A Vision for a Revamped EU: France and Germany Propose ‘Associate Membership’
A Plan for an Inclusive Europe
France and Germany have put forth a proposal that could potentially lure the United Kingdom back into the European Union’s (EU) fold as an “associate member”. The blueprint introduces an “inner-circle” of countries bound by stricter rules covering areas such as EU budgets, tax, defence, security, and foreign policy. In contrast, an “outer-circle” would revolve around the single market, promoting free movement and open immigration policies, but not enforcing the aim of ever-closer union. This proposal aims to accommodate existing EU members increasingly frustrated with Brussels, such as Hungary and Poland, and non-member countries like Norway and Switzerland that have resisted EU membership.
UK’s Potential Reentry
The plan also contemplates the prospect of Britain rejoining the EU. If such an “associate membership” had been proposed before the Brexit referendum, the UK might have voted to remain. However, today, the idea might not find much traction, as even fervent Remainers, such as Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer, have rejected the notion. Nevertheless, the proposal may appeal to those harboring hopes that Brexit could be reversed.
Changing Tides in the EU
The EU, once seen as a utopian dream of tolerance and welcome, is changing. The liberal vision upon which the EU was built is fading as right-wing parties and politicians gain ground across Europe. French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz are striving to maintain European unity in the face of mass migration and dissatisfaction with declining living standards.
Escalating Discontent and the Rise of the Far Right
Working people’s anxiety is escalating due to threats to traditional industries from new technology and cheaper imports, coupled with stagnant real incomes. This discontent is mirrored in the rise of far-right parties across Europe. Italy’s new Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s party is known as “the most far-right government since the fascist era of Benito Mussolini”. The far right has also gained strength in Sweden, Finland, Greece, and Germany. In France, Marine Le Pen of the National Front appears to be the front runner for next year’s Presidential election, signaling a potential shift to the right.
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