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The British vote to leave the European Union has triggered a debate — or as Spiegel puts it, a raging power struggle — in the rest of Europe about the proper way to respond. The leaders of Europe are divided, first, about how uncompromising the EU should be in negotiating the terms of the British exit:
For those in favor of a strong and powerful EU, for those who always saw the UK as a bothersome obstacle in their path, the British withdrawal process can’t proceed fast enough. Plus, French President Hollande and others want to use Britain as an example to show the rest of Europe how bleak and uncomfortable life can be when one leaves the house of Europe. Hollande, of course, has good reason for his approach: The right-wing populist party Front National has threatened to follow Cameron’s example should party leader Marine Le Pen emerge victorious in next year’s presidential elections. European Commission President Juncker wants deeper EU integration. German Chancellor Merkel does not.
The even more important question is what the European Union is to become. Is the lesson of Brexit that the remaining states must pursue a closer union, or is it that they must return powers from Brussels to national governments? Both answers make sense. It’s clear that the EU as presently constituted isn’t strong enough to deal with crises of the kind Europe has faced in the past decade. It’s also clear that it’s strong enough to alienate a significant portion of Europe’s population.