Don't look back in anger....

More than four billion people world wide, according to reports, watched the funeral of the late Queen Elizabeth II. The spectacle was history in the making and has a profound philosophical inference, writes Chris White for EU Today.

The Queen has been a unifying force within the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, the Commonwealth and nations outside of that global institution.

The question now is: What next? As Queen Elizabeth II once pointed out quoting that other British hero Winston Churchill as saying “the further you look back the further you can see into the future”. Certainly the world has entered a new era but perhaps the loss of Queen Elizabeth II is not the end of British influence around the world.

The first big question for Britain and, wait for the explanation, Europe is whether the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland will remain united. Why is that an issue for Europe? First and foremost it is a question of defense. Also the economic futures of both EU countries and the UK are closely linked.

Relations between Britain and the EU have led to trade problems affecting both but, especially the British economy with the new UK Prime Minister having to admit that the anticipated trade deal with America is “a long way off”. Europe and the UK are much more interdependent than many politicians seem to recognise. Indeed, while at the UN summit in America official statements highlight that Prime Minister Liz Truss has agreed with President Macron to resolve problems related to Channel crossings that arose after Brexit.

In assessing this point it is important to note that the United States economy is at an historic low. Things may change but talks between President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Liz Truss are reportedly unlikely to change transatlantic relations between the two countries.

Then there is the situation involving the EU itself. Is Sweden about to go extreme right or as described by popular terminology “fascist”? Likewise Italy as seems extremely likely? The so-called far right leaders of Germany have reportedly visited Ukraine in order to win electoral support for their cause which appears far more significant then many calculate. Hungary is reportedly lacking democratic values and reports suggest much the same of Poland and other member states.

What does all this suggest about the future of the European Union in terms of political unity? Whatever the answer to that question there is, perhaps, one significant issue on the agenda that could give cause for hope. The proposition promoted by President Emmanuel Macron - himself caught in his recent election between the far right and the far left - is the creation of a “European Political Community”.

The term ‘political’ has seriously negative vibes, as stated above. Downing Street or for clarity Prime Minister Liz Truss, officially wants to see more detail about the summit due to be held in Prague in early October before the UK commits to attending. According to reports the idea proposed by President Macron would be a “new space” for co-operation in which, he suggests, security, energy and transport as well as the movement of people could be discussed.

The Macron proposal appears to be a design to allow Ukraine to participate in EU affairs prior to the years it may take for them to be able to join the EU proper. What has to be remembered in this context is the fact that the UK prior to joining the European Economic Community was a leading member of the small but economically significant European Free Trade Association.

Thereby lies the rub. The UK may well be positioning for that end again. Liz Truss has stated that she intends to talk to President Volodymyr Zelensky. Would such talks cover the idea of a new trade organisation between the EU and outside countries but focused on UK rather than French structural arrangements? Given the tremendous victory that we may be about to see perhaps Ukraine would anyway shrink from becoming merged in political terms in the EU run from Brussels.

The short term response to that question is fraught with problems but with European “states” veering principally to the far right but also to the extreme left what price political unity within the EU? There is another factor according to President Erdogan of Turkey following tasks with Russian President Vladimir Putin, if the reports are to be believed Putin wants to end the Ukraine war. That would leave Ukraine victorious but in serious need of economic help restructuring.

Let’s assume that sooner or later President Putin will leave office with Russia also needing help economically. Perhaps a new post Putin Russia, or what is left of it allowing for further territorial departures as suggested in the media, would be keen to join the “European Political Community” that, incidentally, former Prime Minister Boris Johnson also claims credit for suggesting implying that the UK does have a serious interest in the project.

Such a scenario could see perhaps the development of a much smaller EU of politically conjoined states with a number of existing member states breaking their EU ties to join the new economic rather than political community including both Ukraine, Russia and the United Kingdom.

Fantasy or sound philosophical forecasting? Only time will tell and perhaps the advice of Winston Churchill is profoundly apt. Look back at Europe’s history and try to gauge the future.


Dateline: The Corner Cafe, Deal, Kent, UK.


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Chris White

Chris White

Chris White is a former UK national newspaper journalist and was the founder and editor of a magazine focussed on EU affairs.

Now writing for EUToday, Chris has his own column, 'Chris's Corner'.

Chris is a member of the Chartered Institute of Journalists, a professional association for journalists, the senior such body in the UK and the oldest in the world, having been founded in October 1884

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