What kind of Europe?

Crooked Timber has an interesting discussion, kicked off by Henry Farrell, on the meaning of the EU referendum vote. All the points he makes are well made, but I think he misses one important shift in the way that the EU is used.

One of the principal reasons that the EU has been an elite project, at least until now, is that Governments have used it as an external force majeure – we have to {privatise our electricity, open our borders, cut working hours} because Europe says so. This is a very useful tool for Governments who want to do right-but-unpopular things.

The constitution debate, for all its fudges and follies, has shown one thing – that Europe is becoming more of a direct concern for the people of its member states. The issues that are debated – working time, euro economics, etc – are seeping down the political ladder and becoming the popular debate of people in the street.

Euro-idealists like me may not like the outcome, and in some countries (UK) the European link may not be preservable, but progress towards making the EU a common possession rather than an external force must surely be worthwhile.