The European Union & Development

Jonathan Purcell looks at the relationship between the European Union and developing countries, as well as how the EU helps and hinders increased globalisation and development.

The mainstream media has been carefully and diligently analysing all of the effects of the EU (European Union). Of course, this is to be expected as these are the areas where the effects will be felt most by readers, but the effects of Brexit will be felt worldwide, as is the way in an increasingly globalised world.

I have always been confident of the positive impacts that the EU has on Britain. However, one issue regarding the European project is the Common External Tariff (often known simply as the

PROmachiavelliBE/Creative Commons License

PROmachiavelliBE/Creative Commons License

CET). In simple terms, this means that any good made outside of Europe has a charge imposed on it if anyone living in the EU wants to buy it. This means that developing countries have often been hampered by the EU because the tariff makes goods outside of the common marketmore expensive than goods made within the union.

Therefore, if the European Union were to be dissolved, it is likely that the world would become more equal. (Having said that, I’m not sure if this was the main thought at the forefront of the minds of 17 million Brexit voters last Thursday!)

Also, even though the breakup of the European Union may be beneficial for developing countries, Britain leaving the European Union is not necessarily the same as the European Union being abolished. Indeed, one of the biggest questions of Brexit is whether or not it is the catalyst for other countries to leave the EU. I think that the United Kingdom is not the centrepiece of the European project, and the EU will survive Britain’s departure. Assuming this, then developing countries would see very little increase in trade as 27 countries in Europe will still be imposing tariffs against them. This means that Brexit will not drastically increase development in less developed countries.

Indeed, there is also the question of whether or not the European Union increases or decreases globalisation. The EU was not set up specifically to promote globalisation. This would be difficult considering the Treaty of Rome predated the concept of globalisation by at least 15 years. Having said this, there is very much the sense that the EU has come to represent more than an economic agreement. The EU has evolved into a celebration of European culture and unity shared by European nations. Indeed this evolution of the EU is part of the reason why many Britons became more and more wary of the EU over time. Regardless, what does all this mean for globalisation?

Bill Bedzrah/Creative Commons License

Bill Bedzrah/Creative Commons License

Certainly, the EU has strived to promote cohesion between European nations. Whether or not it has succeeded is certainly put in doubt by Thursday’s vote but the intention was certainly there. However, even if the EU was successful in promoting European unity, this could actually hamper a globalised world. If globalisation strives to remove national barriers, then where does the EU fit in if it plans to break down national barriers but strengthen continental barriers? It seems that this is a matter of opinion.

The UK may benefit most from globalisation within the EU. Instead of pursuing trade deals with the EU and the rest of the world, it should promote expansion of the EH itself.

The European Union has dabbled with expansion beyond European borders in the past. Indeed, Greenland was an EU member until 1985, when fishing disagreements led to Greenland’s departure. More recently, Turkey had attempted to join the EU which was so infamously used by Vote Leave. Greenland is in North America (just) and Turkey is in both Europe and Asia. The proposed TTIP trade agreement between the USA and the EU is perhaps a further sign of EU ambition.

Perhaps the solution to promoting globalisation and promoting development is the same. The continued expansion of the European Union into the world union involving all nations could solve both of these issues.

However, this would take global coordination to rectify all geopolitical issues, conflicts and tensions worldwide.

It would also require British cooperation with the EU.

I’m not sure if either seem likely.


The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Development in Action.


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