Much of the coffee break chat at the recent PensionsEurope Conference was about the UK General Election being held the same day. What, my continental colleagues wanted to know, was my prediction for the result? And what impact might it have on Brexit?
Fortunately they were too polite to email me the following day to point out how wide of the mark I was with my forecast, but I guess they realised I wasn’t the only one.
The other item being discussed in the breaks – and it was striking just how prominent it was – was the question of where next for the EU. The sobering reality for Brits in Brussels is that the UK is not the only show in town. Brexit or no Brexit, the EU is set to continue developing.
The framework for this debate is the list of five options outlined in a White Paper launched by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker in March. The Juncker scenarios range from ‘carrying on’ (reforms to make the EU more effective, but without major political change), to ‘nothing but the single market’ (refocusing on the single market as member states find it increasingly difficult to agree in other areas), to ‘doing more together’ (more centralisation of power and resources). ‘No change’ does not feature in the list of options.
Whatever direction the EU takes in the future – and whatever the UK’s relationship with it, the EU is set to continue developing. What that means in practice is just as important for our European colleagues as Brexit – if not more so.