What is the EU?


This week on Facebook: Following a defeat (yet again) of Theresa May’s Brexit plan by the UK parliament, the following may be of interest. They are articles on Brexit provided by the USA (European Union), Al-Jazeera (European Union News), Germany (European Union), and a video (7min) providing a good description of how the EU actually works.

It’s impossible to discuss the European Union¹ (EU) without mentioning Brexit and I have written a lot about the EU — often with a somewhat cynical view about Brexit. It has been my assumption (wrongly as it turns out) that people knew what the EU was, what it had become and where it was heading! Where the EU is heading is a difficult question to answer and one that only provides hypothetical answers, especially when the question is asked in the context, “What is the EU?”.

The articles below (1, 2, 4, & 5) contain a many similarities but they each have a different approach as to what the EU actually is, the included video (3A) explains the EU rather well. Nevertheless, the interest in the EU prompted by the question ‘What is the EU?’ fails to answer the questions raised by the deal-breakers of the EU and the UK (red-lines). The EU’s position on the UK’s redlines is shown at video 3B — making it an important adjunct to the video shown at 3A.

The date on the presentation (3B) of the European Commission paper to the Heads of State of the EU (including an assumption that it included the UK), shows why the UK deal-breakers/red-lines present an impasse for the EU. The EU’s views run contrary to those held in the UK (particularly those held by the pro-brexit news media). Far from being intransigent, the video (3B) is an indication that the EU has a better understanding of the EU’s position on Brexit (and far sooner) than did any member of the UK parliament and the UK general public.

The British news media, in their explanation of Brexit, appealed to the vested interests on either side of the argument rather than to the realities of the deal-breakers/red-lines between the EU and the UK. The UK may choose to walk away from the EU making a ‘special deal’ (beyond that already offered by the  EU) a non-sequitur. It also makes walking away the only option should the UK choose to leave the EU while retaining its red-lines.

The two references included each have a different view on the EU. The first is a booklet issued by the European Commission in which the EU’s achievements are presented in glowing terms. The second reference can be considered a response to the EU’s viewpoint and could have the title ‘What is wrong with the EU!’².

But what about border problem³ between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland? The Voltaire network is of the opinion that, “The worst is obviously the threat brought to bear on the United Kingdom – it must submit to the economic conditions of Brussels, or there will be another instalment of the war of Independence in Northern Ireland.”


1 . What is the EU and how does it work? The EU has grown steadily from its six founding members to 28 countries. Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands signed up to the EEC, or Common Market in 1957. Britain, Ireland and Denmark joined in the first wave of expansion in 1973, followed by Greece in 1981 and Portugal and Spain five years later. Eastern Germany joined after unification and Austria, Finland and Sweden became part of the EU in 1995. The biggest enlargement came in 2004 when 10 new member countries joined. Romania and Bulgaria joined in 2007 and Croatia was latest to sign up in 2013.

2. The European Union, How It Works, and Its History: Three bodies run the EU. The EU Council represents national governments. The Parliament is elected by the people. The European Commission is the EU staff. They make sure all members act consistently in regional, agricultural, and social policies. Contributions of 120 billion euros a year from member states fund the EU.

3A. The European Union Explained (video 6min)*

3B. The EU’s ‘Secret’ Brexit Negotiations Exposed (video 6min)*

4. What Is the European Union? Its Purpose, History and How it Looks in 2018: According to the European Union’s official website, the union’s purpose is to promote peace, establish a unified economic and monetary system, promote inclusion and combat discrimination, break down barriers to trade and borders, encourage technological and scientific developments, champion environmental protection, and, among others, promote goals like a competitive global market and social progress.

5. What Happened to the European Union? The European Union defies historical analogy. It is not an empire, and Brussels is anything but an imperial capital. It commands no army, houses no single leader, projects no one culture outward from metropole to province. Still less is the EU a republic with an obvious bond of connection between state and citizen, though it is composed of many individual republics. Nor is the EU is a confederation, a Hanseatic or a Delian league redux. The EU is much more than a confederation of sovereign states. It is itself a state with a flag and a parliament and a currency. A state with a past, the EU has been decades in the making. But whatever the European Union may be in practice, it is a theoretical novelty.


Referenced Articles Books & Definitions:

  • A bold text subscript above and preceding a title below (¹·²·³), link to (usually free) content.
  • Links (without superscript) and in italics reference the intended context of words used.
  • Links without superscript and not in italics reference a source.
  • A long read url* is followed by a superscript asterisk.
  • Brackets containing a number reference a particular included article (1-5).
  • Occasionally Open University (OU) free courses are cited.
  • JSTOR lets you set up a free account allowing you to have 6 (interchangeable) books stored that you can read online.

¹The European Union What it is and what it does (url/pdf): The EU has achieved a lot. For example, it has built a single market based on ‘four freedoms’, with people, goods, services and capital moving freely between all Member States. The single market means that over 500 million EU citizens are free to move and settle where they wish in the Union. The EU has created a single currency, the euro, which is now a major world currency and which makes the single market more efficient. It has also created the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union, which protects certain political, social and economic rights for EU citizens and residents. The EU has also led the way in protecting the environment and tackling climate change. These are just a few of the achievements so far.

²The European Union: A Critical Assessment (url/pdf): The EU has become a large pressure cooker with no safety valve. Large parts of Europe suffer from low growth, high unemployment, rising deficits, and stratospheric debts. To make matters worse, tensions between the people of Europe are increasing. Some feel that they are being forced to adopt policies they do not like, while others feel that they have to unfairly subsidize people with whom they have nothing in common. The EU could turn down the heat by repatriating many of its competences back to the nation states. That, alas, is not in its nature. The EU risks imploding in an uncontrolled way and if that happens, everyone will lose.

³Brexit: What can UK learn from other external EU borders? (url) One of the most difficult issues in the entire Brexit process is how to ensure that there is no return to a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, once that border becomes the external border of the European Union, of its single market and its customs union.

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Martin Widlake's Yet Another Oracle Blog

Oracle performance, Oracle statistics and VLDBs

The Land Is Ours

a Landrights campaign for Britain

The Bulletin

This site was created for members and friends of My Telegraph blog site, but anyone is welcome to comment, and thereafter apply to become an author.

TCWG Short Stories

Join our monthly competition and share story ideas...

The Real Economy

Blogs and stuff from Ed Conway

Public Law for Everyone

Professor Mark Elliott

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