Brexit and the future of an ever closer union

Eurozine-Banksy-BrexitStefan Auer at Eurozine:

Whatever else it signifies, Brexit marks a serious setback to the ideal of borderless Europe, praised by EU enthusiasts as ‘a conscious and successful attempt to go beyond the nation state’. According to Robert Cooper, for example, European integration was meant to have given rise to ‘a new form of statehood’, heralding the emergence of a better, postmodern state system in which states ‘are less absolute in their sovereignty and independence than before’. In such a world, borders turn from nouns to verbs; they are seen as social constructs that are fluid, ever changing and contested. Thus, scholars working in critical border studies have advocated ‘a move towards a more sociological treatment of borders as a set of contingent practices throughout societies’ and prefer talking about ‘bordering practices’ rather than borders. The very existence of the EU, on this account, has challenged old certainties about ‘ fixed and unquestioned political boundaries between states’.

Indeed, from its early beginnings the project of European unity was about challenging borders. That is surely the practical meaning of the ideal of an ‘ever closer union’ spelled out in the Treaty of Rome of 1957. More recently, from the Schengen Treaty (signed in 1985, implemented in 1995) that sought to cement the ideal of freedom of movement for European citizens by abolishing internal borders between EC/EU member states, to the Maastricht Treaty of 1992 that further enhanced this project by creating conditions for a monetary union, Europe appeared to be moving towards this ideal. Up to mid 2015, the EU’s internal borders continued to lose importance, yet its external boundaries remained largely impenetrable.

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