Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

【#384】Unshared European Integration Philosophy

Norihide Miyoshi / 2016.06.29 (Wed)

June 27, 2016

     Ahead of the British national referendum, all other EU member countries had hoped to see Britain remaining in the European Union. It is not exaggeration to say that Britain’s vote to leave the EU was a seismic event for continental Europe. German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a statement regretted British voters’ decision, saying, “It is a turning point for the European unification process.” With a weak voice, she looked like a lover who felt at a loss after finding her love as one-sided.
     Plagued with the history of Nazi Germany’s aggression, Germany has been confident of having proceeded with multilateral collaboration in Europe, which is a philosophy that can be described as a postwar German national credo. Germany is strongly disappointed at Britain’s failure to share the European integration philosophy such as peace and solidarity among European nations.

Maritime countries giving priority to practical benefits
     However, the philosophy-based European integration could have prompted Britain to make a decision to leave the EU. Britain expected to gain economic benefits from open market and free trade through the EU. As a maritime country with global views, Britain might have contributed to improving airflow in the EU. Nevertheless, Britain has failed to overcome its characteristic difference with continental Europe. Britain’s decision to leave the EU could encourage such countries as Denmark and the Netherlands to follow suit. It may not be accidental that the two countries are kind of maritime countries similar to Britain.
     In a sense, the British decision to leave the EU represents ordinary people’s revolt against the politician-led European integration. The free flow of goods, money and humans as the philosophy of the European integration, though meeting the globalization trend, has worked to increase people’s fears over the influx of immigrants and refugees and prompted them to go in a reverse direction of giving priority to a state.
     After Britain, the second largest economy after Germany within the EU, leaves the union, Germany’s weight in the EU will increase naturally. Some in Germany think that as Britain has frequently vetoed EU Council decisions, its leave may create a good chance to deepen the European integration. However, having been forced by the past history to retain a low-profile attitude, German politicians are not ready to shoulder Europe yet. Whenever Germany tried to form consensus over various issues including Greek bailout, Ukraine conflict and refugee inflow, it met strong opposition.

EU could retreat to a protectionist economic bloc
     The EU without Britain could retreat to a protectionist economic bloc. In fact, Britain has been the most positive about free trade agreements with other countries. Its secession from the EU could make the fate of Japan-EU economic partnership agreement negotiations more uncertain.
     A crisis triggered by Britain’s leave would further accelerate a split between European countries and within each country. While central and eastern European countries still place strong expectations on the EU, countries with maritime characteristics can be expected to leave the EU one after another. The EU could shrink to a central and eastern European economic bloc dominated by Germany in the future. Such scenario is conceivable.

Norihide Miyoshi is Senior Writer for The Yomiuri Shimbun.