Five years of Brexit: a good or bad move?

On 23 June 2016 the Brexit referendum ended with 51.9 percent in favour of the UK leaving the EU. Although the divorce was not actually finalised until last December, when the transition period came to an end, commentators are eager to take stock.

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Irish Examiner (IE) /

Some things are easier without the Brits

The EU is much more able to arrive at decisions now that London is no longer forever blocking them, the Irish Examiner rejoices:

“Soon after the Brexit vote, the EU activated common defence plans that had lain on the drawing board for years. ... The coronavirus pandemic also led to an economic step once thought politically impossible:joint borrowing from financial markets to fund an €800bn recovery fund. ... Given the British role as leader of the EU's awkward squad, obtaining opt-outs and raising red flags, some things are easier without the UK.”

The Guardian (GB) /

EU weakened at the worst possible moment

Historian and publicist Timothy Garton Ash doesn't entirely agree. He writes in the Guardian:

“Some in Brussels and Paris even suggest the opposite, arguing that it is easier to agree on further steps of European integration after getting rid of the pesky Brits. ... But if you want a 'geopolitical' Europe, one that can hold its own against a superpower such as China, then losing a large member state with the financial, diplomatic, military and other assets of the UK is a big loss. Objectively, the union's external strength is diminished at precisely the moment it needs to be increased.”

Jutarnji list (HR) /

The legitimacy crisis remains

Doubts about the benefits of the EU for citizens have hardly dissipated over the past five years, Jutarnji list notes:

“Euroscepticism was somewhat dampened last year by the coronavirus pandemic, but this period also resulted in many frustrations that will sooner or later be felt in the public, political space. ... Such feelings may grow stronger or weaker over time, but they don't disappear. ... Anyone who thinks they can suppress this phenomenon by dryly counting the billions that the richer countries allocate to us or by ceremonially cutting ribbons on building sites financed by this money has clearly not learned any lessons from the Brexit.”