With the United Kingdom’s departure from the European Union, it is appropriate to reflect on the future social pathways now open to the European Union, made more possible perhaps by the UK’s exit. For example, could Brexit result in an EU in which considerations of social citizenship and rights are elevated up the agenda in Brussels? Could the EU’s focus hitherto on ever-closer economic union and international competitiveness be shifted towards the European Pillar of Social Rights so as to strengthen it, make it more tangible in citizens’ lives and central to a renewed EU agenda? A reinvigorated social Europe may yet arise from the Covid-19 pandemic and its tragic consequences owing to a widespread, recovered recognition, not only of the state’s positive role in managing such crises, but of how it can play a decisive, transformative role in our lives for the better.
Matthew Donoghue is Departmental Lecturer in Comparative Social Policy at the University of Oxford. His current work has focuses on the political economy of social cohesion, social citizenship and socio-economic resilience.
Mikko Kuisma is Research Fellow in Comparative Public Policy at the University of Tübingen. Before joining Tübingen in 2017, he worked at Oxford Brookes University, European University Institute in Florence, Aberystwyth University and the University of Birmingham.
This book correctly emphasises the need to place the future of social rights in Europe front and centre in the post-Brexit debate, to move on from the economistic bias that has obscured our vision of a progressive social Europe. I welcome, too, the inclusion of chapters examining the consequences of Brexit on Irish-British relations, as well as its socio-economic implications for households and families, and the complexities of migration within and beyond the EU—all issues that were regrettably overlooked in the pre-Brexit, rancorous debate.
New ideas are now available—ideas based on equality, universal public services, equity of access, sufficiency, sustainability—that will allow for a social Europe embedded in an alternative paradigm of social economy within ecological responsibility, now so urgently desired across the streets of Europe. Out of the wreckage and tragedy of Covid-19, let us all work together with an enhanced spirit of commitment to the delivery of social rights for all Europeans.
Michael D Higgins
President of Ireland
The EU invented a Pillar of Social Rights in 2017. The authors of this book explore whether it became a game-changer, and if various aspects of social citizenship would affect post-Brexit relations between the UK and the remaining 27 member states. In the shadow of Covid-19, it is even more important to ask.
General Secretary of the Foundation for European Progressive Studies and a former European Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Inclusion