European Council, 2017
Prime Minister Theresa May of the United Kingdom has invoked Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union, setting into motion (irreversibly, according to her) the unprecedented procedure for a member state of the EU to leave. Meanwhile, far-right candidate Marine le Pen has just eked out a victory in the French presidential election against centrist Emmanuel Macron, riding on a wave of anti-EU and xenophobic populism that has been bubbling within the nation for decades. Although she had previously risen to fame on a strict “Frexit,” her moderating pivot during the election softened her stance, calling into genuine uncertainty the future of France within the EU.
The remaining twenty-eight member states’ heads of state, under the auspices of the European Council, have begun meeting regularly to navigate both negotiations with the UK as well as whatever comes out of France. Additionally, the council will have to manage other pressing contemporary issues facing the EU, such as failing energy policies, challenges to the euro mechanism, and the ongoing global refugee crisis. Ultimately though, with at least one nation set to permanently leave, the European Council will need to work with the other component institutions of the EU to reform the organization itself so that it may survive the 21st century.