Brexit, Trump, and Europe Today: Two Views from Across the EU
The European Union is at a time of drastic change; there’s a refugee crisis that’s divided the continent, economic and unemployment woes, and most notably Britain is starting the process of leaving the EU, beginning with the successful “Brexit” campaign in June 2016. To get the whole scope of a story, it is good to find differing viewpoints to engage in dialogue. I discussed these factors with Jens Gieseke, a German politician of the European People’s Party (Christian Democrats), and Petr Mach, an economist and leader of the Free Citizens Party in the Czech Republic, in order to get their point of view on the issues affecting the EU.
Why Did Britons Choose a Brexit?
There were many factors, but we have to accept that some people had lost trust in the benefits of being a member of the European Union. Of course, we could also say that populists used misinformation during their campaign and that not enough young voters took part in the election. However, the result has been a clear message that we have to get better at communicating why we need a strong Union to succeed in today´s globalised world.
Most voters in Britain had been fed up with the rule of unelected bureaucrats in Brussels, the capital of the European Union, with over-regulation, and with the incompetence of the European Union to cope with the problems of migration. On top of that British taxpayers have been contributing lots of money to the EU’s budget, which is inefficiently spent on dubious subsidies. After Brexit, this money can be spent on British schools and health care or remain in British taxpayers’ pockets. Even with the “closed” borders, the UK should be able to trade with the rest of Europe even without being in the EU.
How has the economy in your country changed after joining the EU? Is their any backing for similar “-exit” movements?
Every member of the European Union benefits from it, not just in terms of securing peace and freedom but also by benefitting from free trade and free movement. In fact, 86% of Germans support the free movement within the single market. Moreover, every fourth job in Germany is dependent, directly or indirectly, on exports. As a European Union we are thereby more powerful to achieve trade agreements than we would be as individual nations. In my home country Germany, which is one of the founding members of the Union, we understand this very well so there is no substantial backing for a German exit.
From my point of view it was a mistake, and I voted against joining the EU in a referendum back in 2003. We saw that taxes went up rapidly and the economy has been spoiled with lots of subsidies which distort markets and fair competition. As European Union’s dictate forces us to accept Middle East and African migrants against the will of both the Czech people and migrants themselves we are seeing support grow for a Czexit, and my political party, the Free Citizens’ Party is in favour of a referendum, but the political elite in our parliament is still against it. I predict that within 5 years we will have a similar Czexit vote.
Critical elections are taking place in France and Germany, and we just saw a change in power with Trump’s election in the US. What impact does this have on the future of the EU?
Unfortunately, populism is on the rise in many European countries, and some groups have lost trust in the government. Populists like Le Pen are using this distrust to catch new voters with whatever message they want to hear. However, these populists do not offer real solutions. For example, Nigel Farage campaigned many years for a Brexit. However, when he finally succeeded he didn’t want to deal with the actual implementation of the Brexit in the UK. I believe this shows that populists are not willing or capable of actually doing what needs to be done. Voters have seen this ineffectiveness, and I am confident that these populists will not succeed in the upcoming elections because of that.
The political landscape in Europe is changing. In most European countries there have always been two dominant political parties, originally a left-wing one and a right-wing one (much like the US). But these dominant parties started to look alot like one another; both giving more powers to the European Union’s bureaucracy, increasing taxes on citizens, and supporting immigration. Because of this, new parties are arising all over Europe. Is not easy however to succeed with a new party as the established parties in Europe receive lot of money from the state budgets.
In Germany the new Alternative for Germany can gain some 15 percent of votes this fall. This would be a huge success for a new political party, however the governing Social Democrats and Christian Democrats of Angela Merkel can and will form just another grand coalition against them. Because of this, it will take some time in Europe before things change, but it’s starting to happen. Brexit is an important step of giving democratic power back to people and to a democratically elected national parliament, seceding some powers from the EU government in Brussels.
Thanks to the Young Americans for Liberty at Saint Louis University for connecting us with Petr Mach. Check out previous coverage on the Brexit with “The UK and EU at a Crossroads“