The EU could collapse within a year, as Brexit is expected to draw to a close – with or without a deal – by 2021 and unearthed reports claim that Britain was the main member holding the bloc together.
The UK is currently in the transition period of Brexit and is expected to have left the EU completely by January 2021. Although Prime Minister Boris Johnson has explained that he does want to secure a deal with the bloc by then, he has emphasised that the priority will be for the UK to leave the EU on schedule. Without Brexit, some experts believe the bloc will crumble.
Eurosceptic sentiment is also on the up in some of the core member states, such as France and Italy, following the bloc’s response to the coronavirus.
This theory is backed up by a Reuters article from October 2019, which emphasises how the only issue all member states were united on is Brexit during that month’s summit.
It read: “Summits are usually a chance for European Union leaders to discuss problems and try to strengthen their union.
“But after two days of talks in Brussels, the only issue they could agree on is the very one that’s a symbol of disunity: Brexit.”
The piece pointed out how the member states could not agree on the next long-term budget nor tougher climate targets prior to the UN global conference on climate change just two months later.
They struggled to agree on whether to admit two more new member states, North Macedonia and Albania, too – the bloc only agreed last month to start negotiating their membership.
The report continued: “While several leaders celebrated the unity that the 27 member states had maintained during the tortuous talks with Britain, their lack of summit achievements reflects strains and mistrust between them on a host of issues.”
Director of Brussels-based Bruegel think tank Guntram Wolff also told Reuters: “The EU faces many very difficult choices.
“One of the core problems is that on many issues France and Germany do not see eye to eye.”
As the UK steps away from the EU, Germany and France are expected to fulfil the gap – and leave the nations bickering for leadership.
However, new research released this week revealed approximately six out of 10 people in France surveyed claimed they “do not trust” Brussels, according to the Jacques Delors Institute.
The findings suggested 58 percent of the country does not feel it can trust the bloc – meaning France is now more eurosceptic than the UK.
The study also revealed that only 47 percent of participants within the whole bloc think they can trust the EU compared to 43 percent who think they cannot.
The survey, conducted in November, indicated the beginning of a eurosceptic movement which could already be escalating outside the UK.
Lead researcher Thierry Chopin explained how the coronavirus pandemic will have exacerbated the situation.
Discussing the survey findings, he said: “There has been a continuous decline since the day after the election of Emmanuel Macron until the point where ‘ambivalents’ [those who were neither pro nor anti-EU] have not become the majority in France.”
Additionally, some fear Italy could be the next country to leave the EU.
Italy is currently the third-most affected nation worldwide during the coronavirus pandemic, and felt abandoned by the EU as the disease tightened its grip on the country.
President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen even offered a “heartfelt apology” to the country back in April for its poor handling of the crisis.
Yet. according to a survey from Bidimedia from April, 40 percent of Italians would support leaving the bloc and scrapping the euro, while just 41.7 percent agreed to maintain Italy’s place within the bloc.
Another agency found in March that 88 percent of Italians felt let down by its EU neighbours.
Without the unity of the key players, the strength of the EU is to be questioned, especially when Brexit is no longer a key concern.