Alain Lempereur: Yes, I think there are many lessons to be learned. Recently, I gave a speech at Columbia University and I made a point saying that European Union has been built upon a catastrophic war that devastated all of Europe. Countries that had been at war so many times, for centuries, came to a conclusion that the peace is fundamental for the future of the continent. We need to build a union we need stability and prosperity instead of war. This is a great project. My mother was living under the bombs in Belgium, and they were all starving, the images and memories left behind the war are horrible. The EU was built with this idea of goodwill by the people of Europe. They wanted to do it progressively. They first built the European Coal and Steel Community, and then those wise statesmen said that we need to build an economic union and then a few decades later they said we need a political and monetary union. The elite and people were tired of instability.
The dialogue is so important, and I don’t think people of Europe have learned the lesson. Within less than a two decade period the referendums in France, Denmark and now in England are extremely important for the future of the continent, EU and the whole word. When the EU constitution was put on referendum it was rejected by the people of France. Now it looks that the European Union has been created for the people without the people. The peace and prosperity came after World War II brought people into a consensus but now its breaking away.
Europe lost its people. A new referendum in a few EU countries said that we are not sure if we want EU anymore. There are a lot of examples before the Brexit that the people of Europe have been questioning the union. It’s good people move wherever they want to, they work wherever they want to, same currency, etc.
I don’t think people of England took Brexit case seriously at the beginning. Today, there are many questions looking for answers and no one knows what to do. People of England said ‘no’ to what? Most of them even don’t know deeply about. We also as academicians don’t know why they said no and to what they said yes…British politicians are not clear what they want. Negotiations can not be done on the table only among the politicians and diplomats. Beforehand, it has to be done within society with its own people.
I am not really sure if British people want this whole Brexit as of now. They just start seeing that there will be major issues for economy, traveling, commodities, goods, security, etc., These things aren’t talked before the Brexit referendum.
THO: If the Brexit completed how do you think it will effect UK economy?
Alain Lempereur: It already has had a big impact on Britain. The investors are very cautious and they don’t like instability, they look for a stable political situation. Do they want a small Britain or a huge continent of EU? The idea of Britain would be the Singapur of New York is not really realistic.
THO: When Brexit completed do you see further disintegration in the EU?
Alain Lempereur: Who did ever predicted the fall of the USSR or Ottomans? Some people even talk about Frexit, after Brexit. The thing is people are saying that ‘the era of EU is over’ But Brexit is a wake up call if Brussel wants to see. But the thing is the future of Europe shouldn’t be decided in Brussel. Those people who are not satisfied and unhappy in countries of EU should be the one who heard and listened. The European project should be re-energized but I don’t see any politicians in Europe who are ready to take this historical risk to carry on. Merkel is leaving, Macron is in a difficult situation.
The cost of disintegration is so huge that no one country can tolerate to shoulder. The advantages of remaining together are so important. Not only economic point of view but also democratic point of view. The risk is so huge. If people are unhappy politicians need to stop and think. Why a lot of people are unhappy in Paris? Do we have enough awareness of the situation going on? Why are these demonstrations going on?
Is Brexit a vote of frustration or its vote against any economic or political developments going on? I think it is more of a frustration against something.
I don’t think Europe is seen as a dream anymore. Think about Turkey. Tell me, how many people in Turkey see EU as a dream now compared to 20 years ago? Why? There are democratic deficits. The European Union shouldn’t be the one in Brussel it should be the one in the hearts and minds of Europeans.
In 2005 when the Eastern European countries joined the EU, there was a long debate ‘deepening versus enlarging’ I don’t think people realized at that time, this is very important for the future of Europe.
The moment when England leaves the EU, there will be rebalancing towards the two key players which are Germany and France. This is going back to think about the Franco-German Alliance but this perceived very negatively by other countries.
The subjective values are so important. What attaches people to that thing? I don’t think we can drop the national identity but the question is what we have done to re-enforce the European identity. The national aspect is still so important. It took a thousand year to build these. But how much we have done for European identity this is the question of today for the future of the EU. We should have been worked more towards a common European identity. I see the core of the problem this way.