SPERI held the fourth of a workshop series on Brexit (funded by the White Rose Consortium) at the European Parliament in Brussels. The event, entitled ‘Regions, Cities and the EU after Brexit: Towards a ‘multi speed’ Europe?’, included leading academics and practitioners from the UK and the EU with notable contributions by Professor Jan Zielonka from the University of Oxford, author of Is the EU doomed?, and Linda McAvan MEP. The event was focused around the European Commission’s recent White Paper ‘The Future of Europe’ which examined five possible futures for the European Union.
Scott Lavery, SPERI Research Fellow, opened the worshop by introducing some of the findings of the research undertaken by SPERI. Professor Jan Zielonka followed Scott giving his perspective on the pitfalls associated with EU integration, arguing that the European institutions have yet to change structure since their inception. He argued that the current model of integration has been broken by rising Euroscepticism and that the only way for the EU to rejuvenate itself is to refocus integration around cities and regions. Professor Zielonka emphasised networks between regions and cities as the new mode of integration, arguing that Europe would be more connected, not less, as a result.
Dr Owen Parker, Associate Fellow of SPERI and a former Commission employee in DG Enlargement, then led the debate, asking as to the feasibility of Jan Zielonka’s ideas of new networks actually being established.
Linda McAvan MEP responded, claiming that nation states still have a lot of power and still hold important responsibilities such as defence. She also questioned who would govern the networks that Professor Zielonka had been referring to. She argues that politics was still needed to solve issues at the European level.
Dr Ania Skrzypek from the Foundation for European Progressive Studies, a centre-left think tank based in Brussels, brought a new angle into the debate, emphasising that it has been the failure of the EU to properly relate to the voters that has given rise to Euroscepticism. She claimed that it is the rise in less secure jobs and the failure of social democratic parties to properly address this issue that has mostly contributed to the need for reform in Europe.
SPERI’s latest Paper, The Political Economy of Brexit and the UK’s National Business Model, is available to download here.