“Three major systems of exclusion hit the discourse: the forbidden word, the exclusion of madness, the will to truth.” (Michel Foucault: Die Ordnung des Diskurses, 2.12.1970; dt. 2019:16)
“The reporting on the (post) Brexit negotiations 2019-2020 is a textbook example of how the media increasingly steer social discourses and influence political decision-making processes that actually belong in the hands of the sovereign, the citizens. Foucault’s discource analysis makes media techniques aware to recognise what has not been said, to question doctrines and to form one’s own judgement. This makes it clear that the withdrawal of the United Kingdom (UK) means more to the European Union (EU) than the loss of a member. It is about the sovereignty to interpret “Europe” and about the direction European integration should take. The ambiguity of the European movement no longer has any place in this discourse and the narrative of a “natural” “spill-over”(neofunctionalism) of powers to Brussels thus becomes the only truth. The functionalist theory, which is based on cooperation between sovereign states, should no longer apply to European policy. Probably for this reason the national parliaments were denied the fact that Brussels had concluded other agreements with the UK in addition to the trade agreement, including on the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Finally, the ordoliberal approach can explain the dissent in the negotiations: the EU leaders place the sovereignty of the internal market above that of states. …”
THE APPLICATION OF FOUCAULT’S DISCOURSE ANALYSIS TO THE BREXIT NEGOTIATIONS (2016-20):
♦ According to Michel Foucault’s discourse analysis (1970), the following techniques were used to exclude discourse content: The exclusion of madness, the will to truth and commentary.
♦ With the appointment of Boris Johnson as British prime minister, the discourse on the post-Brexit negotiations has taken a new direction. He was initially called a „mad“, „lunatic“ or „autist“, and later „storyteller“, „loudmouth“ or „swindler“. This discredited his role as a serious contractor.
♦ Using the commentary, the revised Brexit Treaty (12.11.2019) could be reinterpreted. Thus, EU demands from the first draft (14.11.2018) came back on the agenda, namely the backstop for Northern Ireland and EU standards. Journalists considered the comments – no longer the treaty itself – to be authentic.
♦ These techniques prevented the publication of British proposals for successor agreements beyond the trade treaty. The German public was deceived and could no longer assess the opportunities offered by the negotiations with the UK.
♦ Behind the scenes, other treaties have been concluded and hidden from the citizens of the Union. One of these is an agreement on the peaceful use of nuclear energy. As it is not only relevant for the German energy transition, but has an influence on all EU members, the European Commission has exceeded its competences.
♦ While the European Commission led the negotiations for all successor agreements with the UK, France, Spain, Ireland and Cyprus were represented in specialised committees where they could bring in their national interests (nuclear energy, Gibraltar, Northern Ireland).
NEOFUNCTIONALISM IS THE DOMINATING THEORETICAL MODEL FOR THE EURPEAN UNION:
♦ The neofunctionalist approach of Ernst B. Haas (1958) says that state cooperation automatically leads to a spill-over, i.e. a transfer of national sovereignty to supranational institutions. This effect is regarded as a motor of European integration.
♦ Supporters of this approach argue that it is a further development of functionalism, which ex-plains its dominant position in European studies. It is just since the Brexit referendum (23.6.2016) that it considers a regression of integration processes possible. Neofunctionalism is gradually becoming “postfunctionalism“.
♦ With the final Brexit on 1.1.2021, the spill-over effect has been disproved. There is no automatic transfer of sovereignty to the supra-national level. The neo-functionalist theory thus loses its power of interpretation and must once again be measured against other approaches.
♦ This is a chance for European studies to renew itself in the sense of a return to more pluralism and competition between theories. The neofunctionalist approach loses its normative-ideological character, which means that European studies could attract more attention in the international scientific community.
FUNCTIONALISM IS BASED ON THE SOVEREIGNTY OF STATES AND INTERNATIONAL LAW:
♦ The functionalism of David Mitrany (1943) does not presuppose supranational structures for intergovernmental cooperation. It does not predict an automatic spill-over effect in the form of a transfer of sovereign rights to common institutions such as those in the EU.
♦ Its founder David Mitrany saw the neofunctionalist approach (Haas 1958 et al.) not as a further development, but as a competing theoretical approach, against which he critically argued throughout his life.
♦ David Mitrany’s argument was that the demand to waive sovereignty in favour of supra-national organisations is a major hurdle and can therefore prevent intergovernmental cooperation.
♦ This conclusion is not only valid in the historical context after the Second World War but is more topical than ever. The advantage of the neofunctionalist approach, is that it regards cooperation between (formerly) hostile states as possible and even necessary in the interest of peace.
ORDOLIBERALISM ANALYSES INTERDEPENDENCE OF ORDERS (e.g. POLITICS AND ECONOMY):
♦ This approach goes back to the German economist Walter Eucken (1959), the founder of the social market economy model. He starts from the thesis that there is a permanent interdependence, i.e. mutual dependence, between systems of order, mainly between economy and politics.
♦ Eucken defined two principles for an independent state economic policy: it should prevent the emergence of economic power groups, of private-sector or state monopolies and create a legally anchored framework instead of directing economic processes itself.
♦ This approach can explain an important dissent in the post-Brexit negotiations: Brussels has championed the primacy of the EU’s single market over the UK’s national sovereignty: “Our single market is our home market” (Michel Barnier, 29.5.2020).
♦ One result of the primacy of the internal market is not more competition, but the strengthening of monopoly suppliers. An example of this is the conclusion of a treaty between Brussels and London on the peaceful use of nuclear energy, which was quietly concluded for the benefit of large energy companies.
Sabine Riedel, Controversies around the Brexit. Discourse Analysis, Integration Theories and Ordoliberalism offer Insight and Orientation, in: Forschungshorizonte Politik & Kultur, Vol. 5, 2021/2, 12 p.
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Brexit-Vertrag 2018, Draft Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community, as agreed at negotiators’ level on 14 November 2018, TF50 (2018) 55 – Commission to EU27.
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Foucault 1991, Foucault, Michel, Die Ordnung des Diskurses, Frankfurt/M. 1991, 15. Auflage 2019, S. 9-49.
Eucken 1959, Walter Eucken, Grundsätze der Wirtschaftspolitik, Tübingen 1959, Ausgabe 1962.
gov.uk, 19.5.2020, Letter from the UK chief negotiator in the negotiations on the future relationship between the UK and the EU, David Frost, to the head of the UK Task Force of the EU Commission, Michel Barnier.
gov.uk, 27.5.2020, Cabinet Office, Policy paper. The UK’s approach to the Northern Ireland Protocol, Updated 27 May 2020.
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Haas 1958, Ernest B. Haas, The Uniting of Europe. Political, Social, and Economic Forces 1950-1957, Notre Dame, Indiana, USA 1958.
Mitrany 1943, David Mitrany, A World Peace System, 1943, Re-printed, Quadrangle Books, Chicago 1966, S. 93-113.
Withdrawal Agreeement 2019-I, Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community, Official Journal of the European Union, Vol. 62, 12.11.2019, 2019/C 384 I/ 01-177.
Withdrawal Agreement 2019-II, Political declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom, Official Journal of the European Union, Vol. 62, 12.11.2019, 2019/C 384 I/ 178-193.