Battle lies ahead for EU left weaker and poorer without the UK
The bloc had hoped for a renaissance after Britain cut ties, but it faces a battle to prove the ‘doomsters’ wrong
When Britain voted to leave the European Union in June 2016, it felt to many observers that the bloc’s economic and political foundations were crumbling before their eyes. The world’s fifth-largest economy and the EU’s dominant financial centre had decided to quit just as the 2015 immigration crisis provided fresh impetus to populist politicians the length and breadth of the continent.
When Donald Trump won the White House the following November, the first question the new US president asked Donald Tusk, the European Council president, when he called to congratulate him on his victory was: “How is Brexit going and who is next in line to leave?”
It wasn’t just newly elected populist presidents who thought they could foresee the end of Europe as a coherent political entity; the renowned Bulgarian political scientist, Ivan Krastev, wrote a bestseller on the subject gloomily entitled After Europe. Four years later, the European Union has built a powerful counter-narrative to that story of imminent decline, arguing that Brexit has proved that their political construct is a great deal more durable than the “doomsters”, to borrow a phrase, had predicted...