Who will benefit when the UK leaves the EU?

After all the challenges that had to be overcome on the way to Brexit, the remaining EU states will have to come to terms with the new conditions in the future. In many areas it is not yet clear what these will look like. 2020 will be a year of transition, in which the British will still remain part of the internal market and customs union and will pay their contribution to the EU budget.

Much remains to be negotiated with the British this year. For example, half of the fish caught in the EU come from British waters. But who will be allowed to catch which fish in which quantities there in the future is completely open.

For some changes, however, numbers can already be given:

It is trivial that the European Union with the United Kingdom is losing 5.6 percent of its current area of ​​4.46 million square kilometers. However, this also means that 9.8 percent of the agriculturally used area in the EU (174.5 million hectares) is lost. And the EU population shrinks by 66.6 million people in one fell swoop.

Changes in the EU Council of Ministers

The population decline is important for the distribution of power in the Council of Ministers, which acts as a legislator together with the European Parliament. Each member state sends a minister from its own government to this body.

Since 2014, a majority of 55 percent of the votes of the member states has been necessary for decisions there (so far 16 of 28 states, after Brexit 15 of 27 countries). The agreeing countries must also represent at least 65 percent of the EU population (double majority). But if there are at least four countries that make up more than 35 percent of the population, they can prevent laws as a blocking minority.

With Great Britain, one of the largest countries is now leaving the EU. The percentage of the EU population in the other countries is therefore growing. Before Brexit, for example, Germans made up 16.2 percent of the population, after which their share is 18.6 percent.

This effect has consequences. So, theoretically, for example, the ten largest net recipients in the EU (including Spain, Romania, Greece, Portugal and Hungary) have not been able to achieve a blocking minority because they made up only 31 percent of the population. That changes with Brexit, now they come to 36 percent.

Another example: So far, it has been possible for the heavily populated Germans together with the British, another large country (such as Poland) and a small country to create the blocking minority. After Brexit, it will also work with smaller Spain instead of Great Britain. Admittedly, votes are rarely so tight that the changes are likely to have a strong impact. In the future, however, it will be a little easier for the countries to threaten the blocking minority.

Changes in the European Parliament

Brexit will also change a lot in the European Parliament. With the departure of the British MPs, it will be smaller overall, but some of the vacant seats will also be filled. According to a decision by the European Council, 14 countries that have so far seen themselves too little represented have been awarded a total of 27 seats. Instead of 751 MPs now, there will be 705. France and Spain, which will have five more MEPs in the future, will benefit most from the distribution. The number of German MPs remains the same, as they already have the maximum number of 96 seats.

Brexit will not only change the weight of some countries, but also the strength of the political groups in the European Parliament. The Christian Democrats (EPP) do not lose a member, as there are no British among them, they even gain some. In contrast, ten Labor members leave the Social Democrats. In addition, 16 Liberal Democrats, seven Greens and a few more members of the left, green and liberal spectrum are eliminated.

The Conservatives are also losing a number of members. In particular, the number of non-attached parties is falling, as most of the members of the Brexit Party sat in their benches. (Differences to earlier representations stem from the fact that not all of the successors have been named and the size of the Left / Green and Conservatives factions have recently changed.) The 27 MPs who are newly distributed cannot, in any case, weaken the left spectrum cancel.

Change in national contributions to the EU budget

The gross domestic product of the EU will shrink significantly as a result of Brexit. In 2018 it was around 15.9 trillion euros, the UK's contribution was 2.4 trillion euros.

What happens if the UK defaults as a previous contributor from 2021? The country is one of the big "net contributors" who pay more into the EU budget than they get back from it. Other countries are "net recipients" who get more out than they pay in.

The budget balance that comes out sounds like bad business for some states and good business for others. However, this does not show the actual financial benefits that ultimately result from EU membership for the member states. When judging whether this is an advantage or a disadvantage, a number of things have to be taken into account, for example the effects of the internal market and the customs union.

Some EU states have called for the budget for the now 27 states to be reduced accordingly. In this way, however, the major challenges of the present - such as climate change and digitization - could not be mastered, the European Parliament countered. The gap left by the UK's exit in the budget for 2021 to 2027 should therefore be filled. Parliament has also significantly enlarged the committees for environmental issues and health, for industry, research and energy, and for international trade.

The then EU Commissioner Günther Oettinger estimated the coming budget gap to initially be twelve billion euros in a total budget of around 160 billion euros per year - a gap that would slowly increase to 14 billion euros a year. It is intended to be absorbed, among other things, by eliminating all discounts on contribution payments that some countries, including Germany, have negotiated for themselves in order to avoid an excessive burden.

In particular, however, the member states should pay higher contributions. Germany is the largest contributor. Against the background of the economic performance, the country comes off relatively cheap. Its contribution is to increase from the current 0.75 percent of gross national income (GNI / GNI, annual average over the period 2014-2020) to 0.88 percent (2021-2027). This means that the Germans are below the EU average (0.9 percent). Almost all EU members have to give up a higher share than Germany.

When it comes to the contributions of the payer and recipient, it should not be forgotten that the advantages and disadvantages of EU membership cannot only be assessed on the basis of the balance. After all, the EU promises a certain political security and stability, free movement of people and trade. In principle, the EU's aim is to promote economic, social and territorial cohesion and solidarity between the Member States. It sees itself as a peace-keeping community based on solidarity, in which the stronger members support the weaker ones and disadvantaged regions receive help in order to develop.

Financial losses for the citizens of the EU

What the Brexit will cost the people in the European Union directly can only be estimated - and the numbers vary. In particular, the development depends on whether there will be a "hard" Brexit or whether the negotiations between the remaining EU countries and the British will lead to a "soft" Brexit. A study for the Bertelsmann Foundation in 2019 came to the conclusion that a hard Brexit would cost Germans 115 euros per capita per year, while a soft Brexit would only cost 64 euros.

Reputation of the EU in member states

Brexit has strengthened the EU opponents in the other EU member states. However, the majority of people still think their countries' membership is a good thing and have a positive opinion of the EU, according to a 2019 survey by the Pew Research Center in the USA. In a number of countries, however, this majority is just barely - just as close as in Great Britain.

For the supporters of the EU, the results of a survey from 2018 are not very welcome, which showed that most of the EU, while viewing the EU as conducive to peace, are also convinced that it does not understand the needs of its citizens, it is ineffective and overriding is. Much remains to be done for Parliament and the Council of Ministers of the reduced EU once the Brexit chaos is over.