Brexit fallout

Time for a New Sort of E.U. Membership

A man walks past a car scrap yard in east London
Could Brexit end up fixing the European Union?
  • Why it matters

    Why it matters

    The author argues that a European Union with a central core of full members and several associate members could solve many of the E.U.’s problems.

  • Facts


    • Britain voted to leave the European Union in a vote in June.
    • Several East European members, including Hungary and Poland, have begun voicing concerns about the way the bloc is run.
    • The E.U. has bilateral agreements with several non-member European states, including Norway, Switzerland and Iceland.
  • Audio


  • Pdf

Following Britain’s vote in June to exit the European Union, the German media churned out articles about how the decision could be shelved, focusing on British petitions against the vote, demonstrations, technical and legal ways to backtrack – and even a possible second vote.

But why this lack of acceptance? Maybe it is a rejection of this sort of democratic decision. Or maybe it reflects the belief that there should be a higher authority with more power than the citizens. But just a quick survey of the political reality in the British parliament or the ruling Conservative party clearly shows that a reversal would be impossible.

“Brexit means Brexit,” said Theresa May firmly, shortly after she became the new prime minister in July. No one knows what that will actually mean. But one thing is clear: Brexit looms. And in the meantime, a second reality has emerged: “Brexit means hard Brexit.”

Britain won’t end up with a soft affiliation to Europe, such as the special link enjoyed by Norway. If it did, it would have all the E.U.’s disadvantages, including the free movement of citizens and net contributions to the European Union budget, but with no power or influence. It would lose all voting rights and ministers – it would be consulted, but ignored.

Want to keep reading?

Subscribe now or log in to read our coverage of Europe’s leading economy.