Scenario Two: Nothing But The Single Market: Overview

Scenario two in the white paper, presents a much different picture of the future of Europe than that of scenario one (or what we recognise today). Under this scenario the EU recognises its failure to form a broad consensus on many of the critical issue facing the continent. Having found that issues such as migration, security and monetary policy, have been too divisive to form any effective policy to address the root problems, the EU decides to shift its focus. The EU27, therefore abandon many of their commitments, instead shifting to focus purely on the key aspects of the Single Market. The new direction of the EU also requires a widescale reduction in the number of regulations imposed by Europe, implementing a policy of removing two regulations for every new one added.

By 2025, the gradual shift toward the Single Market, has dramatically changed Europe. Issues surrounding the free movement of people, capital, goods and services have been easier to negotiate solutions to, than the other challenges facing the EU. As a result, the EU sees a large reduction in cooperation between member states, leading to a much more uncertain future for the European project.

The white paper paints a picture of scenario two as a Union that is disjointed, where member states increasingly compete against one another. Consumer standards and corporate tax rates become eroded, raising the danger of a “race to the bottom” within the EU27. Furthermore, the emergence of an out of sync EU also will have significant ramifications, not only to the integrity of the Euro, but also to the ability for the Eurozone to react, quickly and confidently to any future economic crises.

Key tenets of the EU are also called into question through this shift in focus. The free movement of workers and services cannot be guaranteed with certainty as members take more nationally focused decisions. As scenario two plays out, the Schengen region of Europe, faces increasing disruption and challenges. These consequences highlight how this shift in EU focus would radically change the Union from what we know today.

By shifting to a concentration, solely on the Single Market, the EU’s ability to negotiate trade deals with other countries and regions is greatly diminished. Failure to agree common positions on a wide variety of issues, leads not only to failed trade deals but also to a failure of leadership. The EU’s role as a positive influence in global affairs is weakened, no longer will other international partners be able to rely on the EU27 to remain united on challenges such as climate change and international development.

As internal disputes between members are likely to increase, nations will be forced to solve these grievances bilaterally and on a case by case basis. As the EU27 experience limited consensus, the gap between what is delivered and what is expected is likely to grow. Posing yet another risk to the EU under this scenario, one of increasing unpopularity among the citizenry.

The greatest challenge presented by pursuing scenario two, is the erosion of the of cooperation and cohesion. While the movement of goods and capital is strengthened, the same cannot be said regarding the movement of people and services. Limited collaboration produces no unified economic or monetary policy, similarly, there is no progress made towards a single migration/asylum policy and the rise of internal borders in mainland Europe. The shift toward the Single Market, however, would make decision making easier, but issues are often solved bilaterally.


The white paper highlights no positive snapshots of this scenario, instead focusing on issues such as, the increased costs of health care for those who fall ill abroad, failed trade deals, differing regulations creating varying standards of goods, water and air quality and the capacity for the EU to respond coherently to large scale cyberattacks.

Senator Neale Richmond is the Fine Gael spokesman on EU Affairs in Seanad Éireann

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