The Brief – A Day without Europe

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter.

During a recent discussion about the future of the EU, one of the speakers suggested that there should be a “Day without Europe”, in the same way that cities hold an annual day without cars, or some people go offline from the web for 24 hours.

Tomislav Dontchev, the politician who came up with the idea, said it would be a day when people would need visas to cross borders and would pay customs duties to import goods. “This would drastically reduce the number of Eurosceptics”, he said.

We could imagine such a day. You go to the shop to buy the usual – some food, some cosmetics. You pay for your purchase, and you get two receipts: one for the price with the EU, and the other one where the goods had been imported from the continent and subject to customs duties.

Then you go to your office, and the first thing you see on your computer screen is an email from your boss who says he can no longer employ you unless you produce a working permit.

Moseying on through Brussels, you take out your mobile phone to call a friend in Poland. Before you establish the connection, you receive a voice message: “Without the EU, this conversation would cost you €2.50 per minute for roaming charges”.

Or you go to the airport to catch a flight. Everything goes as usual, except that when you waltz through border control, you receive a leaflet informing you that without the EU, you need to join a queue and prepare your passport and a visa.

Incidentally, there is a big video screen nearby, showing people actually queuing for visas, and gathering all the necessary documents to get the precious stamp on their passport. Some of the passengers are old enough to remember this, others are surprised to find out how inconvenient it was.

Then you are a little bit surprised because your luggage is searched, like in those movies of old. Nothing bad happens as you’re not carrying anything illegal, but the customs officer tells you that without the EU, you would need to declare several items.

He also advises you that when you come back, you should prepare to pay customs duties. Of course, this would be in case the EU is no longer there when you return.

Then you arrive at your destination and take a taxi. The driver tells you that without the EU, your money is not good and that he doesn’t accept anything but local currency. After your initial shock, he tells you he was just joking.

Next, you withdraw some money from an ATM, just some petty cash to buy lunch. The cash machine works but the screen tells you the transaction costs €5. You get mad but then you see the fine print: this fee would only apply if the EU didn’t exist.

But when would we hold this Day without Europe? The 29 March seems apt.

The Roundup

By Alexandra Brzozowski

Everyone expected the Brexit deal to be defeated but the House of Commons went one step beyond, rejecting it by a landslide majority. While the UK looked at London with anticipation, the Brussels bubble had its very own style of public viewing.

Brexiteers suggest that a ‘no deal would be more Millennium Bug than Armageddon’, while Council President Donald Tusk has already hinted at a possible Brexit cancellation, as the UK government heads for full-blown crisis.

As the euro turns 20, leaders of the EU’s main institutions called on member states to complete the reform of the Economic and Monetary Union.

Greece continues to be in a political uproar as PM Alexis Tsipras goes against all in the Greek parliament on the North Macedonia name deal.

The German intelligence service will review all public actions taken by the far-right AfD party and its officials and may subject it to continuous monitoring if suspicions of ‘contempt for democracy and human dignity’ are confirmed.

This year’s Davos forum promises to be an interesting one:  rethinking the very concept of multilateralism will feature heavily.

MEPs agreed to continue funding a nuclear fusion project that could revolutionise the way power is generated. But as is the case with these grand endeavours, costs and delays are a worry.

Electric and self-driving cars are coming, so two of the world’s largest marques have joined forces in an attempt to compete with the world’s biggest titans of the industry.

An award-winning investigative reporter was sentenced to one-and-a-half years in prison in Montenegro on drug trafficking charges, in a ruling slammed as a “disturbing set-back” for press freedom.

Social outcomes in cohesion policy remain relatively obscure for the general public compared to economic developments, a recent project study has found.

Our caption contest is still open! It involves Juncker and a man in an amazing hat. Send us your best entries here.

Look out for…

How could it be otherwise – the vote of no confidence against British PM Theresa May’s government in the House of Commons after she suffered a crushing defeat yesterday night.

Views are the author’s

Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic and Sam Morgan

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