“The European Union will survive without Britain”

A letter from London arrives in Brussels today, officially notifying Britain’s departure from the EU. Does Brexit mark the end of European unity? Professor Paul van Seters doesn’t believe so: “The European Union will see its 100th anniversary.”

Some will celebrate today as a day of independence. Others will mark it as a historic mistake. British prime minister Theresa May has signed a goodbye letter to Donald Tusk, the president of the European Council. It’s official: only a few days after the EU celebrated its 60th anniversary in Rome, Britain is leaving the bloc.

Small steps, big ambitions

So what’s next? Baby steps, says Paul van Seters, professor of globalization and sustainable development at Tilburg University. “Since its establishment in 1957, the European Union has always taken small steps towards big ambitions. Now that an important member is leaving the project, that’s no different. In the next two years, the European Union will take small steps towards a future without Britain.”

Professor Paul van Seters

Professor Paul van Seters

Hard brexit

What the impact of Brexit will be on the UK and on the EU, remains to be seen. “There’s no way of telling whether it will hurt the economy or how many jobs will be lost. Time will tell”, professor Van Seters says. “We do know that Theresa May will pursue a ‘hard’ Brexit. She has made that very clear. And sources inside the EU have told me that they too want a clean break. Brexit means Brexit. EU negotiators aren’t planning to allow Britain to cut corners.”

100th anniversary

Van Seters is sad to see Britain leave, but he doesn’t believe that the British departure marks the end of European unity. While some political analysts are warning that the European Union is plunging into a crisis it may not come out of, Van Seters holds a more optimistic view of the future. “We are facing some very serious challenges. But I firmly believe that in forty years from now, the EU will celebrate its 100th anniversary – without the Brits.”

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