Brexit to the West and Polexit to the East?

There is not much the EU could have done
to keep the UK in its club. 
Former Prime Minister Cameron sought some concessions, but the importance assigned to immigration and regaining sovereignty by the Brexit camp and British media meant that there was no politically realistic concession that the EU could have made to appease those favoring to leave the EU.

Much of the UK’s frustrations grow out of the success of
its own strategy.
  It sought a broad
union instead of a deepening union.  The broadening of the union means
that overtime, decisions could not be made on the basis of unanimity. 
That simply was not an efficient governing principle as the bloc got

Nor could the EU do anything
about the terms of the referendum.  It was
offered as a non-binding resolution.
  There was bait-and-switch.  Cameron made the
referendum binding, and although May deviated from
several of his initiatives, she could not bring herself (or the country)
to re-think the results of the referendum.  The EU (and others) can rightly be surprised that the UK
would make such a momentous decision on the
basis of such a narrow vote.  
Indeed, 18-months on from
the referendum, some polls show the “Remain” camp has moved into the
  This is understandable, as the
“Brexit” camp oversold the benefits and minimized the costs, which
are becoming clearer as the divorce talks proceed.  
the balance of
power in the EU.
The UK gave voice to those members of the EU that were not members of
EMU.  It often articulated the interests of those who chafed under what was perceived as a growing super-state of
largely unelected EU Commissioners based in Brussels.  
The EU’s
challenge in eastern and central Europe is not caused by Brexit
, but the UK’s exit exacerbates it.  At issue is the adherence to EU rules
and the price of non-compliance.    Immigration is a particularly
divisive issue in the EU.  It seems to be among the most important issues
in the Brexit drive.  It appears to have been a critical issue in other
European elections, including Austria and the Netherlands this year.  It
also was a salient issue in last year’s US election.  
The EU has sued Poland,
Czech, and Hungary for refusing to accept “their share” of asylum seekers.
  In 2015, the EU agreed to accept
160k asylum seekers and relocate them throughout Europe.  Five countries
in eastern and central Europe voted against the measure.  Since then the Czech Republic has accepted 12 of 2000 it was assigned,
and Poland and Hungary have accepted
The EU has a separate case
against Hungary.
Prime Minister Orban has singled out Soros and is seeking to close a university
he founded and is tightening the rules of foreign universities.  The EU
argues Hungary is violating the EU laws and values.  
However, the EU’s effort to
force conformity is focused on Poland
this week.
  The EU
objects to laws passed by Poland’s legislature that will force about 40% of its
judges to retire.  This is seen as violating the independence of the
judiciary by putting it under political control.  The EU is expected to
deliver an unprecedented warning to Poland on December 20.  With Germany
and France supporting the warning, the necessary 4/5 majority vote is
Under Article 7.1 of the
Maastricht Treaty, Poland will be given a
few weeks to react to avoid further sanctions.
sets up a more dramatic confrontation early next year.  It could ultimately face a suspension
of its voting rights.  However, this requires
a unanimous vote and Hungary has indicated that it would veto such a
Still, the EU wields the
power of the purse, and this could be persuasive than its moral suasion
.  Poland is the largest net
recipient of EU funds, which might be worth one percentage point of
growth.  Adjusted for inflation, by 2021, Poland will receive more on a
gross basis from the EU than the aid provided to Europe under the Marshall Plan.  
The tragedy is that the EU
had been a hallmark of democracy, liberalism, and
modernity and was seen as such by eastern
and central European countries both during the Soviet era and afterward. 
 Those values have become suspect in
a wide swath of eastern and central Europe.  The Visgrad Group (Poland, Hungary, Czech, and Slovakia) pose a different kind of challenge to the EU than Brexit, but it is just as serious.   Ironically, the UK would find the Visgrad Group an important ally on numerous issues if it were to have remained in the EU.  

Some in western Europe, with
thoughts of a stronger more unified union, may, as Schulz, the head of the
German SPD, and former head of the EU Parliament, suggested, welcome those
who do not share the core EU values and vision to
simply leave. 
core Europe would then be more likely to deepen their integration, though the
German CDU/CSU are not supportive of a United States of Europe.  


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