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The European Union will collapse as early as 2017
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The EU is broken

It's said that at least five countries - including France, the Netherlands, Austria, Finland and Hungary - are debating their own exit strategy. What else can we conclude? The EU is broken and not working!

In France, Francois Hollande faces a challenge for his leadership with an election in April. He is currently the least-popular French President on record, in charge of a country where a recent poll revealed a population more Euro-sceptic even than the British.

Figures from the Pew Research Center, which specialises in social policy, show only 38 per cent of French people were in favour of the EU, compared to 44 per cent of Brits.

house of cards

If pro-European Hollande loses, and Front National leader Marine Le Pen emerges victorious, she has pledged to hold a French referendum on EU membership. This could be key to the house of cards collapsing.

Although there are 28 member states of the EU, for decades it has been driven by the Franco-German Alliance. If this fractures, the whole thing will fall apart.

And let's not forget, next September Germany faces an election too. In an INSA poll for Cicero magazine in May, two thirds of Germans did not want Angela Merkel to continue in office as leader of their coalition government. And in Germany is the AFD party, again right-wing and anti-immigration.

When our own Prime Minister, Theresa May, finally triggers Article 50 to signal our exit, major questions - such as who is going to fund the UK net contribution to the EU budget - will be raised.

But behind it all is that issue of immigration - a record number of 1.3m migrants applied for asylum in Europe in 2015, nearly double the previous highest figure of 700,000 in 1992 when the Iron Curtain came down, according to research by Eurostat, an EU research agency. It unites the anti-EU mood of European people, but threatens to sever our common bond of belonging to the EU. In the UK, we had UKIP to force the issue: in mainland Europe, the far-right, anti-immigration protest is not always as polite.

It has the potential for serious trouble. Above all, countries want their sovereignty back so they can make their own decisions, especially on who is allowed into their country.

So what happens next?

It is clear that Europeans, including the British, enjoy the free trade agreement which membership of the EU offers. However, it is obvious that all of us resent the Brussels bureaucracy and the excesses associated with it.

Britain has voted to leave and appears to be thriving, despite all the predictions to the contrary. We should return to the old concept of the Common Market that served Europe from 1958 to 1993.

The UK is Germany's third-most important trade partner, according to Destasis, a German statistical agency. Why should this be scuppered just because we have left the EU?

The Common Market was a "Free Trade Area" with relatively free movement of capital and services. It was politically uncomplicated and didn't interfere in sovereign governments, or loom over individual lives with petty rules and regulations.

Bringing it back will not happen overnight. But it should start to be discussed, because unless there is a major turn-around in public opinion, 2017 will be the start of the end for the European Union as we know it.

Author: Neil Andrews

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