How the European Union Works

The Future of the EU

Theresa May
U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May arrives for an EU Summit on Oct. 17, 2018, in Brussels, Belgium. Thierry Monasse/Getty Images

Another uncertainty in the EU's future (besides Brexit) is its relationship with the U.S., with which it traditionally has worked to develop trade with other parts of the world. But in 2017, the U.S. got a new president, Donald Trump, who disliked multilateral trade agreements and wanted to make bilateral deals between the U.S. and other countries [source: Archick]. According to Washington Post columnist Josh Rogin, at one point Trump even boldly asked French President Macron why he didn't quit the EU, and offered France a better trade deal if it left.

After Trump hit Europe with steel and aluminum tariffs in 2018, many feared that a trade war would erupt. But in July of that year, Trump and EU officials seemed to call a truce. European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and Trump stood side by side at the White House to announce a deal in which the EU agreed to buy billions of dollars in U.S. exports such as soybeans and natural gas, and the U.S. agreed to work with the Europeans to avoid additional tariffs [source: Smith and Rushe].


If those negotiations fail, the U.S. and the EU could continue to drift apart. Some experts think the EU might seek a closer relationship with China instead [source: Archick]. But never has the EU's future seemed so rife with uncertainties.

It wasn't too hard to understand why Macron and other European leaders seem determined to make the U.K. feel economic pain for leaving. That's because if the EU made it easy and painless to quit, there was a danger that other countries — especially ones with rising far-right, anti-immigration nationalist political movements, such as Sweden — might follow [sources: Kirk, Hix and Sitter].

Author's Note: How the European Union Works

When I was a boy, I read a lot about World War I and II and the terrible price that so many people paid in those conflicts. So it was interesting to learn more about Europe's effort to create institutions that promote cooperation rather than conflict.

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More Great Links


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