In December 2011, euractiv.com’s partner, Milano Finanza, published a scenario put together by British historian Niall Ferguson. It concerned Europe in 2021 and his predictions are already starting to materialise.
One of the major events that he foresaw in his irreverent, but clearly well thought out, take on the future of Europe was the UK withdrawing from the EU. Mirroring real life, David Cameron also called a referendum and the Leave camp earned a crushing 60% majority of votes. The Conservatives were able to translate this momentum to Westminster where they then earned a majority.
Following this, the UK then became the destination of choice for Chinese foreign investment, leading to strong economic growth, contrasting heavily with the austerity that continued to weigh down the mainland. As a result, Ireland subsequently decided to join the UK.
The other exits envisaged by Ferguson included Sweden, Denmark and Finland, who all decided to accept Norway’s proposal to join up with Iceland and form the Norse League. The populist and xenophobic parties of those nations, like the True Finns, grew significantly as a result.
Of course, no one can accurately predict the future and some of Ferguson’s prophecies have failed to materialise (yet). In his Europe, the EU no longer exists, having been replaced by the United States of Europe (USE) via the Treaty of Potsdam in 2014. This new bloc retained some of its current members, including the remaining former Yugoslav states that have not yet joined our EU. Furthermore, Belgium split up into Flanders and Wallonia.
Ferguson’s USE inevitably ended up being guided and dominated to an extent by Germany. Angela Merkel’s coalition ended up losing a decisive election that was ultimately won by the country’s socialists (the SPD). Merkel’s undoing came from her decision to bail out Deutsche Bank with public money.
The SPD then pursued similar policies, albeit with more pro-European convictions. Their success in securing treaty change led to the creation of the European Finance Funding Office (affectionately referred to by the Brits as EffOff), a de facto European Treasury Department that was headquartered in Vienna rather than Brussels.
The USE is dominated even more so by the northern member states, with the countries of the south acting as mere holiday destinations for the citizens of the north. Italy, Greece, Portugal and Spain all see their average population age rise, along with unemployment. But their economies remained stable to some extent because of the influx of northern money.
In an odd repeat of history, Karl von Habsburg, whose ancestors ruled much of Europe between the 15th and 18th centuries, becomes European President, in Ferguson’s fantasy narrative. A Catholic conservative, Habsburg served as an MEP for the EPP-affiliated Austrian People’s Party between 1996 and 1999.