Some of the EU’s critics see current times as similar to pre Revolution France in the later eighteenth century. The EU Commissioners keep telling discontented voters to eat cake. The modern equivalent is to tell them obeying EU rules and targets will get them a job in due course. Mrs Merkel, the nearest to an EU sovereign, occasionally pops out and assures us that bit more German discipline around the place will soon solve the problems of the troubled states.
So the EU critics think there will be sudden outburst from the ungovernable hordes. They think it may take the form of a move on more weak banks as in Cyprus, or voting for anti establishment parties as in Greece until they have a majority, or a trans EU strike by taxpayers and voters refusing to co-operate any more with the Ancien regime officials and their constant demands for more money and more obedience from their subjects.
I do not think there will be a single trans EU revolution. The forces against the EU are very split by geography, preoccupation, language and political affiliation. One of the ironies of the situation is that because the EU has not succeeded in making a single European demos, there is no single political community to unite against it.
This does not mean, however, that the current EU is stable and proof against opposition. I suspect rather the change will come as it did in the Reformation in sixteenth century Europe. Peoples in different parts of the Catholic empire had different reasons for disliking Catholic authority. They adopted different means of getting out from the Catholic supremacy, and did it at different times. Although the Catholic powers at the beginning seemed to have all the cards, they lost much of their empire in a devastating thirty years. The Catholics started with the intellectuals, the lawcodes and the armies all on their side. They ended by losing most of Germany, Scandinavia, the Netherlands, and the UK . The fault lines from this can still be seen in modern EU negotiations.
So how did the Reformation work? It began with the thoughts and writings of intellectuals using the new technology of the printed book and pamphlet to good effect to spread new and rebellious ideas. Today the anti forces have the more powerful and immediate internet.
It passed to the Princes and Parliaments. In the UK we held a Reformation because the Catholic government of Rome did not undertsand how serious the issue of the King’s marriage was to UK politics. In the Netherlands popular displeasure with the Catholic Church was bound up with the wish for self government, out of the hands of the Hapsburgs. In Switzerland their progress to a unique independent democracy took a step forward with a quiet Reformation, secure behind their mountain passes.
Today the Parliaments have still taken a pro EU line, but as the votes stack up complaints with the Ancien regime we should look for change to come in the more Eurosceptic countries. May it be peaceful, and may it be soon.