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How Germany could leave the EU


Part 1

How could Germany or any other EU state reasonably depart the EU? I submit the answer lies in examining the ways in which the EU can proceed in whole or in part beyond the current referendum debacle. The best set of scenario options in the face of a 'no' vote by a member state that I have seen is in Charles Grant's What If the British Vote No?, written when only the UK looked set to vote no. The UK has long held the "Euroskepticism" now appearing for combinations of reasons in other continental nations, sits on the periphery of Europe, had not joined the Euro bloc, and had relief from certain EC/EU regulations when it joined. The following alternatives presumed a 24 to 1 vote, thus I submit that the more untidy options rise in the face of multiple no votes from the European core - and two of the founding members of the Common Market:

#1: Muddling along as if nothing happened - other states "accept the death of the constitutional treaty and would simply continue operating with the existing treaties."

Implausible: "most EU governments [as opposed to their polities] do not like the existing treaties and believe that the newly enlarged union [will] not run smoothly without the constitution."

#2: Renegotiate the constitutional treaty, removing or diluting "the most controversial parts"

Implausible: Whereas other states had already made substantive compromises to placate the UK, the core elements of this constitutional change are not easily wavable governance and security changes that do infringe on member state sovereignty. In the current climate, it is not clear that the member states would want to go through the ratification process again.

#3: The 'no' vote state holds a second referendum on the constitutional treaty.

Implausible: The previous voter reversals (Denmark - Maastricht Treaty, 1992 and Ireland - Nice Treaty, 2001) do not apply as accommodations cannot be made for individual states in the constitutional treaty as it "mainly covers matters impossible for a single member to bypass: EU institutions and voting rules."

#4: The assumed "other 24" member states enact the treaty, forcing the 'no' vote state out of the EU. The stratagem to sidestep the legality that the "other 24" cannot adopt the treaty without the ratification of the 'no' vote state is for 24 to "withdraw from the existing EU treaties, redraft the constitutional treaty among themselves, and then sign and ratify it." The 'no' vote state would "have to negotiate an associate status similar to that of Norway and Switzerland."

Implausible: While there are certain circumstances for continental Europe to eject the UK, I find it unlikely that EC members would eject France, a founding Common Market state as well as the political center of Common Market/EC/EU diplomatic initiatives, and whose national, Jean Monnet, created the idea of a common market; and the Netherlands, also a founding Common Market state.

#5: A "hard core" of integrationist states (early on seen as France, Germany and their allies) accept that the constitutional treaty cannot proceed without ratification of the 'no' vote state, establish a new organization that desires a genuine political union, proceeding to harmonize - even merge - legal, economic, military and diplomatic efforts. This "hard core" would "coexist with the broader EU."

Procedurally difficult: The ability to have a "hard core" fractional EU operate with the total EU without friction and rivalry boggles the mind short of regional breakup. Many in Germany believe creating a fractional EU would harm the German economy.

#6: A "messy core" of ratifying states, having failed to eject the 'no' vote state or establish a "hard core" group, implement those parts of the constitutional treaty that do not require EU ratification or breach current treaties, e.g., a European diplomatic service, hold a rump Intergovernmental Conference (IGC) to amend existing treaties, e.g., adopting new rules for majority voting, likely forming its own secretariat as one or more groups of directionally similar groups seek leverage.

Possible: There are antecedents that work, e.g., the Schengen Area of passport-free travel that was later adopted by the full EU. And if Germany "exits" the EU, this is one of likely means. The "messy core" is a slower, but achievable means of creating a "hard core."

There are many ways for Germany, with or without allied EU states, to depart the current EU. Readers should not presume the 'certainty' of a German economic locomotive remaining yoked to the west despite the efforts of France. Regardless of the option that Germany chooses, I agree with this forecast as a minimum of disruption:

Europe would spend several years trying to sort out its institutions, rather than cope with the many security, economic, and environmental challenges that it faces. The EU would stop enlarging. And its chances of pressing ahead with economic reform or developing a coherent foreign policy would diminish dramatically.

Part 3
EU crisis escalates after referendums
By Carsten Lietz
June 3, 2005; 11:32 AM

The French & Dutch Referendums
Background Question and Answer
Council on Foreign Relations
Updated: June 01, 2005

What If the British Vote No?
By Charles Grant
Foreign Affairs
May/June 2005

Gordon Housworth

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