Douglas Carswell

01 FEB 2013

Europe after the EU

It's not just us Brits that distrust the Eurosystem. Millions of Europeans have started to lose confidence in the ability of the Brussels elite to run their lives by design.

We Brits will get a vote in four years time to decide if we remain In or Out. But it won't just be us. Eventually the issue is going to come to a head in other member states, too.

Given that the French, the Dutch and the Swedes all overwhelmingly rejected more Europe the last time they had any say, is it too farfetched to begin to wonder what Europe would look like if Europe started to leave the EU?

What might a post-EU Europe look like? To get a sense of the future, first take look back.

Modernity used to mean scale. For the past two or three hundred years everything – buildings, factories, bridges, cities and markets - seemed to get bigger. So, too, did countries.

In the seventeenth century and eighteenth, the Dutch republic was eclipsed by larger England. In the nineteenth, England was in turn overshadowed by bigger America and Prussia. By the mid-to-late twentieth century, it seemed as if you needed to be part of a bigger block to survive. Production came to mean mass production. Prosperity meant selling to mass markets. The European Union is itself a product of these sort of assumptions about scale.

One of the extraordinary things about the digital revolution is that it overturns much of what we take for granted about size and scale. In a world of niche, on line retailing, economies of scale is no longer synonymous with profitability. 3D manufacturing will mean niche production, not mass manufacture. Tax bases will no longer seem so solid. Money will no longer be a state monopoly, as we see more currency competition. Prosperity will no longer depend on scale, but on being part of a network.

Big blocks will lose many of the advantages that come from being big, while at the same time small states will lose many of the disadvantages that come from being small.

The result? Not only an end to the Eurosystem, with its single currency and harmonised policy-making. In some cases, it could mean a reversal of that eighteenth and nineteenth century phenomenon that saw large nation states supersede smaller ones.

The EU won't merely come apart because it lacks democratic legitimacy. Technological change and the digital revolution mean that the giantism on which it is built is doomed.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, I set out some ideas about what Europe might look like after the EU.   

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