Recommended reading on Brexit and the Future of the EU

Two reading recommendations for understanding Britain’s decision to leave the EU and what the future of the EU looks like sans Britain.

On the former topic, I am bit late to it as the revised and updated edition of Tim Shipman’s All Out War came out last year, but it’s an astounding feat of political journalism. He clearly had Bob Woodward-level access to all the key players in the Leave and Remain camps and he weaves together their experiences and observations brilliantly in an exhaustive (600+ pages) but never boring book. I may have found it slightly more intriguing than the average reader because I know personally some of the politicians concerned, but anyone interested in politics should find All Out War compulsively readable. Shipman captures the strategies and tactics of each side as well as the human side of the key political players. He also highlights the freakish little things (e.g., a slightly mis-typed address in an email) on which hotly contested, nail-biting political campaigns can turn. And to his credit, it’s very hard to divine what side Shipman was on personally because he works so hard to give both sides their due. For what little it may be worth coming from a D-List blogger at Washington Post, my hat is off to Shipman as a truly remarkable journalist.

On the latter topic, I recommend a new essay by Hans Kundnani, who has forgotten more about European politics than most people will ever know (definitely including me). His point of departure is the European Commission’s recent proposals for greater financial integration within the Eurozone:

…there are two quite different ways of thinking about the Commission’s proposals. For Macron, they were part of a vision for a “Europe qui protege” in which there would be greater “solidarity” between citizens and member states. In the context of this vision, the new European Monetary Fund would be a kind of embryonic treasury for the eurozone. But many in Germany, including Wolfgang Schäuble, seem to support the same idea for entirely different reasons. They see it as a way to increase control over EU member states’ budgets and more strictly enforce the eurozone’s fiscal rules and thus increase European “competitiveness”. If that vision were to prevail, “more Europe” would mean “more Germany” – as many of the steps that have been taken in the last seven years since the euro crisis began have.

You can read Hans’ full analysis here.

My own view is that without Britain, the EU might as well rename itself “Germany and its regional branch offices”. Some French analysts would object to my characterization, having long seen their country as Germany’s peer or even master in the EU (“France riding a German horse”). But I find that perspective rather arrogant and delusional. The golden rule of politics is that he who has the gold makes the rules. Germany’s unemployment rate is 3.5%, France is excited to have recently gotten unemployment down to 8.9% for the first time in 9 years (And French unemployment hasn’t been down to the level of Germany or Britain since dinosaurs walked the earth). France also has huge and growing deficits whereas Germany is flush. The horse in short can throw the would-be rider and trample him (as well as the even smaller and poorer other Eurozone members) under its mighty hooves any time it pleases.

Author: Keith Humphreys

Keith Humphreys is the Esther Ting Memorial Professor of Psychiatry at Stanford University and an Honorary Professor of Psychiatry at Kings College London. His research, teaching and writing have focused on addictive disorders, self-help organizations (e.g., breast cancer support groups, Alcoholics Anonymous), evaluation research methods, and public policy related to health care, mental illness, veterans, drugs, crime and correctional systems. Professor Humphreys' over 300 scholarly articles, monographs and books have been cited over thirteen thousand times by scientific colleagues. He is a regular contributor to Washington Post and has also written for the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Monthly, San Francisco Chronicle, The Guardian (UK), The Telegraph (UK), Times Higher Education (UK), Crossbow (UK) and other media outlets.

2 thoughts on “Recommended reading on Brexit and the Future of the EU”

  1. Well … the thing is, I don’t feel like the Brexit vote is that hard to understand. Mind you, I was hoping they would all just go to marriage counseling afterwards. From my seat in the bleachers, way way far away … it seems to me that whoever runs the EU is probably arrogant and out of touch. (I don’t actually know how the power is apportioned.) Somehow, no one criticizes them, at least not here, so I’m probably wrong. Perhaps Katja will be by later to adminster me a sound browbeating, which I don’t mind, bc she is so smart, I learn a lot.

    But I really just stopped by bc TCM had “Hell’s Angels” on over the weekend (though I missed it, unfortunately). Did I bother you about it already? I can’t remember. I really liked it. … does this mean there’s something wrong with me? (rhetorical!) A powerful anti-war work of art, I thought.

    Here is my non-original idea to end all wars. We pass a law that says, the winner has to pay for all the clean-up. What do you think?

    1. One detail in Shipman's book is that the EU would not agree to any immigration controls that would likely have kept Britain in the EU because Hungary and Poland objected. Now they have lost Britain and are wringing their hands ineffectually at the far worse conduct of the two countries that they appeased.

      Hell's Angels is an important film for it's special effects and sound, its role in Howard Hughes and Jean Harlow's career (And arguably Whale's though he didn't get credit). It was a money loser at the time but I think you are in good company in appreciating it today.

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