Is 2018 the beginning of the end for Europe as we know it?

With one of the greatest opponents of the European integration project set to leave the European Union in 2019, various European leaders advocating the integration vision will be now more able than ever before to make it a reality. Apart from the UK’s initiated withdrawal in 2016, last year’s French and German elections have also provided waypoints for the journey ahead. Seizure of the French Presidency by Emmanuel Macron, and the evermore likely appointment of Martin Schultz as Vice-Chancellor of Germany, could combine a dynamic visionary with that of a man explicitly calling for a ‘United States of Europe’ by 2025.

This dangerous potential alliance plays into the hands of EU bureaucrats, such as Junker and Verhofstadt, figures that live and breathe the thought of an integrated Europe, and leaves Angela Merkel, the main proponent of the status-quo, deeply outnumbered. Recent legislative proposals by EU heads, outlining a common minimum wage, and the alarming EU-army, are only the first steps along the road of European integration. Under this new environment, the next stage could well be the implementation of Macron’s pioneering visions in the next few years: creation of a Eurozone parliament, a common banking union, and greater fiscal integration.

For the project to reach its completion, the non-compilers of integration movement, primarily the Czechs and Hungarians, with the remainder of the eastern states, would have to accept the Euro. The extent to which this will become a reality is deeply uncertain. However, even if not willingly, the non-compilers would likely be forced to accept new legislation by EU bureaucrats as EU power, and disregard for democratic practices grows ever stronger. In this way, by 2025, we could see Europe on the brink of a new age, and one that is likely to spell ruin.

Leaving aside the loss of national sovereignty, a ‘United States of Europe’ would diminish the international political and economic weight of Europe. In the 21st Century we are obsessed with the phrase ‘bigger is better’. Although applicable in some situations, of which I am sure one could easily find, ‘bigger is better’ is an unsuitable concept when combing nation states or extending national landmasses. Simply combing two or more economies together dramatically increases the prosperity of the resulting economy, but leaves the wealth of the individual untouched. In this way, the economy of a ‘United States of Europe’ would be almost as large as that of the United States of America, yet each individual would be no better off. This is a simple point, but is one that is often neglected when people naively state that alone ‘population growth makes us all wealthier’.

Not only would a ‘United States of Europe’ fail to increase the wealth of individuals, its creation would likely diminish their wealth relative to the rest of the world. Throughout history regions of the world that have grown most quickly are those that have prevented assimilation, maintaining several smaller competing nation states. The late modern period saw numerous European states with competing currencies striving to intensively grow faster than their rivals, inventing an enormous range of technologies that would allow the birth of the Industrial Revolution to sweep the continent. Failing to realise the gains of national economic competition is fatal, and in Europe’s case, it is already observable.

Although the EU (including the UK) remains the largest economic bloc in the world, its economic weighting relative to the world diminishes every year. In 1990 the EU comprised a near 30% of International GDP, whilst today that figure is nearer 15%. If an increasingly protectionist EU steams toward a future United States of Europe, the figure will plummet further, leaving an isolated diminished power in the wake of new economic superpowers from East Asia, Africa, and Latin America; even if this would be an eventuality for the next century.

Importantly, a United States of Europe is not yet a reality. The non-compilers, Czechs and Hungarians, are states who grasp sovereignty with both hands, and might successfully refuse ever closer EU legislation, halting the process toward a single state continent. Likewise, voters in the central states have the power, potentially, to stop integration if the EU goes down a path they cannot follow. The future of Europe, for now, is in Europe’s hands; it is up to the people to decide their fate. However, if integration is uncontested, 2018 might very well be the beginning of end for Europe as we know it.

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