Reasons to (not) be cheerful in 2016…Europe: UK heading for the exit?

After a turbulent 2015, members of DSD’s Regional Security Research Centre (@KingsRegSec) look forward to the coming year and examine the issues that they believe will be prominent in 2016, including the US presidential elections, continuing instability across the Middle East and the various coalitions seeking to counter IS, talks between India and Pakistan on Afghanistan, the UK referendum on membership of the EU and continuing concerns about Russian activity in eastern Europe.

Dr Ben Kienzle

In 2015 the very foundations of the European Union have been shaken by three major events: The continuing euro-crisis has threatened the existence of the monetary union among the euro area member states; the resurrection of border controls between several Schengen countries in the aftermath of the Syrian refugee crisis has undermined the EU’s core principle of free movement of people; and – to add insult to injury for the EU – the UK government has finally announced that it will hold a referendum on British membership in the EU by the end of 2017, though many commentators believe that it could happen as early as spring 2016.

Given these preconditions, 2016 could be a bleak year for the EU indeed. By the end of the year the euro area could be on the verge of disintegration, internal EU borders could have been re-nationalized, and the UK could be on the way to leave an EU that is a ‘Union’ in all but name. At this point, however, it is far too early to write off the EU. If history is any indication, the EU and its member states have certainly the ability to get – once more – their act together and to emerge strengthened out of the current crisis. Like in an ancient Greek drama, catharsis may follow crisis: By the end of 2016, Greece might be finally on its way to economic recovery; the EU member states might have gotten a grip on the refugee crisis, and the British people may have decided that it is actually better to stay within the European Union. Whatever the final outcome, 2016 will be certainly a year, in which Europe will remain a top of agenda.

Image: David Cameron and Angela Merkel at 10 Downing Street in 2014, via flickr.


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