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The pandemic has swept around the globe and for the last few months, has had a particularly tight grip on Europe. As some nations, including the UK, are tentatively easing lockdown, EU chiefs are looking to reopen its external borders next month. Yet, some of the member states will be looking on in frustration after the bloc struggled to work together throughout the global crisis. President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen even issued an unprecedented apology to Italy in April, after failing to provide sufficient support when the nation’s death count shot up.
Writing for Briefings for Britain in a piece titled ‘EU: Done For?’ earlier this month, author John Ranelagh explained that “Italy’s economic [and] health predicament heralds the break-up of the EU”.
With a debt to GDP ratio at 136 percent even before the pandemic, Italy has undoubtedly suffered due to the complete lockdown and will struggle to resurrect its economy.
Mr Ranelagh also references a DIRE news agency poll from mid-March which claimed that “67 percent of Italian regard EU membership as a disadvantage”.
Alan Higgins, the UK Chief Investment Officer for Coutts, recently suggested that if Italy then leaves the EU, the euro would crumble and “the UK and Switzerland would emerge as safe havens”.
He added that if Germany and the Netherlands do not provide financial support for the EU, then “we could see a moment of truth” for the bloc and the euro.
Mr Ranelagh added that there are also non-economic factors which influence major changes in the EU.
He wrote: “Europe, it emerges, is with borders, not without. Italy doubled down and imposed internal ones.
“Lega in Italy has proposed a parallel currency to manage internal debt without regard for the EU.
“There’s a 30-mile queue of Lithuanians trying to enter Poland.
“Until a few days ago, Germany was not exporting protective equipment to the rest of the EU and it is not clear if they will now do so.
“Poland is being attacked for limiting the independence of the judiciary.
“Hungary is being attacked for breaking EU law.
“Nationalism, despite EU claims, is alive and kicking and is Europe’s default position.”
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As Jennifer Rankin wrote in The Guardian in April: “The pandemic has reopened the wounds of the eurozone crisis, resurrecting stereotypes about ‘profligate’ southern Europeans and ‘hard-hearted’ northerners.”
Mr Ranelagh concluded that the EU is governed by treaties laden with compromises which leave every party dissatisfied — meaning the bloc is “not formed as a democracy” and so will not hold together.
The commentator claimed coronavirus has shown that being part of the EU does not mean guaranteed safety nor unity.
Each nation had to protect itself during the pandemic, and the member states are still all weakened, making it difficult to fund any other nation.
The leader of the Italian party, Northern League Party, Matteo Salvini, tweeted in March: “It took 15 days to evaluate if, who and how to help. While people die.
“Far from being a ‘union’ it is a den of snakes and jackals.
“First let’s beat the virus, then we’ll think again about the EU. And if necessary, say goodbye.”
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