“A lot of the UK’s problems are still there and Brexit won’t solve them” – Niall Ferguson

Five years have passed since the shocking decision to leave the European Union (EU), but the policy of the Brexi still dominates Brussels. I am joined by Professor Brigid Laffan, from the European University Institute, and Professor and historian Niall Ferguson, to discuss what all this means for the future of Europe.

Shona Murray, euronews: First of all, Brigid Laffan, what do you think? Will Brexit be a historic decision? What will the implications be? In about 20-30 years, will this be a watershed moment for the EU and the UK?

Brigid Laffan, European University Institute: “When Brexit happened, the vote was a shock. There was concern that there would be a domino effect. That it was the beginning of the end, disintegration, or that the exit of the United Kingdom would mean the division of Europe. And that’s not what What has happened. In fact, the EU has been very united, very consistent in the way it has handled Brexit and is determined to continue. From the EU’s point of view, Brexit is a loss. It would be much better for us. the EU if the UK were a member state. The UK’s choice to leave is respected, but it will not be allowed to have a long-term impact on EU destinations. In fact, it has made things more difficult for EU countries. which I would call tough eurosceptics across Europe, because suddenly not even Marine Le Pen is advocating for France to leave or Salvini is not advocating for Italy to leave the euro. So I think in the long run, yes, it is a loss. It is a geopolitical loss. It means that the EU has to ma deny a wayward neighbor. But, will it act as a brake on the European project or what the 27 or a broader EU decide to do? I do not believe it“.

Shona Murray, euronews: Do you think an independent Scotland would be easily accepted as an EU member state?

Brigid Laffan, European University Institute: “I think it would be complicated, as always, enlargement. But they meet the criteria. They are pro-European and I think they would join with relative ease.”

Shona Murray, euronews: But, for example, the Spanish government would not necessarily oppose it if it were a legitimate referendum.

Brigid Laffan, European University Institute: “No, I don’t think the Spanish government can, because the only way for Scotland to re-enter the EU is as an independent state. It’s not like Catalonia, that Madrid is determined not to be independent. Therefore, I think that there is no way Spain can legitimately veto Scotland’s membership in the EU. “

Shona Murray, euronews: Professor Niall Ferguson, tell us, first of all, will Brexit be seen as some kind of historic event?

Niall Ferguson, professor and historian: “Well, of course it will be done. After all, walking away after 50 years from the European project was a major change in the trajectory of British politics. But I think the greater importance of Brexit lies in the fact that it removes from the 27 members remaining one of the main obstacles to further integration, which was the United Kingdom. Remember, the United Kingdom of all the member states was the one that most resisted fiscal integration to bring about major changes in the direction of a federal Europe. “.

Shona Murray, euronews: But after that, what is the benefit of Brexit for the UK?

Niall Ferguson, professor and historian: “Well, I think that’s the kind of question I was asking myself in 2016, because they are not going to tell me that a free trade agreement with Australia is a substitute for full membership of the single market and the customs union. I think the question The key is the one that Dominic Cummings raised before his political downfall. Could the UK use its exit from the EU to reinvent its own public sector? One of the things that caused curiosity in the Brexit debate was that I think the public they generally did not realize that many of the things that frustrated them about the British bureaucracy were more British than European. When I defended my position against Brexit in 2016, I often said that in a divorce people think they will solve their problems separating. But then they find out that a lot of the things that they thought were problems associated with marriage are actually personal problems. And I think a lot of the UK’s problems, particularly the way they Is the function that Whitehall works on, something Dominic Cummings has complained about for many years, they are still there and Brexit does not solve them. “

Shona Murray, euronews: And of course another thing that Brexit must prove is that it is not a threat to the security and peace of Northern Ireland. And the dispute over the Northern Ireland protocol that was negotiated with careful consideration of the Good Friday Agreement is ongoing. Everyone detailed what would be required, such as controls in the Irish Sea, but the British Government refuses to implement it. What do you think the UK and the EU should do to get out of this stalemate?

Niall Ferguson, professor and historian: “Well, it’s very difficult to offer a quick solution to that. It was always going to be a very, very complicated problem for which there would be no solution that would satisfy all parties. I think the message was said loud and clear by Joe Biden. in Cornwall. The United States does not welcome any attempt by the United Kingdom to renege on the Northern Ireland protocol. So my feeling is that we should think of this in the same way that we think of Switzerland’s relationship with the EU. And I think this analogy is much more useful than any of the others that have been put forward in the last five years. “

Shona Murray, euronews: Yes, but I suppose the imminence is that we are talking about the threat of a return to violence, a very serious threat.

Niall Ferguson, professor and historian: _ “Well, Boris Johnson is the latest in a long line of British politicians who have spent most of their lives in England and do not understand the problem of Northern Ireland very well. And at some point they tend to receive It’s a pretty tough lesson. And this is what we’re seeing now. From Boris Johnson’s point of view, Brexit is the gift that never ends. From his point of view, it’s what got him to the top. He accepted that risk in 2016 when he left the government of David Cameron. And it has only worked for him. And he has realized, and it is very important, that what plays well in the north of England guarantees his position of dominance. As long as that is In any case, Boris will not care if the fire continues to be fueled in Northern Ireland, because politically it is much, much less important to him. This is taking risks, as he well insinuates. It could lead to a certain resumption of the problems that we all remember with sadness “.