The 21st century has brought upon the EU several challenges. The most immediate one is the economic crisis which has enveloped a repetition of 1938: we have been experiencing the rise of extremism throughout Europe in reaction, in this case, to a migration crisis. Also connected, terrorism as a political statement and, at the same time, as a way to change national and international policies through the politics of fear. This same fear as lead the EU to a crossroad: the debate on the future on the EU (between a federalist solution and a mere economic integration) is now unavoidable. We need to make bold choices and transform our fear into strength to move forward. Brexit is, above all, a wake-up call. Our future is not in ten years, it is now!
British and European Identity: a timeless clash
In order to determine if Brexit marks a failure of the European integration process, we need to assess if this integration was possible in the first place. We do this by determining whether there is a sense of community and a common goal that allows both parties to make sacrifices towards a better end. This means: is there, somewhere, a common identity? Identification is constructed on the back of recognition of some common origin or shared characteristic with another person or group, and with a natural closure of solidarity and allegiance established on this foundation. What we can perceive is that the British have never seen themselves as a part of Europe. The fact that they refer to Europe as “the continent” proves the claim that they do not feel part of the same community. This lack of trust does not enable the sustainable development of a relationship that progresses into an integration. One could argue that there is also a lack of will to make the European project succeed since many times the UK tried to create alternatives (e.g. EFTA). On account of the fact that a sense of society does not exist, integration was never possible. Still, we tried. We failed. But this does not mean that the story is over. There is a deeper sense of community within the other countries in the EU and this allows us to hope for a brighter future. Proof of this is the absence of substantial geographical barriers which allowed, in the past, more constant migratory fluxes and a deeper cultural connection. At the same time, the UK has a solid alternative to the EU (the Commonwealth) and this has
undermined the efforts towards the European integration. Their commitment to the European ideal has always been questioned and will continue to be so since they admitted to focus more on the Commonwealth.
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A “failure” that needed to happen There is a clear friction between the objectives of the UK and those of the EU. Together we would never have the chance to go further in the integration process, but without them, despite the
many problems we still have to solve, at least we have an opportunity to take over the destiny of this organization.
Admitting that it was a failure, we also have to acknowledge one that evolved into an opportunity to seize the chance to make the EU work more efficiently than ever and achieve its mission.
writer Claudia Silvia student, International Relations University of Lisbon