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Division, confusion as EU rethinks future

Published:Thursday | June 30, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Division, confusion as EU rethinks future


EU leaders met yesterday without Britain for the first time to rethink their shaken union, make it more relevant to citizens and keep it from disintegrating after Britain's unprecedented vote to leave but conflicting visions of Europe's future are complicating the high-stakes summit.

With Britain's fate in Europe uncertain, the 27 remaining presidents, chancellors and prime ministers meeting in Brussels are focusing on what to do about the rest of the continent. There's a widespread sense that the post-war project to foster peace via trade has become a bureaucratic, undemocratic behemoth with little meaning for its 500 million citizens.

They all seem to agree that something must change after frustrations built up to the point that Britain quit, but disagree about how. The initial EU founding nations in the west lean towards a tighter, closer union, while newer nations in the east want to keep more control with national governments notably of their borders.


Other EU countries are now facing calls, especially from the nationalist far right, for referendums on quitting the bloc. Popular French far-right leader Marine Le Pen pressed unpopular President FranÁois Hollande in a weekend meeting for such a vote in France, but his government has rejected the idea.

The 27 remaining EU members are especially divided over how to deal with migration, a major issue in Britain's vote last week. Central European nations, led by Hungary, refuse to accept imposed EU refugee quotas, and countries further north have all tightened border controls in response to the arrival of more than one million migrants last year.

Britain's departure will also shift the balance of power within the EU, handing more weight to Germany's Merkel and emboldening eastern countries such as Poland that want a greater voice in the EU.