Two-tier Europe: the UK and associate membership

Carol Weaver argues that Brexit should lead to a redesign of EU membership, leading to the formalisation of a ‘two-tier Europe’ composed of full members and ‘associate members’ that agree to the same rules.

Václav Havel once talked of the ‘power of the powerless’ and whilst that may well have been a very good thing with regard to the Velvet Revolution unfortunately it does not seem to have been a very good thing last week in the EU referendum here in the UK.

I’ve always told UKIP (in debates with them) that they can never have an ‘independent UK of Great Britain and Northern Ireland’. In attempting to achieve this they would inevitably destroy the very union they say they want to protect. I also told Nick Clegg some years back that he was wrong in supporting an in-out referendum with the hope the people would vote to stay.

But we are where we are so why not make the most of it. The EU has become problematic and we have discussed and debated ‘widening v deepening’, ‘two-tier Europe’, ‘multi-speed Europe’ and ‘variable geometry’ for many years now. What we have accidentally achieved, in the usual EU way of compromise, is some kind of mélange of all of these.

Now it might be time to deliberately redesign Europe with a choice of:

  1. ‘Full membership’ including Schengen and a Eurozone with deepening and more fiscal unity
  2. ‘Associate membership’ with all associates agreeing to the same rules rather than having, for example, a ‘Norway model’, a ‘Swiss model’ and a possible ‘British model’. This should not be so attractive that Eurozone countries would want to join.
  3. No membership at all.

The associate membership would not be ‘all but institutions’. It would mean limited membership of appropriate institutions with no say in the core workings of the Eurozone and possibly limited freedom of movement without full citizenship. It would apply to countries such as the UK and others that do not want to join the euro. It could also apply to countries such as Turkey once it has completed all relevant chapters. Widening of full membership is currently not feasible.

Former MEP Andrew Duff, a lifelong committed federalist and EU constitution supporter, realised this was necessary in 2013, saying ‘So the Convention in 2015 needs to craft something other than privileged partnership outside the Union, something more than the EEA, yet something less than full membership. The European Union has proved itself over the years capable of great constitutional ingenuity, and it is reasonable to assume that, given the political will to work together for the good of all Europe, it can continue to do so.’

David Cameron has in the past discussed this idea with other EU members .

The new design would mean a new treaty which could trigger more referendums including here in the UK where we have a ‘referendum lock’. This might be better than in-out referendums across Europe backed by right wing parties such as the Front National often themselves backed by Russian money.

At the time of writing Article 50 has not been invoked. There is time to consider the possibility of a new treaty outlining formal Associate Membership. It will take some time but so would any other option.

Dr Carol Weaver is Lecturer in International Relations at De Montfort University.

3 thoughts on “Two-tier Europe: the UK and associate membership

  • July 11, 2016 at 3:44 am

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  • July 1, 2016 at 11:22 am

    BREXIT: Body-blow to capitalist globalization
    By K Vijayachandran

    People of UK have voted 52:48 for BREXIT. It is body-blow to capitalist globalization under the dictatorship of the so called Knowledge Workers (KW) as theorized and proposed by Peter Drucker, nicknamed the Guru of 21st century corporate management. (1)

    Economy of the European Union has been developing under the dictatorship of KW. Numerous institutions aimed at improving the efficacy of this dictatorship were designed and installed which have not only marginalized the European Parliament but also rendered it totally dysfunctional. Even the elected parliaments of individual member countries lost their autonomy.

    A Unified Germany, supported by the IBRD-IMF-WTO trio, could easily dominate the European Commission which was virtually in charge of EU Governance. In the absence of grass-root level democracy this regime has degenerated into the Dictatorship of KW which is being resisted by the working people: Brexit was only a reflection of this wide-spread antagonism.

    People of Greece were the first to revolt against this dictatorship: after Brexit, several nation-states will queue up for more autonomy and grass-root level democracy and against the dictatorship of KW.

    Quarter century ago, Perestroika movement of Gorbachev & Co had demolished the USSR and the Socialist Camp and disbanded the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (CMEA). This was counter revolution supported by Knowledge Workers of the entire world, from within and outside of the socialist camp, and supported by global capital and imperialism (2).

    Villains of Glasnost and Perestroika are now in the dust-bin of history. The IBRD-IMF-WTO trio has failed to deliver a sustainable market-driven global economy: The number of refugees fleeing failed nation-states has crossed the second world record of Sixty Million: The working people all over the world look forward to a new era of socialist globalization, the right and only alternative for mankind (3).


    (1) Peter Drucker differentiated this class of wage earners from their fellow proletarians in a 1988 essay, Management and the World’s Work: ‘When Marx was beginning work on Das Kapital in the early 1850s, the phenomenon of management was unknown. So were the enterprises that managers run. The largest manufacturing company around was a Manchester, England cotton mill employing fewer than 300 people, owned by Marx’s friend and collaborator Frederick Engels. And in Engel’s mill-one of the most profitable businesses of its day-there were no “managers,” only first-line supervisors , or charge hands, who were workers themselves, each enforcing discipline over a handful of fellow ‘proletarians’…. According to him, ‘in less than 150 years management had transformed the social and economic fabric of developed countries and has created a global economy and set new rules for countries that would participate in that economy as equals’. The new class of KW, according to his perceptions, has liberated itself from finance and investment capital and developed an existence even outside the corporations they managed.

    (2) See my paper, “Reaction Strikes Europe” of 1989 on Perestroika movement of Gorbachev-published as the lead essay of my book Perestroika Glasnost and Socialism, published by Partridge, Sept 2013: ISBN 978-1-4828-1353-1

    (3) Ref my paper, “Two decades of WTO: the failure to deliver”,
    presented at the UN Day Seminar of 24th Oct 2015 at the Ernakulam Public Library Hall Kochi: Blog

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