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 Making Sense of a Crazy Mixed Up World

Partners No More

The Brexit vote reflects deeper anti-unity inclinations in Europe.

By Renee Gearhart Levy

 British Brexit Supporter

The United Kingdom’s split from the European Union also teased out other possible splits, among the UK’s constituent parts. According to Seth Jolly, associate professor of political science, Brexit strengthens the argument for some of those countries to break from the UK — Scotland especially. “The case they will make is that they will be better off inside the EU regardless of what the United Kingdom decides to do,” Jolly explains.

Jolly says the formation of the EU led to the emergence of regionalist mentalities throughout Europe, strengthened in part by the economic parity the EU provides for smaller nations. “The EU makes it easier for smaller states to form trade partnerships, to have free movement of goods and services,” he says. This emboldens regions with strong cultural identities to separate from the rest of their country.

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“The Basque region of Spain is a good example,” says Jolly. “The Basques have their own language and feel like they’re culturally and ethnically different from the rest of Spaniards, which helps feed their desire for independence.”

Jolly is a specialist in European regionalist movements, political parties, and the EU; and he is the author of The European Union and the Rise of Regionalist Parties (University of Michigan Press). The book investigates whether European integration increases the mobilization of regionalist, or sub-state nationalist, forces; and studies the electoral success of regionalist political parties in Western Europe. Jolly is also a principal investigator of the Chapel Hill Expert Survey, designed to evaluate political party ideologies in 30 European countries.

Jolly believes the biggest threat to the EU is the immigration crisis. Lack of a common immigration policy puts the onus on the Mediterranean countries, which don’t have the capacity or resources to deal with the influx of refugees.

One way to rectify that would be the creation of a fully integrated European state, an argument made by politi-cal scientist Glyn Morgan, director of the Moynihan Institute’s European Union Center, in The Idea of a European Superstate: Public Justification and European Integration (Princeton University Press). Morgan, who is currently writing a book on Brexit, argues that the EU in its present form is too weak. Europe, he argues, needs to become more centralized and assume greater responsibility for its defense. As both Britain and the United States move in a nationalist and protectionist direction, he says, “it is time for Europe to step up to the plate and protect Western values.”

The EU needs to strengthen, agrees Jolly. “However, I think it’s unlikely because of the unpopularity,” he says, “and the lack of leadership willing to persuade the public that it’s the right thing to do.”

Photo credit: Nick Maslen/Alamy Stock Photo

This article appeared in the spring 2017 print edition of Maxwell Perspective; © 2017 Maxwell School of Syracuse Universi-ty. To request a copy, e-mail dlcooke@maxwell.syr.edu.