douglas Murray highlights this in his book.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

Since the EU in its current form doesn’t work and (in my opinion) is incapable of reform, I believe that there will be attempts in the coming years to introduce the United States of Europe through the back door. This will be done surreptitiously and in ways that most citizens won’t truly understand (e.g. the coming power struggle between the German Constitutional Court and the Commission over whether and to what extent the ECJ really has the last word) because they are so bone dry and technical and opaque. This kind of fait accompli is the only way to prevent long-term collapse. The reaction when citizens realise what has happened could be quite explosive; but, as I mention below in my comment – this won’t happen for a while yet and until then the EU will just keep bumbling along from crisis to crisis in the approved fashion.

MICHAEL MCGREGOR
MICHAEL MCGREGOR
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

Reminds me of the early USA, where they said they were united but actually distrusted one another. An alliance of nation states with a common foreign policy, similar to NATO membership. That attitude wasn’t finally put to bed until the civil war.

Robin Bury
Robin Bury
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter LR

Agree How do I follow you?

Peter LR
Peter LR
2 years ago
Reply to  Robin Bury

Hi Robin, I’m flattered. Actually I only do UnHerd as I find these threads very civil and informative.

Richard Lord
Richard Lord
2 years ago

I think that I’d take a punt on Ireland leaving, another island state. They are a minnow in the EU and overplayed their hand in the Brexit negotiations, allowing themselves to be used by a spiteful and undemocratic EU. Having been stuffed by the EU on fishing quotas they face being ostracised by them should Boris scrap the NI Protocol. Having taken money from the EU for years they’re now net contributors.

With the their links with the UK in every sphere, including trade, and the support that the UK gives them (after the credit crunch for example) they’d surely be better off aligning with the UK.

A free trade, zero quota agreement between Ireland and the UK would eliminate any need for border controls, there is essentially free movement of people already.

Hugh Marcus
Hugh Marcus
2 years ago
Reply to  Richard Lord

Richard Lord. You clearly know little about Ireland. There’s a tiny handful of activists arguing for ‘Irexit’. Not one has been elected to any public office. Opinion polls show support for remaining in the EU up around 90%. If ever there was a country who’ll be the last to leave, it’s Ireland. As for them overplaying their hand. You make the common mistake of thinking the issues around Ireland & the GFA are purely political, the main issue is protecting the agri food industry. I speak as a farmer from Northern Ireland.

Peter Mott
Peter Mott
2 years ago
Reply to  Hugh Marcus

I worry about the NI protocol and the consequences of Article 16. Would Ireland respond well to an EU instruction to erect a hard border?

Corrie Mooney
Corrie Mooney
2 years ago
Reply to  Peter Mott

No.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago
Reply to  Hugh Marcus

What would worry me if I was farmer in S Ireland are Britons deciding not to buy Irish produce. Trade deals with Australia and New Zealand will increase beef, lamb, butter and cheese imports to the UK at the expense of Ireland. Ireland could sell beef, lamb and butter in the EU but Polish, Germans, Danish and Dutch will not buy Irish pork and few will buy Irish cheese.
Britain has historically been happy to buy foreign produce. The actions of politicians and civil servants has meant many Britons will not buy some foreign goods. There is no point on arguing about tariffs if there are no sales.
How will business selling German cars and white goods compare to those selling Japanese and and Korean over the next 5 to 10 years ?

Gary Taylor
Gary Taylor
2 years ago
Reply to  Hugh Marcus

It’s 2012. There’s a tiny handful of activists arguing for ‘Brexit’. Not one has been elected to any public office. Opinion polls show majority support for remaining in the EU.
But its what the majority wanted by 2016.

Robin Bury
Robin Bury
2 years ago
Reply to  Richard Lord

True. I am Irish and Canadian. The protocol the green Taoiseach Varadkar pushed with the EU is a disaster. Now he and Biden are pushing a united Ireland and do not consider that in a recent poll most people in the Irish republic and in NI said they do not want unity. In the Irish republic as it will involve higher taxes. Indigenous companies and agri-business depend on the UK market, not the EU. Now the corporate tax fiddles that go in the ROI on are being questioned. But let’s not forget that since 1916 a driving force in the ROI politics and people is Anglophobia, still strong with Varadkar and Sinn Fein.First the Irish people were oppressed by the Roman Catholic church and now ruled by unelected bureaucrats who screwed the Irish in the crash and protected German banks. But the Irish show no desire to leave. Anything but go back to the UK.Oh and its not a matter of a ‘hard border’ but a soft one as exists between Sweden and Norway.

Last edited 2 years ago by Robin Bury
Ana Cronin
Ana Cronin
2 years ago
Reply to  Robin Bury

I’m Irish and well said

Corrie Mooney
Corrie Mooney
2 years ago
Reply to  Richard Lord

Ireland’s economy is COMPLETELY dependent on being in the EU.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago
Reply to  Corrie Mooney

Ireland has the advantages of well educated workforce, low corporation tax and beautiful countryside, superb arts and good activities. It lacks the problms run down areas of heavy industry.
This makes it attractive to high tech companies. Ireland could become a Singapore. Ireland has more advantages in 2021 than Singapore had in 1965. The problem is that too many of the decision makers are in the pocket of the EU.

Ana Cronin
Ana Cronin
2 years ago
Reply to  Richard Lord

Much as I would be like this to come to pass this is a non-starter. As Hugh says below Irelands support for the EU is I believe the highest of all European countries, mainly because my fellow country people have in the main absolutely no idea of how the EU works, how decisions are made and where power lies. How do I know? I have had a lot of conversation since my return five years ago.
I disagree with Hugh that Ireland are not being used by the EU, they most certainly have been played and our craven politicians have failed us yet again by not looking at the bigger long term picture. The EU couldn’t care less about NI if they did, they would have been involved in brokering a peace deal at some stage since both UK and Ireland joined the EEC in 1973. .
On Tuesday, Leo Varadkar who thinks he is Taoiseach (PM) rather than Tanaiste (2nd to PM) and is allowed to think so by our ineffectual actual Taoiseach, decided to give a speech on a United Ireland, great timing (Fine Gael are concerned about the rise of Sinn Fein) However never underestimate the animus many of my country people hold for the English. Not the UK but the English, and they would stay on the EU (Titanic) ship rather than follow any lead by the UK, yes even if it means hitting an iceberg! This failed state just 100 yrs old has to blame someone I guess.
As I have said previously, to the EU we are a peripheral rock that is now somehow a net contributor (despite the financial crash ‘kicking’ they gave us, lost sovereignty indeed, and having one of the worst public healthcare systems in the world). A country who the EU Commission didn’t even consider consulting when they decided to, temporally, impose a border between ROI & NI, (which tells you everything you need to know about the level of respect the EU has for ROI) we are stuck because Ireland is in the Euro and like they threatened to do to Greece they have the power ‘to shut down your ATM’s’ tomorrow.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ana Cronin
Bruno Lucy
Bruno Lucy
2 years ago

The problem with the EU is that French and German national leaders have always made sure clowns head the commission…….and the list is long….Baroso would have been the clown in chief while Waffen Ushi ….as she was nicknamed when she was minister of défense ……..has been exfiltered and rewarded both at the same time and is one of the worst politician ever to lead the Commission….
the pathetic scene in Ankara where Charles Michel proved himself as one of the rudest, weakest man ever seen in public, set the tone of what the EU really is……but not because it lacks common values, but because national leader’s ego are at play.
EEC ‘s fathers had seen 2 wars for some of them……..nowadays….euro politicians run for cover because of COVID…….how can this continent be kept together with spineless people ?

Leonel SIlva Rocha
Leonel SIlva Rocha
1 year ago
Reply to  Bruno Lucy

BARROSO…

Michael James
Michael James
2 years ago

Most EU citizens are more or less dissatisfied with the EU (see Eurobarometer) but most member states are trapped in it by membership of the eurozone (which is of course the main purpose of the euro) since the cost and risk of leaving are too great to contemplate.

Last edited 2 years ago by Michael James
Stewart B
Stewart B
2 years ago

Once a staunch supporter of the EU, now I couldn’t really care less whether it survives or not.
My support of the EU was partly practical – I loved the freedom of movement – and partly political – I believed it could be relied on to safeguard liberal values of freedom and human rights, a sort of constitutional backstop against potential misbehaviour by national governments.
This coronavirus crisis has demonstrated that ultimately the EU stands for neither of those things as its Orwellian named Green Pass demonstrates. So the EU just adds another layer of self serving politicians and bureaucrats for little or no benefit.
I couldn’t care less about its profligacy. The cost of the EU is a drop in an ocean out of control state spending.
Incidentally, the UK’s “nimble vaccine programme” has led to what exactly? The UK has the same or more restrictions as other EU countries despite higher rates of vaccination and similar decline in coronavirus deaths and hospitalisations as other EU nations. Its overall death rate is near the top of western nations.
EU or no EU, makes no difference.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
2 years ago

There is no prohibition on thought, but the notion of any other country leaving is fanciful. I’m guessing the Dutch will get itchier in the coming years – especially if the supposed “one-off” Recovery Fund gets expanded or turned into a permanent fixture (which it probably will – and in that case, watch for the fireworks coming from the direction of the German Constitutional Court too).
A poll in Austria done not so long ago showed that most people were basically in favour of the EU, but the vast majority (something like 61%) thought it wasn’t working at the moment and desperately needs reform. From that, I surmise that there is a common belief that reform is possible (not a belief I share, frankly) and that, for the foreseeable – bar a serious flare-up of the euro- or migration crisis to set the cat amongst the pigeons – things will just shuffle along as per usual…just with a bit more of a prickly undercurrent.
For goodness sake, Austria leaving the EU would be like Home Alone, with Austria in the role as Kevin. It’s just not going to happen. We’re in it ’til the bitter end!

Christopher Peter
Christopher Peter
2 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I think that basically sums it up. The finding that “… most people were basically in favour of the EU, but the vast majority … thought it wasn’t working at the moment and desperately needs reform …”, is probably the majority view across Europe, and indeed was likely the most accurate reflection of public opinion in the UK until the past few years. Indeed it’s what I used to believe – essentially, not exactly in love with the EU, recognising its many flaws and believe it it needs to up its game, but clinging on to some residual belief in the essential rightness of its vision or at least its inevitability.
That belief essentially informed my remain vote in 2016 – i.e. it’s not great but surely it can change. My views have changed since though.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
2 years ago

Same here.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  Katharine Eyre

I think most Europeans like the single market and easy travel, for themselves. It’s convenient. But I am not sure they want a single European state or easy migration from the outside (or sometimes even from the inside). The French, Danes, Dutch, Austrians, Italians, Hungarians seem particularly hacked off by this and I don’t blame them. If the EU was about free movement of labour, rather than just ‘people’, with strict caveats and some controls (ie removal of criminals and unemployed) I doubt the UK would have left. But the fact is the protocols around removal were NOT easy to carry out in practice, costing huge amounts and constantly frustrated by bureaucracy and lawyers, and there were no protocols to prevent arrivals in the first place. It was just ridiculous frankly. The fact that 3.5million EU citizens was widely used as the figure in Brexit debates but has turned out to be at least 5 million is an unacceptable mismatch and goes some way to show that Brexiteers had legitimate gripes about numbers and pressure on services. It’s a massive number of extra people.

Ian
Ian
2 years ago

The bookies rarely get things wrong repeatedly and Italy, rather than the Netherlands, is surely priced correctly as the favourite to leave next. Unfortunately, to get the maximum benefit they would also need to untangle themselves from the Euro so I can’t see it happening anytime soon and won’t be placing a bet.

William MacDougall
William MacDougall
2 years ago

For Italy or Greece to leave the Euro is certainly a big problem, as they have huge debts and net transfers from Europe and would see a big rise in borrowing costs. But for the Netherlands? The Dutch Guilder would probably be stronger than the Euro, and might even see lower borrowing costs, while the country is a net payer to the rest of the EU. The main difficulty might be loss of free trade with Europe, only partly made up by freer trade with the UK and the rest of the world.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago

Wouldn’t the bits of Europe whose free trade flows via the Rhine be the losers? The Dutch don’t have to let that continue free of charge.

Jacques Rossat
Jacques Rossat
2 years ago

Imminent death of the EU has been predicted for decades. To quote Frank Zappa about jazz : Europe isn’t dead, it just smells funny.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago

For me it is simply an example of why centralising too much power into too few hands is always a bad idea.

Friedrich Tellberg
Friedrich Tellberg
2 years ago

You cannot rule out a “Nexit”. But the Dutch economy is so interconnected with the German economy that the Netherlands are sometimes called (for fun, but not entirely) the 17th state of the Federal Republic of Germany. As tradesmen, the Dutch surely count the money before making a decision. If this problem could be solved (but I have no idea), a Nexit seems thinkable (but that is a very big “if”).
What seems more likely is a slow desintegration or loosening of the EU-structure, like Niall Ferguson once predicted (saying that Brexit was ultimately unnecessary, as the EU would fall apart pretty soon in the future).
The Netherlands cannot isolate from Germany without harming themselves far beyond their pain threshold. But for all kinds of reasons they prefer not to be alone with the big nation at their eastern border. So if they could substite the EU for some other (smaller) economic union that includes Germany amongst several others, you’ve got your Nexit. But then there is no EU anymore. Q.e.d.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago

I’d have thought the Netherlands would be in a pretty strong position as a free country. Much of what Europe, specifically Germany, exports and imports arrives via the Rhine. The Rhine meets the sea in the Netherlands. A small tax on those trade flows would surely see the Netherlands OK?

Doug Pingel
Doug Pingel
2 years ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

I think that the EU (Germany) would say
that the tax was illegal.

Steven Farrall
Steven Farrall
2 years ago

Nexit is easily doable. You do not have a currency problem. The EU does. As long as you can accept a transition whilst you establish your own currency – or even better opt for ‘free banking and no central bank – you can continue to use the Euro.

Corrie Mooney
Corrie Mooney
2 years ago

Like Helmut Kohl said a few years ago, the EU needs to take a couple steps back.
They won’t.

Charles Hedges
Charles Hedges
2 years ago

The EU was created because the Spirit of France was broken at Verdun in 1917. France was a victor with the mentality of the vanquished by November 1918. From 1918 there was a conflict between Atheist Marxism and Catholic Conservatism which which in Spain led to Civil War and in France nearly so in the 1930s.
The only countries which were stable were the Englis Speaking ones.
The Nazi conquest led to mass collaboration, freinds and neighbours betrayed each other. The Communists betrayed resistance members up to June 1941. This traumatised a Continent
By 1948, the largest leftist groups in France and Italy were Communist, not the Methodist Labour Party whose Foreign Secretary, Ernie Bevin was a tough Baptist Preacher and anti- communist. The founders of the Coal and Steel and then EEC created organisations run by civil servants based on the French graduates of the Grandes Ecoles to prevent the people voting for a Fascist or Communist government. From then beginning, the C and S and EEC had power vested in civil servants who could over rule politicians and /or set the agendas.
The power of the French Civil Servants who are garduates of the Grand Ecoles, especially Enarques is immense.
The aim was to re-create the Holy Roman Empire of Charlemagne not an Anglo Saxon Democratic Organisation based upon free trade. Power was directed from the top down.
Read Peter Shore’s Seprate Ways. Britain was told in the early 1970s the EEC was for free trade and we would not lose our sovereignty. Either Heath and FCO did not know or they lied.
The Netherlands is interesting as it was on the fringes of the HRE under Charlemagne.
I suggest the historical divides within the EU are those countries whom were within the HRE and were ruled by the Divine Right of Kings and those outside. Eastern Europe and Scandinavia were outside of the HRE.
Also the Protestant Catholic divide at the end of the Thirty Years war.
And now who are net contributors to the EU? As many politicians, civil servants, lobbyists and managers have beer budgets and champagne tastes, their loyalty can be rented by the EU. The EU has resulted in then creation of courtiers which it entertains and who in turn entertain each other, which has created a pleasant life for thousands of upper middle class graduates- Versailles Mark 2.

Alan Hawley
Alan Hawley
2 years ago

Another article in which the writer refers to a country’s contribution to the EU simply in terms of billions of euros, so as to create the impression that the amount is substantial, without stating what the figure is as a proportion of a country’s GDP. The figures that I obtained from the Daily Telegraph some years ago was that annual net UK contribution to the EU in 2016 of between £8.1 billion and £9.4 billion was between 1% and 1.2% of the total UK annual budget of around £814.6  billion. I think the EU says somewhere that the average net contribution is somewhere between 1% and 2% of the GDP of member states. As Johnson said on the “pro” side of his famous double list, the amount seems very reasonable in return for the benefits received (or words to that effect). You may or not agree with the precise figures or with Johnson’s conclusion, but please can we have articles that put government spending into context.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  Alan Hawley

Agree. That was never a good argument for Brexit in my eyes either. For me it was about borders, numbers and the principle of self government. If you feel a strong connection to the culture and nationhood of Britain, as a proud independent island state then the EU is an existential threat. And that’s enough of a reason.

Charles Lawton
Charles Lawton
2 years ago

Interesting article which makes a valid point. Apart from well executed UK vaccine roll out, I think it is far too early to tell whether BREXIT will be a success economically or politically for the UK. I voted remain, but stuck by the result of the referendum. Whilst Italy could well leave, many of their problems are related to poor economic growth since the early 1990s much of which are home grown rather than EU problems. I think the others, particularly the Dutch will watch the UK for a few years to see if Brexit answered the UK’s need for full sovereignty. Oddly we now see problems on the horizon that were not foreseen like the massive skills shortage in the construction industry which is going to take years to overcome.

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  Charles Lawton

This should force a shift in our own labour market. There should be no excuse for unemployed young people if jobs and training are made available.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
2 years ago
Reply to  Cheryl Jones

Jobs and training weren’t being made available though, it was easier to employ an Eastern European on minimum wage than train up the local workforce. My main hope for Brexit is an immigration system that no longer allows employers to do this

Dan Gleeballs
Dan Gleeballs
2 years ago

Deleted

Last edited 2 years ago by Dan Gleeballs
Martin Smith
Martin Smith
2 years ago

No. Germany is the only Euro member that could leave the single currency but it has no reason to.

Last edited 2 years ago by Martin Smith
Alan Hawley
Alan Hawley
2 years ago

I don’t understand the argument (Peter LR, below) that the EU member states and the UK lack a shared culture.
Here are some of the uniting European cultural factors that make me and many others feel “European” (despite my not having been born in Europe):  
Proust, Mahler, Almodovar, Beethoven, Brahms, Erasmus, Victor Hugo, Ibsen, Sibelius, Grieg, de Falla, Granados, de Maupassant, Dickens, Shakespeare, the French impressionists and their followers in other European countries, the Bauhaus, Ravel, Charles Rennie McIntosh, art nouveau, Alphonse Mucha, Rembrandt, Voltaire, Franz Hals, Rubens, Verdi, Puccini, Mozart, Donizetti, Wagner, Richard Strauss, Klimt, James Joyce, W B Yeats, Synge, Bruckner, Albeniz, Turner, Constable, Pieter Jansz Saenredam, Jacob van Ruisdael, Michaelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Benevenuto Cellini, Cervantes, Le Corbusier, Amalia Rodrigues and the Portuguese fado singers, Ingemar Bergman, Vasco de Gama, Magellan, Dario Fo, Fellini, Visconti, Dvorak, Kafka, Smetana, Calvin, Robbie Burns, Sir Walter Scott, St Thomas Aquinas (buried in Toulouse), Einstein, Gropius, Alvar Aalto, Chopin, Thucydides, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Aristophanes, Praxiteles, Phidias, Moliere, Dinu Lipatti, Handel, Elgar, Gallileo, Palladio, Copernicus, the French Declaration of the Rights of the Man and of the Citizen of 1793, English Bill of Rights 1689, the Reformation, feudalism, the growth of parliamentary democracy, unification movements, the English and French regicides, Alfred Hitchcock, Arthur Schnitzler. 
One could go on and on.
If that list is too highbrow, think of all the things that are popular and shared to a greater or lesser extent around most of Europe, for example, extensive government health systems (very different from the US system),  centrist social democrat free market governments, NATO, the European monarchies, gay rights (under threat in one or two countries), most popular music produced in England since the sixties, not just the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Elton John, and David Bowie, but many others, Maurice Chevalier, Edith Piaf, Charles Trenet, Marlene Dietrich, James Bond, Tino Rossi, Christiano Ronaldo, Skandi noir, the TV series Lupin, numerous British and other football stars, Sherlock Holmes, Netflix and Amazon streamed entertainment (now part of the shared Euro culture, albeit of American origin), Bridget Bardot, the various European football and rugby competitions, easyJet and Ryanair, cheap flights around Europe, the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia, the Vuelta a Espana, Citroen, Renault, Peugeot, the Eurovision song contest, beach holidays in Spain, skiing holidays in the Alps, the BMW/BMC Mini, pizza, caravan holidays in France, the Celtic festival at Lorient, bagpipes, Chelsea boots, English brogues, Tintin, Maigret, French fashion designers, Italian leather, Agatha Christie (voted in a French poll as the top European writer of the 20th century!), Volkswagen, BMW, Airbus, Mercedes-Benz, Wimbledon, Roland-Garros, tennis generally, sauerkraut and choucroute, riesling, Liebfraumilch, Mateus Rose, the Munich beer-fest, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, Stella Artois, Heineken, moussaka, paella, tapas, schnitzel, Santa Lucia and other famous Neapolitan songs, baguettes, Arsene Wenger, Jose Mourinho, shortbread, Twinings tea, the expresso, fish and chips, castles and chateaux, Christianity.  
Someone else (preferably younger) could write a more extensive and better-informed list, especially when it comes to sport!

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
2 years ago
Reply to  Alan Hawley

Those are just lists, pretty well every single item on those lists predates the EU, and none that postdates it was in any way enabled by it. What was the point?

Alan Hawley
Alan Hawley
11 months ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

I missed this comment. The point is that all the names are part of our shared European culture. Obviously I was not suggesting that the EU had anything to do with enabling that shared culture prior to the establishment of the EU! Of course the EU promotes that culture in various ways, but primary responsibility for promoting and maintaining the pre EU shared cultural heritage lies with the EU sovereign member states.

Alan Hawley
Alan Hawley
2 years ago

I don’t understand the argument that the citizens of EU member states and the UK lack a shared culture.
Here are some of the uniting European cultural factors that make me and many others feel “European” (despite my not having been born in Europe). Most of these have some sort of direct personal significance for me. Others affect my life indirectly, and also the lives of those in the EU member states.
Proust, Mahler, Almodovar, Beethoven, Brahms, Erasmus, Victor Hugo, Ibsen, Sibelius, Grieg, de Falla, Granados, de Maupassant, Dickens, Shakespeare, the French impressionists and their followers in other European countries, the Bauhaus, Ravel, Charles Rennie McIntosh, art nouveau, Alphonse Mucha, Rembrandt, Voltaire, Franz Hals, Rubens, Verdi, Puccini, Mozart, Donizetti, Wagner, Richard Strauss, Klimt, James Joyce, W B Yeats, Synge, Bruckner, Albeniz, Turner, Constable, Pieter Jansz Saenredam, Jacob van Ruisdael, Michaelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, Benevenuto Cellini, Cervantes, Le Corbusier, Amalia Rodrigues and the Portuguese fado singers, Ingemar Bergman, Vasco de Gama, Magellan, Dario Fo, Fellini, Visconti, Dvorak, Kafka, Smetana, Calvin, Robbie Burns, Sir Walter Scott, St Thomas Aquinas (buried in Toulouse), Einstein, Gropius, Alvar Aalto, Chopin, Thucydides, Aeschylus, Sophocles, Aristophanes, Praxiteles, Phidias, Moliere, Dinu Lipatti, Handel, Elgar, Gallileo, Palladio, Copernicus, the French Declaration of the Rights of the Man and of the Citizen of 1793, English Bill of Rights 1689, the Reformation, feudalism, the growth of parliamentary democracy, unification movements, the English and French regicides, Alfred Hitchcock, Arthur Schnitzler. One could go on and on.
If that list is too highbrow, think of all the things that are popular and shared to a greater or lesser extent around most of Europe, for example: 
The various European football and rugby competitions, beach holidays in Spain, cheap flights around Europe, stag and hen weekends in Prague, extensive government health systems (very different from the US system),  centrist social democrat free market governments (under some threat), a commitment to a multi-lateral approach in international relations, NATO, the European monarchies, gay rights (under threat in one or two countries), most popular music produced in England since the sixties, (not just the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Elton John, and David Bowie, but many others of course), Maurice Chevalier, Edith Piaf, Charles Trenet, Kraftwerk, Marlene Dietrich, James Bond, Tino Rossi, Christiano Ronaldo, Skandi noir, the recentTV series Lupin, numerous British and other European football stars, Sherlock Holmes, Netflix and Amazon streamed entertainment (now part of the shared Euro culture, albeit of American origin), Bridget Bardot, easyJet and Ryanair, the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia, the Vuelta a Espana, Citroen, Renault, Peugeot, the Eurovision song contest, skiing holidays in the Alps, the BMW/BMC Mini, pizza, caravan holidays in France, the Celtic festival at Lorient, bagpipes, Chelsea boots, Doc Martens, English brogues, Tintin, Maigret, French fashion designers, Italian leather, Agatha Christie (voted in a French poll as the top European writer of the 20th century!), Volkswagen, BMW, Airbus, Mercedes-Benz, Wimbledon, Roland-Garros, tennis generally, sauerkraut and choucroute, riesling, Liebfraumilch, Mateus Rose, the Munich beer-fest, cabernet sauvignon, merlot, Stella Artois, Heineken, moussaka, paella, tapas, schnitzel, Santa Lucia and other famous Neapolitan songs, baguettes, Arsene Wenger, Jose Mourinho, shortbread, Twinings tea, the expresso, fish and chips, castles and chateaux, and last, but of course, not least Christianity itself, to which one could add, a shared commitment to state secularism and to the protection of religious and cultural minorities (resulting from the Enlightenment).  
Someone else (preferably younger) could write a more extensive and better-informed second list, especially when it comes to sport.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
2 years ago

The EU is becoming more of a nation state (without a demos) by the month, and as each year passes it will be more disruptive to leave.
Its going to take some serious long-term thinking for any country to “jump from the moving train”

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
2 years ago

The EU is becoming more of a nation state (without a demos) by the month, and as each year passes it will be more disruptive to leave.
Its going to take some serious long-term thinking for any country to “jump from the moving train”

Riichard Landes
Riichard Landes
2 years ago

in pre-modern societies there’s a prime divider (economic, cultural, political) between elites and commoners. elites have more in common with other elites than with their own people. the democratic nation-state changed that dynamic. the EU has, in this sense, brought Europe back to this pre-modern configuration (symbolized by the lavish 11:30-3:30 lunch the author describes).

Riichard Landes
Riichard Landes
2 years ago

in pre-modern societies there’s a prime divider (economic, cultural, political) between elites and commoners. elites have more in common with other elites than with their own people. the democratic nation-state changed that dynamic. the EU has, in this sense, brought Europe back to this pre-modern configuration (symbolized by the lavish 11:30-3:30 lunch the author describes).

James Chater
James Chater
2 years ago

‘.

Last edited 2 years ago by James Chater
diego.zuluagalaguna
diego.zuluagalaguna
2 years ago

Surely the budget contribution is of marginal importance relative to the benefits (and costs) from being in a customs union and single regulatory zone. This is particularly important for an exporting, service-oriented economy like NL (more so than UK). I suspect the trade case for leaving is still weaker than it was for the UK.

The point around migration decisions is misleading – NL officials have virtually full control over who from outside the EU may live and work in NL. Also worth noting that the bulk of immigrants in NL are Turks, Moroccans and from ex-Dutch colonies (all non-EU).

Some Dutch may object to Romanians, Croatians, etc. benefiting from free movement because these countries are much poorer than NL. But they don’t typically move to the Netherlands – they move to Germany (Croatians) and Spain and Italy (Romanians) for language reasons.

Penelope Lane
Penelope Lane
2 years ago

While agreeing with much of what Ali writes, e.g. on the problem of political Islam and women’s rights, in this case I don’t think she has facts on her side.
It is far too early to say whether Brexit has been a success or failure. We knew the results would not be apparent for some time after the withdrawal agreement came into effect, Right now, the scoreboard is weighted towards the “problems” side. To what extent these problems will be solved to achieve outcomes better than the previous status quo under the EU, remains to be seen.
Yanis Varoufakis’ contributions to this 5-year Brexit anniversary, while agreeing with Ali that the EU faces major internal problems, draw the opposite conclusion—that no one is going to be leaving the EU in the foreseeable future, and Brexit has had the effect of shoring up support for the EU by its citizens, notwithstanding their simultaneous awareness that it is far from perfect.
Furthermore, Varoufakis’ EU vision, pursued through countries hanging on in there and practising the arts of cooperation and mutual support through multiple trials and experiments and errors, has much more to offer in the way of positive human futures, than the UK’s competitive global beat-the-other-guy-to-it and come-out-king-of-the-world, neo-imperialist programme.
The EU’s trial-and-error approach has its basis in scientific method, gifted to us by the Enlightenment— it is secular, multilateral, forward-looking and always falsifiable. The UK’s unilateral “beat-the-other-guy-down”, despite its “global” pretence, is psychologically/sociologically essentially ethnic tribal-English, hence backward-looking and pre-modern.
One example perhaps says it all. While the Europeans have modernised and democratised their royal elites in a peaceful, civilised manner, providing them with a useful and affordable role to play in society, the English, dragging the other three nations of the UK with them whether they like it or not, continually prove themselves to be incapable of growing out of their feudal reverence for royalty and unquestioning acceptance of its unaffordable trappings, forcing in time-honoured manner excommunication and exile on those of its members who dare to try to modernise or democratise or who fail in other ways to conform to historical diktat.
Where the Europeans do their best to cooperate and include, and often fail and have to try again, the English, under cover of being the UK, try their hardest to out-compete and exclude, and inevitably fail in the long run—because their efforts run counter to the thrust of upward-moving, positive human evolution.

Last edited 2 years ago by Penelope Lane
furma371
furma371
2 years ago

It is obvious that the EU is the result of the Common Market. The different nations share common economic interests. Here the EU has achieved quite a lot. But as the EU lacks any political power or at least it is not always clear and sometimes willingly confusing, the EU has failed on many other field of public interest like health, security, frontiers, housing requirements, scientific research investments, demography,…. It has failed or is at least not so efficient because the governments of the different countries have diverging interests and the EU was initially not intended to have any roles to play but in the economy, where the interests are clearly shared. So blaming the EU for something it was not intended seems not fair. The EU is like a business club , serving champagne to its guests. Not like a public institution representing the interests of the EU citizens, caring to unite unite 27 cacophonous governments, pursuing diverging interests.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
2 years ago
Reply to  furma371

I think you would struggle to support a case that the EU has achieved much economically for the southern peripheral states e.g Greece, with a tendency to support Germany and France in particular.
I’d also suggest that the EU is continually trying to extend itself beyond business, in an in democratic and inefficient manner.
The EU is no longer the EEC.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ian Barton
Stewart B
Stewart B
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

And yet, support for the EU is generally stronger in the “southern peripheral states” as you call them the in the northern ones. Spain and Portugal are bedrocks of pro-EU sentiment. So perhaps the economic benefits to them are greater than you think.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
2 years ago
Reply to  Stewart B

its certainly an interesting observation, whch I presume has a complex answer spanning many subjects – one of which will be a view of economic benefits that are yet to accrue – but may still do so at some point.

Last edited 2 years ago by Ian Barton
Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  Stewart B

Perhaps they like the ability to leave and go to Germany.

John Wilkes
John Wilkes
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

The EU has serious faults of organisation and accountability. Like others, I’m not impressed by the quality of leadership. However, the endless hostility to a group of 27 nations trying to work together to make a better Europe is deeply depressing.
Take a look at the real world. How can anyone suggest seriously that Spain or France, or even Germany, is better off ‘solo’ than united with others of like mind in the face of China, the increasingly unreliable USA and other rising powers?
As for the UK, words almost fail me. The great success of the vaccination programme does not justify Brexit. The gang of liars, chancers and obsessives who now rule us must thank heaven daily that a wonderous cloak of good luck has covered their political nakedness, even if it has killed a hundred thousand of their fellow citizens. The truth is nevertheless emerging, bit by bit. Brexit has gained us nothing significant and greatly increased our difficulties.
I resent having to live with the consequences of Boris’s ravenous ambition, Gove’s sly careerism, Cumming’s weird fantasies and the whole dismal crew. Compared to their supreme folly, the EU’s mistakes appear almost trivial.
What to do? Damage limitation now: gradual reconciliation over time. But it will be a hard road.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
2 years ago
Reply to  John Wilkes

The gang of liars, chancers and obsessives who now rule …..Boris’s ravenous ambition, Gove’s sly careerism, Cumming’s weird fantasies and the whole dismal crew.”
Your opinion is naturally not tainted by where you stand on the issue

Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
Margaret Tudeau-Clayton
2 years ago
Reply to  John Wilkes

I predict you will get hammered for this comment. Before reading the other comments I predicted to myself the ‘endless hostility’ I would find there. I am bemused rather than depressed by it. Anyone living in Europe knows it isn’t going to collapse in the near future. Indeed Frexit has now moved to the political periphery here in France. Even Le Pen has dropped it.

Will R
Will R
2 years ago
Reply to  John Wilkes

And I would resent having to live under the control of a staggeringly incompetent ‘leader’ like von der Leyen , another example of unelected unaccountable cronyism in the EU

Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

If the EU had remained the EEC the UK wouid never have left. The EU is a massive overreach in too short a time, which is a shame as done differently it couid have been brilliant. But continental ways just aren’t ours. Our common law is not the same as napoleonic style, it’s a clashing mindset.

Edward De Beukelaer
Edward De Beukelaer
2 years ago

An article written by a typical politician who looks at a issue with his nose too close to it and in fear what the newspapers may well write about him.
The EU is a project, evolving and changing: it will improve by making mistakes. I cannot see any arguments against people and populations trying to work and live together. I wonder whether any national governments would do better.
The long term plans and projects in the EU carry some very positive notes. They will get many of them wrong but at least they try and think long term. The EU is for the next generations….

George Glashan
George Glashan
2 years ago

Edward , kudos, I think your the first person ever to describe Ayaan Hirsi Ali as a typical politician or a man.
And on your last point “The EU is for the next generations….” how many years would you predict the EU will last… 1000 years?

Last edited 2 years ago by George Glashan
Cheryl Jones
Cheryl Jones
2 years ago

It does not learn though.