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Why Brexit Will Damage Europe

The European Union will not shatter in the wake of Brexit, and it will also overcome the economic fallout from the UK’s departure. But Brexit will damage Europe’s role in the world in a way that Europeans currently seem unable to grasp.

BERLIN – The clock is ticking toward March 29 and the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union. Whether Brexit turns out to be “soft” or “hard,” the UK is set to endure a bout of severe economic turbulence. But Britain has survived much larger crises and will overcome this one at some point. For me, the real question is what Brexit means for the future of Europe.

The “European Idea” will almost certainly survive. The EU will not shatter in the wake of Brexit, and it will overcome the economic fallout from the UK’s departure. But Brexit will damage Europe’s role in the world in a way that we Europeans currently seem unable to grasp. The recent decision by US President Donald Trump’s administration to downgrade the diplomatic status of the EU mission in Washington was perhaps a taste of things to come.

The geopolitical background against which Brexit is taking place cannot be discounted and may play a big part in determining its impact on the EU. The most salient fact is that the world’s political and economic balance of power is shifting from the Atlantic to the Pacific – a trend that cannot be blamed only on populists such as Trump. It was, after all, President Barack Obama who spoke of the US as a Pacific rather than an Atlantic country, whereas his predecessors had always spoken of the US as a “transatlantic” actor. While we may live today in a “G-Zero” world with no single power assuming global responsibility, tomorrow may bring a G-2 world in which the US and China compete for global dominance.

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