Observers are focussing on the 23rd June referendum, but more important is what will happen on the 24th. If a majority votes to leave, will Commissioner Hill be buying a one-way ticket to London? Will the 73 British MEPs go back home immediately? If the ‘in’ side wins, can we imagine that everything will continue as before, business as usual? In reality, it will be nothing like this.
We must remember that European citizens have voted ‘no’ five times in EU referenda. The Danes in 1992 against the Maastricht Treaty; the Irish against the Nice Treaty in 2001 and the Lisbon Treaty in 2008; the French and Dutch against the Constitutional Treaty in 2005. And what was the outcome? Nothing!
To avoid another denial of democracy, it is essential that the citizens of Europe know precisely what will happen if the British say ‘yes’ or ‘no’. I am ready to make a wager: the 2-year timeframe set down in Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to allow a Member State to arrange the conditions for its withdrawal from the EU, will be used – one more time – to find a sort of Plan B that will permit the United Kingdom to remain in the EU without losing face.
Chaos expected, whether an ‘in’ or ‘out’ vote
And on top of this, do we have any idea what will happen to the UK Council Presidency scheduled for the second half of 2017?
Such manoeuvring is crucial for the credibility of the EU. Every day it feeds new batallions of Eurosceptics. Europe’s failures of recent years, not to mention of recent months, underline the need for change. We have to change everything, say what has to be changed and how to change it. And first of all the Commission has to be “big on the big things and small on the small things.” It has succeeded in the second objective, but it has failed on the first.
Nobody disputes that a lot of this is complicated, but it is terrible to see a Commission President so depressed, so weary and so tired; a Vice-President Timmermans of whom we expected so much, but who is all over the place; a College of Commissioners supposedly full of talent but in reality speechless.
First get rid of Better Regulation, trilogues and the new comitology
Everything needs to be changed, by providing ourselves with the means to change, with a series of urgent decisions: first putting an end to this bureaucratic project known as “Better Regulation”, which is making everything more complicated (despite the goal being simplification)!
The same goes for delegated and implementing acts, where the Member States and Parliament have to come together and force the Commission to return to the pre-Lisbon system. Also required is a rejuvenation of the European Parliament, starting especially with the abolition of first-reading trilogues.
The buzzwords should be: simplify, revitalise, and cut down the number of EU civil servants, which has doubled in recent years. Bureaucracy and cumbersome administration go hand in hand. All this needs to be reduced.
Having done this, the time will come (hopefully soon) when we will have to consider revising the Treaties to introduce a new EU architecture. Take as a basis, for example, the regional Visegrad-type sub-groups, or structuring Europe around three circles: a federal circle for countries favourable to integration, a free trade circle for those worried about political sovereignty, and a neighbourhood circle based on European solidarity and building a shared destiny.