The EU needs a rethink on its 60th birthday

The EU needs a rethink on its 60th birthday

This weekend EU leaders will be celebrating the 60th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome – the founding document of European integration. But are they right to do so at a time when Britain is leaving the EU, euroscepticism is on the rise across Europe, the Eurozone and Schengen are failing, and Jean-Claude Juncker is engaged in increasingly desperate attempts to save the bloc?

Clearly, the Treaty of Rome and its successor treaties represent a failed, outdated model. EU leaders shouldn’t be celebrating it, they should be burying it and building a new Europe of free-trading sovereign nation states.

Unfortunately, this message has not got through to the EU. Celebrations and plans of federalism are to due to continue undeterred. There are even joyous events planned to mark the occasion.

Amongst the endless meetings and photocalls, there are numerous events which descend almost into the realms of parody: the presentation of a commemorative stamp; the dubiously named ‘station domination’; a travelling exhibition called ‘Ever Closer Union’; the curiously named ‘Project Peregrinus: boundless horizons, by air, land and sea’ event; a photo contest named ‘EuroHope’; and a presentation about Euro banknotes titled ‘The Banknote of Ideas’. There is even an official logo.

However, unlike the logo for 50th anniversary celebrations in 2007, this one at least is not accompanied by a description bordering on the satirical. That 2007 logo consisted of the word ‘together’ in a variety of fonts, with the EU’s explanation for the meaning behind the design being: “the different letters, using different typefaces, express the diversity in European history and culture and are kept ‘together’ by the meaning of the word itself.”

What is most remarkable about these celebrations is the timing. A self-congratulatory festival is clearly not going to be well received by people around Europe at the very moment when criticism of the EU is at its highest. Support for the EU is even being lost in Germany where – according to a YouGov poll – only 7% of the population believe the EU should “keep doing what it is doing”. Perhaps this is why European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has presented his new plan for Europe.

The plan is to be discussed by the leaders of EU Member States at the anniversary celebrations. In his report, Juncker sets out five options for the future of the EU. These are: continuing in the same way; nothing but the Single Market; allowing for a two-speed Europe; doing less more efficiently; or significantly faster integration of the entire EU.

Far from delivering a “positive reform agenda” as it claims to do, the status quo option is clearly untenable, as the current path has led to Brexit and the rise of euroscepticism across Europe. Doing less sounds like an innovative concept, but in reality, false platitudes would be paid to it and the status quo would remain. Further integration, removing power from democratically elected representatives, would magnify the EU’s problems further, whether or not this is done as a bloc or through a two-speed Europe. This leaves us with the only possible solution – the ‘Nothing but the Single Market’ option.

Abandoning all hopes of a federal Europe would be drastic and unpopular in Brussels. It would tear up the founding principles of the Treaty of Rome. But desperate times call for desperate measures, and this radical step would give the EU a new lease of life.

The common currency, European Arrest Warrant, Schengen and many other policies would have to be abandoned to make way for an internationalist EU. An EU specialising in trade, striking free-trade deals throughout the world, bringing down barriers to trade.

By focusing on this, the Single Market could be improved to a model which isn’t so unwieldy, dominant, bossy and unaccountable. And its flaws could be reduced – a Single Market could be completed in services, and mutual standards could be agreed and enforced, rather than pretending product standards in Bulgaria and Germany are the same.

From Get Britain Out‘s perspective, there seems to be little hope of the EU to use this critical juncture for introspection. It is almost impossible to see anything other than the EU continuing in the same fashion, grabbing more power and taking it away from member states.

The Treaty of Rome set the EU up on the wrong premise. A premise to move Europe towards a federation – a federation which nobody wanted. It is time to reflect on the Treaty of Rome – and confine it to the history books.