Observers of the European Union (EU) could be forgiven for thinking that the EU is in a state of permanent crisis. Since late 2009, when a newly elected Greek government announced that the country’s budget deficit was far higher than had previously been revealed, the EU has been managing a Eurozone (sovereign debt) crisis, which has occasionally seemed more acute and sometimes subsided. Since 2014, when popular protests overthrew the Ukrainian president, Russia invaded Crimea and armed conflict broke out between Russian-supported separatists and the Ukrainian army in the eastern regions of the country, the EU has been dealing with a ‘Ukraine crisis’ involving it in a confrontation with its largest and most powerful neighbouring state. In 2015, after the ‘Arab Spring’ that broke out in 2011 culminated in large-scale political violence and conflict in North Africa and the Middle East, especially in Syria, the sudden and rapid growth in the number of persons seeking to flee conflict zones in this region and migrate to Europe – by land or by sea – added a refugee crisis to the pre-existing ones and jeopardized the Schengen Area of borderless travel. While the EU was grappling with these crises, a fourth one developed over British membership of the EU after Prime Minister Cameron scheduled a popular referendum over the issue for June 2016. The referendum produced a 52 per cent majority in favour of withdrawal that the British government aimed to carry out by March 2019. The withdrawal of a member state, one of its three biggest, from the EU would be unprecedented.
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Prof. Douglas Webber
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