Maciej Bos speculates that as the UK exits the European Union, it will become more centralised - and, he imagines, ultimately result in a "United States of Europe".
The European Union is moving fast towards a federal European state. The confirmed budget last week demonstrates that it is solidifying — with the EU securing the power to borrow money and, more importantly, to lay taxes. The new plastic tax, of course, is not very excessive: an average EU citizen will not realise it is there. The rate of €0.80 per kilogram of non-recyclable plastic will not affect the consumers but will encourage the use of recyclable plastic among producers. The EU will create a steady stream of somewhere between €6 to 8 billion, which cannot be compared to the enormous €750 billion budget agreed in Brussels.
However, one can perceive a clear trend. The Brexiteers were right about that one: the EU has the potential to be a superstate (though can we speak of a superstate when the population of the EU is 446 million and China’s or India’s is well over one billion?). The economic crisis of 2008 did not halt the triumphant march — if anything, it accelerated it with closer cooperation between the European Central Bank and national banks. Although the migrant crisis of 2015 left the EU scathed, the majority of member states still elect pro-European parties into government. Surely Brexit was a setback but, at the same time as the divorce bill is being finalised, the EU secured the largest budget in its history. With hindsight perhaps UK’s exit was a good thing: the kid at the back of the class with messy hair, who was always against everything no matter what, is now gone. Federalisation can move on.
The EU, in my mind, will become “the United States of Europe” as Churchill remarked 70 years ago — and why should it not. The self-set goal of becoming a political entity which is able to compete with China or the USA is understandable. During the Cold War, Europe was in the middle of a stand-off between two superpowers unable to stop or change the international situation. It was a giant chess board on which Americans and Soviets tried to outfox the other with their nuclear missiles. In the next international system, the so-called Eurocrats want to play, not be played with. And the reasons in favour of doing so are manifold: cybersecurity, energy security, and climate change are best tackled by large scale cooperation. A United Europe would be able not only to react to global trends in these areas but also to set them. The EU would be an international hipster so to speak.
In the next century, it is not unfathomable to conceive that the same process of centralisation will unravel in Europe as it did in 19th century America. There will be those who would want to slow such a process down — Hungary or Poland, perhaps — but cannot stop it. And, by the turn of the next century, internationally there will only be the European Union. In terms of domestic policy, it could resemble a Bundesrepublik of sorts, where each state can govern its education or police force, but foreign policy and military affairs are handled by the federal state. Its citizens, when asked where they are from, will answer “I am from France” or “I am from Ireland”, just like Americans say that they are from Maine or California, but it will not carry much political weight. If — or, indeed, when — this happens the EU will become the United States of Europe.