Opinions Brexit

Remain & Reform

An opinion piece from Bruno Le Roux & Thomas Oppermann


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Shortly before the referendum on Great Britain’s European Union membership, the chairmen of the SPD’s parliamentary group in the Bundestag and the “groupe socialiste, écologiste et républicain” in the French National Assembly joined together to present their propositions in light of the current EU crisis. With regard to the possibility of a “Brexit”, Thomas Oppermann and Bruno Le Roux support the Member States’ rapprochement and a closer cooperation with the objective of implementing new reforms, in particular between France and Germany.


We are looking at the referendum in Great Britain with strong concern. We hope that this great, open-minded nation with its democratic tradition and dynamic economy will not turn away from Europe. We wish for a strong EU with the United Kingdom! The murder of Jo Cox fills us with deep sorrow. She fought for the European ideals. “Brexit” is threatening in a situation where European unification is in danger. Nationalism is forging ahead in many countries in the form of populism, separatism and right-wing extremism. The French and Germans bear a particular responsibility. The Socialist Party in France and the German Social Democracy want to live up to their responsibility together, also as governing parties and parliamentary factions. More than ever, the EU is our answer to globalisation.

The Union needs to gain momentum again. We know from history: the Franco-German cooperation is crucial for finding compromises in the service of the whole Union. In Europe’s current situation, national solutions are no solutions. We need willingness to cooperate. The EU’s problems are also a crisis of member states being too reluctant to take action. At the same time, the EU institutions need to concentrate more on the essentials and demonstrate the concrete benefits of Europe.

Our principles: Without peace, everything else is nothing, human dignity is inviolable, as legal community, separation of powers is indispensable. Every EU state can only do well if the other members are not doing bad. Our values: Freedom, justice, solidarity – liberté, egalité, fraternité! The French Revolution’s principles have been decisive for the important European ideas since 1848 and are leitmotifs of our action. On the day before the British referendum we Social Democrats send a signal for a new start in Europe. Whatever the referendum result, the opportunity to reform the EU and to strengthen the Eurozone arises – to make it more social, more people-oriented, more competitive. The Eurozone has to remain open to all EU states that accept the rules.

We suggest:

  1. The following principle needs to apply again: Companies pay their taxes where they generate their profits. We want to fight tax dumping and tax evasion by all means. Like this, we open new scopes for investments in the state budgets. Growth is indispensable for overcoming the investment recession and employment crisis in Europe. Beyond the Juncker plan, we need initiatives for the digital field, for education and research, classic infrastructure and the energy turnaround.
  2. The fight against high youth unemployment in Europe needs to be continued. We want to further strengthen the EU’s social dimension. This includes pan-European corridors of minimum wages, depending on the national economic performance. A European social union also includes minimum standards for employee rights, security systems and co-determination. Fundamental social rights need to be protected.
  3. The monetary union needs to become the driving force of economic and social progress again. Therefore, we want to develop the Eurozone into a fully operational economic union with an own budget. The Eurozone needs to guarantee the stabilisation of asymmetric economic developments, as well as the macroeconomic convergence by supporting investments and the member states’ solidarity, but without redistribution or long-term transfers. This budget should be democratically controlled by a parliamentary representation. In this respect, the financial transaction tax, initiated by PS and SPD, remains an important component.
  4. We need a new European asylum system, in which not only countries with external borders bear the burden. If receiving refugees in a humane way fails in all member states, then Europe fails. What is needed are new trust and common rules, which are respected by everyone. The EU’s decisions in regard to the allocation of refugees need to be implemented. And we should redeploy the EU budget in order to provide means for addressing the root causes of migration and for economic cooperation, in particular with Africa.
  5. We will defend our values, our freedom and democracy against terrorism. Better instruments against crime and terrorism are not the opposite of freedom, but means of securing freedom. We need a closer cooperation of intelligence, a secure data exchange and a revitalisation of Europol and Eurojust.
  6. Both of our countries are aware of the fact, that domestic policy is depending on foreign policy decisions. Therefore we wish for a closer cooperation in security issues. We advocate a deeper integration of European defence policy. Despite of all the differences of opinion when it comes to details, there is a deep sense of belonging and mutual empathy between France and Germany. Together we affirm: The most important national interest of France and Germany – as that of all other EU states – remains the European unification.

Bruno Le Roux is President of Socialist, Ecological and Republican Group in the French National Assembly.

Thomas Oppermann is President of the SPD Parliamentary Group in the German Bundestag.

This article was first published in German on Frankfurter Rundschau online.