The functioning of the single market becomes the main “raison d’être” of the EU27. Further progress depends on the capacity to agree related policies and standards. This proves easier for the free movement of capital and of goods, which continues tariff-free, than it does in other areas.
Given the strong focus on reducing regulation at EU level, differences persist or increase in areas such as consumer, social and environmental standards, as well as in taxation and in the use of public subsidies. This creates a risk of a “race to the bottom”. It is also difficult to agree new common rules on the mobility of workers or for the access to regulated professions. As a result, the free movement of workers and services is not fully guaranteed.
The euro facilitates trade exchanges but growing divergence and limited cooperation are major sources of vulnerability. This puts at risk the integrity of the single currency and its capacity to respond to a new financial crisis.
There are more systematic checks of people at national borders due to insufficient cooperation on security and migration matters.
Internal disagreements on the approach to international trade mean the EU struggles to conclude deals with its partners. Migration and some foreign policy issues are increasingly left to bilateral cooperation. Humanitarian and development aid is dealt with nationally.
The EU as a whole is no longer represented in a number of international fora as it fails to agree on a common position on issues of relevance to global partners such as climate change, fighting tax evasion, harnessing globalisation and promoting international trade.