The author is a columnist at Le Monde and fellow of the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin
From a European perspective, the one excellent news from London got here on Sunday when Boris Johnson made it recognized that he wouldn’t run for the management of the Conservative social gathering. “After two difficult days considering the possibility of his return, this was a big relief,” one senior EU official admitted.
Not that Liz Truss will likely be missed — any early hopes of goodwill from her authorities within the relationship with the EU had rapidly evaporated. But having to deal with Johnson’s antics once more was greater than Brussels may bear.
Then got here one other trigger for reduction: Rishi Sunak’s acclamation as the following prime minister. In EU circles, Sunak was seen because the voice of purpose within the Johnson authorities and essentially the most reluctant to have interaction in a commerce warfare with Brussels. When chaos hits, you’re taking consolation the place you may.
For many Europeans, the one shock of the British political and financial mayhem of the previous few weeks is the dearth of debate about its actual trigger: nobody concerned appears in charge Brexit.
On the opposite aspect of the Channel, Brexit is the elephant within the room. Six years on, the prevailing view within the EU is that it was, as former French president Nicolas Sarkozy put it final week, “a major aberration of historic proportions”.
Brexit has develop into the very best commercial for EU membership — populist politicians, east and west, have now dropped any pretence of leaving the bloc. Indeed, many observers credit score the Brexit experiment with convincing the brand new far proper prime minister of Italy, Giorgia Meloni, to strengthen her European credentials. Comparing Britain to Italy is unquestionably unfair — the very last thing Italy desires is to finish up like Britain.
“Brexit was based on an act of immense stupidity,” says one European chief (on the situation of anonymity). “It was sold by politicians who promised a sort of great Singapore but voted for by people who were unhappy about globalisation.” As the chief went on to spell out, that is an unimaginable mandate to ship on.
None of Brexit’s guarantees may very well be fulfilled. The City of London didn’t take over world finance, overseas funding didn’t flood in, main free commerce agreements couldn’t be concluded. Brexit ambitions clashed with real-world situations: a pandemic, the rise of protectionism, tensions with China and the warfare in Ukraine.
Finally, the monetary markets took again management. “This is what happens when you cut your country off from your biggest and most important market,” famous German liberal MP Alexander Lambsdorff. “Brexit devours its children.”
Yet there is no such thing as a schadenfreude on the EU’s half about this self-inflicted wound. Britain’s travails are one other problem to the west’s standing on the worldwide scene. A variety course of which sends unelected prime ministers to Downing Street doesn’t replicate nicely on the energy of democratic programs two weeks from midterm elections within the US, the place voting rights will once more be an enormous situation. Declining turnouts, weakened political events and lack of belief in political establishments have develop into a standard function of western democracies.
Britain might have left the EU, however the populist pattern that introduced Brexit has not. Many European governments are grappling with shaky coalitions, together with with far-right events which declare to have develop into mainstream.
In France, Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National now has 89 members of the National Assembly. They look with envy on the electoral victory of Meloni’s post-fascist social gathering, Brothers of Italy. Meloni’s professed goodwill in the direction of EU leaders places a few of them, like Emmanuel Macron, in a clumsy place. Her ideology will convey her nearer to the Polish management than to the Franco-German tandem — which can be, by the way, going by means of a tough patch.
If Sunak makes the suitable decisions, the highly effective shock of the warfare in Ukraine, which has upset so many inner European dynamics, may really push London and the EU to renew talks and work by means of their remaining variations.
Truss’s journey to Prague to take part within the summit of 44 European nations earlier this month, a French initiative, was seen as a optimistic step which EU leaders will need to construct on. Sunak and Macron, each former bankers of their early forties, might discover some chemistry.
Meanwhile, whereas completely conscious that Brexit is right here to remain, the EU has began a dialogue with the Labour social gathering. Just in case a basic election comes before deliberate.