European Commission white paper reveals five ways for EU

European Commission white paper reveals five ways for EUThe European Union could be reduced to only the single market, a leaked white paper outlining five options for the bloc's future has revealed, according to The Independent on Wednesday.

Setting out potential scenarios for the union's future after Brexit, the leaked European Commission document shows that the single market could be the main reason for the remaining 27 EU countries to stay tied together.

It would mean easy agreements on shared policy relating to the free movement of capital and goods, the Commission said, but risks a "race to the bottom" in terms of consumer and environmental standards as EU-wide regulation dissolves.

Co-operation on security and defence—one of Theresa May's 12 key points for the UK's post-Brexit relationship with the EU—could also be at risk, the document, first uncovered by Politico, reveals.

Looking ahead, the white paper said that by 2025: "Given the strong focus on reducing regulation at EU level, differences persist or increase in areas such as consumer, social and environmental standards, as well as in taxation and in the use of public subsidies.

"This creates a risk of a 'race to the bottom'. It is also difficult to agree new common rules on the mobility of workers or for the access to regulated professions. As a result, the free movement of workers and services is not fully guaranteed," the paper added.

While the single currency might facilitate trade deals, "growing divergence and limited co-operation" between member nations would be "major sources of vulnerability", the Commission feared.

The same would apply to other positions on which the bloc currently presents a united front, including climate change and the fight against tax evasion.

That is the paper's second option.

The first is that the European Union simply carries on—"implementing and upgrading its current reform agenda". The bloc would step up investment in "digital, transport and energy infrastructure" as well as the fight against terrorism.

The paper suggests also that by 2025 "member states [would] decide to pool some military capabilities".

Option three would entail some member states deciding to step up and "do more", creating "coalitions of the willing" to work in specific policy areas on top of the current functions of the EU. It would not diminish the status of non-participating states, which would be allowed to join in further down the line.

The fourth option envisions a more nimble EU, that chooses fewer policy areas on which to focus but acts more quickly to implement the collective will in those arenas. This scenario would see a "strict minimum" standard for health and safety, the environment and consumer protections, with flexibility for member states to "experiment in certain areas".

The paper's authors said this would help "close the gap between promise and delivery" on the part of the bloc, and also allow citizens to better understand how it functions.

The final scenario involves "doing much more together"—and looks something like the so-called EU "super-state".

It would mean "cooperation between all member states [going] further than ever before in all domains", stronger protections for the Euro and the bloc being represented by a single seat in most international fora.

The Commission said that by 2025: "There is much greater coordination on fiscal, social and taxation matters, as well as European supervision of financial services. The European Parliament has the final say on international trade agreements. Defence and security are prioritised. In full complementarity with Nato, a European Defence Union is created."

But they added: "There is the risk of alienating parts of society which feel that the EU lacks legitimacy or has taken too much power away from national authorities."
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