Instead of a single plan, European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday unveiled a White Paper of five options for the EU’s post-Brexit future.
Ranging from doing much more to sticking with the status quo, here are the key points from Juncker’s “pathways” which the EU 27 leaders — minus Britain — will discuss at a Rome summit later this month marking the 60th anniversary of the European Union.
The remaining 27 member states stick to the status quo, focusing on reforms, jobs, growth and investment.
There is only “incremental progress” on strengthening the euro single currency while member states agree a limited degree of defence cooperation.
This should allow the EU 27 “to continue to deliver concrete results, based on a shared sense of purpose.”
‘Nothing but the single market’
The single market becomes the “raison d’etre” of the reduced bloc for want of broader agreement on political integration.
Britain long favoured this option, believing the EU would be much more effective if it operated as a single economy without the distraction of pursuing ever closer political union.
The price by 2025 is that “the capacity to act collectively is limited. This may widen the gap between expectations and delivery at all levels,” the White Paper says.
‘Those who want to do more’
A multi-speed EU 27 emerges, with some member states pushing ahead in “one or several coalitions of the willing” on key areas such as defence, internal security, taxation and justice.
The 19 euro countries for example could harmonise their tax systems — up to now a no-go area for most member states.
Other member states may join in later.
This option means “the unity of the EU at 27 is preserved while further cooperation is made possible for those who want.”
‘Doing less, more effectively’
The EU 27 focuses on a reduced agenda where it can deliver clear benefits — technological innovation, trade, security, immigration, borders and defence.
It pulls back from other areas — regional development, health, employment or social policy, leaving them to member states.
The result is a simplified, less ambitious EU which “helps to close the gap between promise and delivery.”
‘Doing much more together’
Dubbed the “Verhofstadt option” after the European Parliament’s federalist Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt, under this option member states decide that neither they nor the EU are able to face current global challenges and so agree “to share more power, resources and decision-making across the board.”
The single currency is made central to the project. “The euro area is strengthened with the clear understanding that whatever is beneficial for countries sharing the common currency is also beneficial for all.”
EU law has a much larger role, determining more citizens’ rights.
The White Paper cautions however, “there is the risk of alienating parts of society which feel that the EU lacks legitimacy or has taken too much power away from national authorities.”