Coronavirus Laid Bare Everything That Is Wrong With The EU

The European Union was established, so its defenders claim, to establish peace in Europe and turn away from the violence and destruction of the past. There may be a strong current of idealism in that claim, and a lack of acknowledgment that the laurels of peace might more properly be worn by NATO, but there are few who really resent the claim itself. National competition creates tension, which can become intense and destructive. Far better to eliminate such competition by creating institutions for the greater benefit of all.

For the liberal internationalist, the European Union is the hope of all nations, offering as it does a vaccine for the scourge of nationalism itself. Against this backdrop, support for Brexit was seen as somehow shaming, not just for Brexiters in the UK, but for the UK itself. Many criticized David Cameron’s hyperbolic claim that voting for Brexit could lead to a ‘third world war’ which he made when he realized the polling was far too close for comfort. For most people, it was a baffling and somewhat desperate remark, but it is entirely consistent with the ideology that informs European integration and has a noble pedigree among the believers. Accordingly, leaving the EU marked an ineluctable turn towards war.

Reading the British and European press headlines over the last week, you could be forgiven for thinking war is now upon us. Mere weeks ago, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, declared that the strength of European cooperation over the COVID emergency had shown that it was ‘Europe’s moment.’ Today she is facing furious calls for her resignation, as Europe finds it has no vaccines and faces tens of thousands of avoidable deaths. The cause? A Europe of bureaucratic complacency and disfigured priorities, whose first instinct when found wanting was to blame the British company producing some of their vaccines at zero profit and demand that the UK be punished for their foresight. All because they had acted slowly, prioritized collective bargaining power, and haggled over both the price and the legal liabilities, rather than taken risks on rapid vaccine development and streamlined delivery as the British did. Europe’s moment has indeed arrived, and it is not edifying.

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