The EU after Brexit: without Great Britain, the Union will only sail at half speed – politically

Expecting the worst in politics has a big advantage: the actors are better prepared for an unpleasant situation than when they optimistically assume that it will not end so badly. This includes accepting the failure of a project, for example in economic, foreign and security policy, as an opportunity for which alternatives are being developed. This offers an undeniable advantage: if things don’t turn out so badly, solutions have been developed that can help all partners.

Today there is a good chance that an unregulated Brexit will come. Even if an arrangement was made with Boris Johnson for the future coexistence of the European Union and the United Kingdom, one thing will certainly not change: the British are leaving the common European platform. This weakens the EU and diminishes the role it could play in world politics.

In the increasingly discordant concert of the large and medium armed forces Russia, the US, China, Turkey and Brazil, an EU without Great Britain is taken less seriously. The kingdom remains a member of NATO, but Brexit will effectively make Europe an alliance with less weight in the broad areas of hard power, material and military strength.

Britain with Northern Ireland still holds the power of the empire with its worldwide connections in diplomatic talks. Of these, the “Five Eyes” global liaison contacts between the secret services of England, New Zealand, Australia, Canada and the US are not the least important. The EU will lose all of this if it doesn’t find new ways to work with London.

Considerations such as those that Volker Perthes, the former director of the Science and Politics Foundation, just made in the Tagesspiegel, probably go in that direction. He quoted Josep Borrell, the EU foreign affairs official, who warned that Europe should relearn “the language of power”. Perthes refers to the principle of unanimity in foreign and security policy as required by the EU treaties as one of the greatest obstacles to achieving this. But how do you get rid of this law of having to change – which in turn requires unanimity that cannot be achieved?

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An idea from French President Emmanuel Macron could be helpful, allowing both the further involvement of Britain and making it possible to abandon the mandatory route of unanimity. At the Munich Security Conference in February, Macron, in an interview with its chairman, Wolfgang Ischinger, proposed the creation of a European Security Council, not for the first time. That could be based on the example of the United Nations body of the same name without adopting the paralyzing tool of its veto. Britain could also become a member of such a council following its departure from the EU, so that it remains attached to the continent as a political heavyweight. And the need for unanimous decisions in foreign and security policy would be overcome. Europe could again speak “the language of power” and loosen the corset of the current treaties.

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