A few capital cities acquire political personalities of their own, not always lovable ones. Donald Trump ran against “Washington” as much as he did against Hillary Clinton. For many people in Europe, “Brussels” is a political character—a bureaucrat plotting an ever-closer European union. That caricature has just staged a recovery that would put Lazarus to shame.
On the eve of the Brexit vote in June 2016, many people sensed that Brussels’ pulse was fading. Two of the European Union’s great projects from the 1990s—the euro and the Schengen Area of free movement—were in different forms of chaos, even as the third, the single market, was still incomplete. Businesspeople, especially from the Anglo-Saxon world, fumed at the EU’s unaccountable bureaucracy. Mismanagement had left the continent with a sluggish economy, too many insolvent banks, and no major tech companies. Politically, the Franco-German alliance that had driven the union forward had collapsed. Even Angela Merkel, who’d fought so hard to keep Europe together, made it clear her success was in spite of the homunculi in Brussels. READ MORE