Wednesday

20th Feb 2019

Opinion

London alone cannot find all Brexit 'solutions'

  • It takes two to tango - Brexit requires solutions from Brussels, not just London (Photo: European Commission)

Since becoming prime minister Theresa May has made clear her desire to forge a "deep and special partnership" between Britain and the EU post-Brexit. I want that too and believe it would be in the interests of both sides.

But to make it happen we must have a genuine exchange of ideas over how the new relationship might work and I am concerned many in Brussels still believe that because Britain voted to leave the EU, it must come up with all the solutions.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

This view is being used to justify a refusal to budge on key issues like the sequencing of talks and the content of the deals being struck on citizens' rights, the financial settlement and Ireland.

Yet it singularly ignores the long-term opportunities and costs for Europe.

When the rest of the world looks at the Brexit negotiations, it sees a European problem that the European continent must work together to solve.

Whether that is Australian officials saying "the onus is on the EU as well", or the Japanese government calling for London to maintain its euro clearing rights.

Placing the entire burden of responsibility on Britain also fails to understand the result of the shifting political plates.

Washing hands

Europe cannot wash its hands of Brexit. Those who support the political project of the union – a union of European people with common ideals in the pursuit of prosperity – must ask themselves what went so wrong for 17.4 million Europeans to vote against it.

When over one million more people vote leave than vote remain in any European nation, there are lessons for all of Europe to learn.

If the European project is valuable then it must be able to work for all those involved.

The competing visions set out by Jean-Claude Juncker and Emmanuel Macron are attempts to answer this question, but the assertion that Britain is to blame has already had a poisonous consequence in the negotiations.

The EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier claims that the negotiations "are not about concessions".

His implication is that Britain must sign up to all of the Commission's demands, whether it is the direct jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in the UK, which would lead to an unprecedented situation of a sovereign nation being bound by the court of an organisation of which it is not a member; or a maximalist interpretation of on-going financial obligations that has a weak moral case and an even poorer legal one.

Sensible proposals

Meanwhile EU negotiators have stalled or rejected sensible proposals from the UK, many of which would have a significant benefit for people on both sides of the English channel.

Both sides are sensibly starting from the position that citizens should be able to enjoy the rights they currently have in the same way once Britain leaves the EU. The devils lie in the detail, and it is here where sensible suggestions have been dismissed.

The British side wants to work to ensure both sets of citizens can continue to vote and stand in municipal elections. The EU says this is a matter for member states and has refused to lift a finger to deliver it.

On the mutual recognition of professional qualifications, whose origins are in a liberalising EU Directive which has benefited Europe immeasurably, the EU has not agreed that citizens studying for a qualification at the point at which Britain leaves the EU should have those qualifications recognised across the EU.

Finally, the UK government offered to give EU citizens with settled status in the UK the unlimited right to return, beyond the two years currently offered by the free movement directive, in exchange for the continuation of onward movement rights for UK citizens who live in the EU. The EU is yet to accept or reject this offer.

These proposals would go a long way to reassuring some of the people nervous about what Brexit could mean for their lives. The fact that supposed champions of citizens' rights in the European Parliament have ignored them is a terrible shame.

Giving ground

There are things to be positive about in the negotiations, such as progress on the Irish border issue and the continuing optimism of the two negotiators.

But ultimately a successful conclusion will only come from both sides giving ground.

On the financial settlement the EU is currently asking Britain to part with €40 billion to €60 billion in exchange for only a transition agreement and the promise of a trade deal.

That is untenable, but the UK government could pay a larger share of its obligations if the EU allowed it to be presented in the context of the future relationship.

Solutions lie within our grasp. However, while important figures continue to believe that all the responsibility lies with Britain, the talks will go nowhere and everyone will lose out.

Ashley Fox is leader of the UK Conservative MEPs

Bulgaria calls for West Balkan EU integration after Brexit

The UK leaving the EU gives an opportunity to bring the Western Balkans closer, Bulgaria's PM said in Brussels. Bulgaria will hold the upcoming rotating presidency, while Juncker said Serbia and Montenegro will be EU members by 2025.

UK pledges easy registration for EU citizens after Brexit

Ahead of Brexit negotiations later this week, the UK government insists that its planned new system for EU citizens applying for a "settled status"after Brexit will be "streamlined, low-cost and user-friendly."

EU awaits UK money offer to begin transition work

As Brexit talks continue in Brussels, the EU-27 begins discussion on how future relations may look - but will not put anything on paper unless the UK reveals how much it is willing to pay for the 'divorce' settlement.

EU's chance to step up on Hungary and Poland

Viktor Orban of Hungary and Poland's Jaroslaw Kaczynski seem to share the idea that the rights of some may come at the expense of the rights of others, and public institutions should serve the majority, and not all citizens.

News in Brief

  1. British PM to batter against EU wall on Brexit
  2. Hungary and Slovakia break EU line on Jerusalem
  3. Germany and France to overhaul EU competition law
  4. Estonia kicks out Danske Bank over money laundering scandal
  5. May and Juncker meet over Brexit on Wednesday
  6. EU promises to open up advisory groups
  7. EU agrees to limit CO2 emissions by trucks
  8. Juncker under attack in Hungary government ad

What does Poland want from the EU?

We propose several changes to the EU, derived from the political philosophy behind the current Polish government, and what Poles expect from the EU - this could be seen as a manifesto Poland wants the next European Commission to tackle.

Migration and May elections - time to get facts right

If misinformation in the field of migration can bring a government down, as in the recent case of Belgium following the country's adoption of the UN migration pact, then it can doubtless produce a populist majority in the European parliament.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  2. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  3. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  5. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  7. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  8. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups

Latest News

  1. 'No evidence' ECB bond-buying helped euro economy
  2. Juncker: Orban should leave Europe's centre-right
  3. College of Europe alumni ask rector to cut Saudi ties
  4. EU says Hungary's anti-Juncker campaign is fake news
  5. Trump right for once: Europe should take back foreign fighters
  6. EU should clarify rules for plant burgers and lab meat
  7. Italian populists could be second biggest force in EU parliament
  8. Merkel defends Russia ties, ridicules Trump on cars

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  2. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic design sets the stage at COP24, running a competition for sustainable chairs
  9. Counter BalanceIn Kenya, a motorway funded by the European Investment Bank runs over roadside dwellers
  10. ACCACompany Law Package: Making the Best of Digital and Cross Border Mobility,
  11. International Partnership for Human RightsCivil Society Worried About Shortcomings in EU-Kyrgyzstan Human Rights Dialogue
  12. UNESDAThe European Soft Drinks Industry Supports over 1.7 Million Jobs

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us