The European Union is like a zoo, where some inhabitants thrive in protected conservation while others are trapped and desperate to escape. It was conceived by France and Germany for their own geopolitical reasons. Yet everyone wanted in, joining appeared to make new members wealthier. But that was all temporary. Euro convergence meant that the PIGS gained access to low interest loans for the first time, so they borrowed heavily. The black swan collapse of Lehman Brothers triggered a series of events that suddenly exposed their blood red balance sheets. And a decade later the troika is still applying lipstick to the cadaver.
Britain's decision never to join the Eurozone was definitely correct. Their more recent choice to exit the EU altogether may or may not be wise in the long run. Either way the Brexit referendum was less about economics and more about nationalism. Huge populations migrating from Eastern Europe to Western Europe became a fear. But it wasn't just the xenophobes that felt uneasy. Learned technocrats got bothered by the types of laws being created from Brussels. The legal system in Britain is based on a tradition of being built up from below by judgements of the court. The system on the continent however, spread by Napoleon's conquests, is one where laws are imposed more heavily from above.
The practicalities of Brexit will take a while. Getting divorced is more complicated than getting married. But in time it may lead to additional members departing. It will of course be easier for countries like Denmark and Sweden to leave first because they're not on the euro. And they've already watched Norway never actually join the EU, without drawbacks. If there is an unsolvable monetary crisis in the Eurozone then maybe those countries will leave first. All bets might be off at that point. Perhaps Europe as a whole is simply too dynamic to be governed by a superstate. Since WWII the map has been shaking like a coin in Coke bottle. Germany was split in two then reformed. The USSR collapsed. Chechoslovakia divided. Yugoslavia dispersed. Russia has annexed Crimea. Scotland may seek independence. Nation states cannot hold themselves together in the same shape, not forever.
Helmut Kohl and Francois Mitterrand dreamed that the EU would embrace Germany with France so tightly that that they would never go to war again. In that respect it has been a huge success. But there have also been unintended consequences for other players, negative outcomes for millions of people. Before U2 became a re-hash of themselves they released the interesting album Zooropa. It was recorded in 1993 just after the Maastricht Treaty was signed but before it came into effect, while taking time off from their Zoo TV tour - a concert series that visited most of the countries now in the EU. In some ways the album captures the zeitgeist of that time. The opening and title track Zooropa was created by mashing together different pieces of music they had laying around and it is bright. The closing track The Wanderer is one of their best-crafted songs and it is dark, so much so that they needed Johnny Cash to sing it. The lyrics describe a man searching for goodness across a post-Apocalyptic landscape, unable to secure it but nevertheless trying.