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What The EU Must Do Now

The Brexit vote has underscored the dangers not only of referenda and plebiscites, but also of European complacency. If the EU is to survive, it must act quickly and decisively to regain leadership, shore up its institutions, and adopt fundamental economic and political reforms.

WASHINGTON, DC – The United Kingdom’s Brexit vote is arguably the greatest disaster ever to hit the European Union. Now, the EU must act fast – not least by ending the post-referendum market turmoil – if it is to survive.

British Prime Minister David Cameron, having lost the referendum, did the obvious thing by resigning. But the other loser is the European Commission, whose president, Jean-Claude Juncker, did little to change the outcome of the Brexit vote. Not since Jacques Delors was President of the Commission, from 1985 to 1995, has that position been filled by a leader with any vision or political clout. Juncker, like Cameron, should accept responsibility and resign. The EU needs a strong leader again. There are many worthy candidates, but I recommend former Swedish Prime Minister Carl Bildt.

Before the post-referendum dust settles, the EU should set an ultimatum with clear and onerous principles for the UK’s exit – clarity to minimize the cost, and severity to deter populists in other member states from calling for exit referenda, too. Sensibly, European Commission leaders have already moved in this direction by voiding concessions made by the EU to the UK back in February and declaring that there “will be no renegotiation.”