If anyone should be credited with the title of ‘president’ of the European Union, it has to be Germany’s formidable Chancellor, Angela Merkel. Since her election as the German nation’s premier in 2005, the strategic and nifty Merkel has become one of the European Union’s main figureheads and prolific boss of the world’s second largest economy. Recent years have seen the EU’s de facto commander preside over some of the EU’s greatest challenges including global economic crises, the biggest spurt of human movement since the Second World War, and, of course, the current epidemic of Euroscepticism.
Angela Merkel may not hold this title for much longer, however. After a British vote to leave the EU last month, the island nation, which has long had an extremely particular relationship with Europe, is now calling the shots. The number of disgruntled EU citizens is growing.
The leader of the first nation to formally vote to leave the EU, Theresa May, has unprecedented influence over the future of the European Union. This week, the new British Prime Minister made the first of her foreign visits to Germany. In the aftermath of a turbulent EU debate, Mrs May has been particularly keen to promote consistent and amicable ties with European nations.
Britain’s Vote Leave campaign, the eventual victor, and its still rampant support has been met with strong retort from European leaders who remained firm on their promises not to allow Britain to destroy the EU. But after several weeks of pressure, and after the Prime Minister’s discussions with German and French premiers, it seems that the EU is slowly warming to the reality of Brexit, paying attention to the imminent threats of Euroscepticism, and listening to the ever louder calls for EU reform.
As the reality of the UK’s vote to leave the European Union sets in, the EU is having to completely re-evaluate itself. Britain is the nation which has spurred an entirely new European era – one of provoking game-changing reform. It is Prime Minister Theresa May who is at the helm of this fascination transformation. The successes of Eurosceptic and anti-immigrant bodies around Europe are continuing to build, and it is these organisations and their supporters which shed the real influence upon the future of the Eurozone.
As discontent with the European Union in its existing state grows, the power of the EU’s most prolific leader, Angela Merkel, and her allies is rapidly declining. Power is now in the hands of those who reject the status quo – the hands of those such as Prime Minister Theresa May who must now seek a different European format for her people, and also who has sparked the creation of a different type of EU for all Europeans.
Speaking for the majority of EU member states in the company of Mrs May, Chancellor Merkel this week announced that the EU will allow Britain to delay its exit from the European Union until its action plan is totally clear. Doing so is in the European Union’s interests, and buys back time for a huge, Europe-wide re-negotiation of the EU’s institutions – a re-negotiation which may save the Eurozone from further crumbling.
Allowing Britain the liberty of deciding when to implement the Article 50 membership emergency stop clause is not the only concession being made for the UK’s Brexit. Changes to the EU’s liberal policies of free movement of people may soon be granted in attempts to soothe anti-immigration sentiment. Migration allowances coexisting with the ability to freely trade has long been one of the principle cogs of the European Union’s machinery, but one which now seems to be rusting. Despite strong initial rejection by leaders including French President François Hollande, plans for a migration break lasting for up to seven years may soon be granted to nations like the UK.
Discussions of a different future for the European Union have long proven unfruitful for Europe’s growing hard-right. Many of these conservatives are sure to be rubbing their hands. Whilst the EU becomes twitchy and the atmosphere of uncertainty becomes thick, changes surrounding the way that Europe works are becoming increasingly necessary.
As May negotiates her way to a different future for the UK in Europe, the British Prime Minister is in an enviably strong position, and perhaps is the new driver of the EU vehicle. The newly invested British premier is now vying for a plan which would allow Britain to completely control its migration levels whilst yielding the benefits of a position within the European Economic Area. Mrs May might not have voted to leave the EU herself, but as UK Prime Minister, it is now her mission to “make a success of it,” as she has repeatedly vowed.
Making a success of Brexit is exactly the type of move which will serve Mrs May’s reputation and her credibility well. Whilst a Brexit might not be the outcome for which the Prime Minister had hoped of the EU referendum in June, Theresa May is now in a position to push for real change, becoming a hero of the European right wing. As Angela Merkel’s EU becomes unworkable, Theresa May’s plan may become the solution.
The German Chancellor and her European allies are known for being stubborn, but the British Prime Minister has finally been successful in making headway. If Britain succeeds in its bid for the ability to control migration, increased controls for member states over a wide range of different issues may come. Reform is, of course, in the European Union’s interests. Hard-right populists and Eurosceptics are sure to continue to triumph if changes fail to materialise.
If the European Union wishes to survive, it looks like Merkel and her team must face up to dealing with the new challenges which could one day serve to destroy it. Reform of the EU is what will dilute Euroscepticism, keep the EU economy thriving, and ease the strain of global crises on its member states.
Chancellor Angela Merkel’s European dream looks close to fading, and Theresa May is corroding the authority and political power wielded by the German leader and her supporters. Perhaps Brits believed that a vote to leave the European Union would draw it away from the continent almost instantaneously. But if the events of the past week are anything to go by, the United Kingdom is still very much involved in the politics of the EU for now.
Angela Merkel could turn around her European Union. Pressure from Theresa May and Eurosceptics from around Europe – most prevalent in nations such as France, Denmark, Austria and Netherlands – may well in coming weeks and months force large-scale reform on the EU. If current EU officials fail to recognise the need to address grave problems of migration, security and the economy, the institution which has united European nations since the end of the Second World War may break down in front of them.
Britain has led the way in starting the possible – but albeit preventable – mass exodus of European Union nations. Theresa May now has the upper hand on the EU quandary, and her protest on behalf of the British people is sure to provoke reform sooner or later. It is clear now, however, that it is largely Mrs May who is calling the shots over the future of the EU, and it could indeed be her who, quite paradoxically, saves it.