Merryn's Blog

The EU starts to show its rotten heart

The EU’s failure to deal with both the financial and migration crises prove the need for its fundamental reform, says Merryn Somerset Webb.

160909-hungary-b

Over the last few years MoneyWeek readers have had the enormous privilege of hearing from Bernard Connolly, author of The Rotten Heart of Europe, several times. You can watch my video interview with him or read the column he wrote for us just before the UK's EU referendum.

Those who have looked at them already will know that one of Bernard's fears has long been that the EU will force the different nations that make it up too far down the road to integration and along the way spark nationalism and rebellion. People need their own identities and their own cultures, says Bernard. Try and eliminate that and you "create a set of social tensions" that eventually lead to crisis.

Subscribe to MoneyWeek

Become a smarter, better informed investor with MoneyWeek.

That's now happening. Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia (known together as the Visegrad Group) are, says the Times, planning to start lobbying at next week's EU summit (which is supposed to "forge a new vision of Europe post Brexit) to "ensure that national governments are put back in the EUs driving seat."

And what does the PM of Hungary, Viktor Orban, say the point of this is? It is to push the EU away from its current policies and towards new ones designed to preserve "historic religious and national identity. People don't change, he says, "national and religious identities still have their place." The EU can't change that and it should stop trying to.

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

All this is exacerbated, of course, by the immigration crisis: Hungary holds a referendum on 2 October that will very probably reject the EU's plans for an asylum quota system. It insists that most migrants enter Europe via other countries (it has a fence along the Serbian border) and that "Hungary cannot and will not suffer the consequences of the irresponsibility of other member states."

The EU will think that right now is a lousy time to have to deal with this kind of counter revolution and there is much muttering about how irritating it is that such heavily EU subsidised states should be the ones kicking back against the "liberal" values of the West.

But the truth is that, in the wake of its failure to deal with either the financial crisis or the immigration crisis, the EU has no justification at all for pretending that it does not need fundamental reform.

Orban reckons Brexit gives everyone a "fantastic opportunity" for a rethink. And he is right. It is. The UK voted out for a reason: the EU should have a go at figuring out what that reason was. Listening to the Visegrad group would be a perfectly reasonable start.

Advertisement

Recommended

Visit/519858/how-long-can-the-good-times-roll
Economy

How long can the good times roll?

Despite all the doom and gloom that has dominated our headlines for most of 2019, Britain and most of the rest of the developing world is currently en…
19 Dec 2019
Visit/investments/bonds/government-bonds/600738/keep-an-eye-on-swedens-interest-rates
Government bonds

Keep an eye on Sweden's interest rates

Could Sweden be poised to return to negative interest rates?
31 Jan 2020
Visit/economy/uk-economy/brexit/600739/boris-johnsons-big-brexit-plan
Brexit

Boris Johnson’s big Brexit plan

The prime minister needs to get Brexit done, and get the economy growing – particularly for first-time Tory voters. Can he manage all that while negot…
30 Jan 2020
Visit/520380/investors-neednt-fear-the-rise-of-europes-green-parties
EU Economy

Investors needn’t fear the rise of Europe’s green parties

Green parties across Europe are finding the centre-right to be natural allies. That will be great for business, says Matthew Lynn.
12 Jan 2020

Most Popular

Visit/investments/property/house-prices/600840/the-biggest-risk-facing-the-uk-housing-market-right-now
House prices

The biggest risk facing the UK housing market right now

For house prices to stagnate or even fall would be healthy for the property market, says John Stepek. But there is a distinct danger that isn't going …
17 Feb 2020
Visit/economy/600838/money-minute-monday-17-february-good-news-ahead-for-the-uk-economy
Economy

Money Minute Monday 17 February: good news ahead for the UK economy?

Today's Money Minute looks to a week in which we get the latest employment and inflation numbers, plus retail figures for January and a slew of eurozo…
17 Feb 2020
Visit/economy/uk-economy/600824/how-the-bbc-can-survive-the-end-of-the-tv-licence
UK Economy

How the BBC can survive the end of the TV licence

The TV licence that funds the BBC is looking way past its sell-by date, says Matthew Lynn. Here's how it could survive without it
16 Feb 2020
Visit/investments/commodities/600729/the-rare-earth-metal-that-wont-be-a-secret-for-long
Sponsored

The rare earth metal that won't be a secret for long

SPONSORED CONTENT – You can’t keep a good thing hidden forever; now is the time to consider Pensana Rare Earths and the rare earth metals NdPr.
31 Jan 2020