Monday

21st Aug 2017

Interview

Any post-Brexit deal would be tough on the UK

  • Catherine Bearder, the only LibDem MEP, will lead her party's "In" campaign ahead of the referendum in the UK (Photo: European Parliament)

Any post-Brexit deal would be very hard on the UK, warned Catherine Bearder, Liberal Democrat MEP, who will lead her party's campaign to stay in the European Union.

The only LibDem member of the European Parliament after the party’s crushing results last year told EUobserver that she doubts a Norway-type of arrangement - being a member of the European Economic Area - is possible.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now and get 40% off for an annual subscription. Sale ends soon.

  1. €90 per year. Use discount code EUOBS40%
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

“The deal will be very difficult, because they [other member states] don’t want any other country to join us,” she said in an interview on the sidelines of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE) congress last weekend in Budapest. "I’m convinced of it."

Bearder recalled that such a deal would be done without the UK at the negotiating table.

She likened the scenario to someone leaving the family home after a divorce.

“You don’t give them the front-door key and tell them to use the sitting room any time they like,” she quipped.

Yet a new ORB poll carried out in the wake of the Paris attacks and published on Tuesday (24 November) has for the first time showed more support for leaving the EU than for staying in, at 52 % to 48 %.

"This poll underlines just how close we are to a disastrous Brexit,” Bearder commented on the poll on Tuesday.

"All those in favour of Britain staying in the EU, from small businesses to charities, must start speaking out now before it is too late," she added.

Bearder warned that there are huge risks economically for the UK if it were to leave the European Union.

“If we lost the vote and we were to leave, from the fisherman to the farmers, their market would be gone,” she said, adding that all exports would face tariffs.

Bearder also warned that hammering out that deal after the referendum might take a year and, in the meantime, hamper investments.

Cameron’s wishlist

Bearder said UK prime minister David Cameron has come forward with a list of proposals for renegotiating UK membership that are not so difficult to achieve, as they give a lot of leeway.

“I think Brussels will give him a deal,” she added, saying while some are understandably fed up with the UK’s various opt-outs, there is goodwill in Brussels to make sure the UK stays in.

The only point Bearder thinks could be difficult is cutting the benefits for non-British EU workers.

“I can’t see any of the Eastern European countries supporting that,” she said, pointing out that the two million EU migrants working in the UK are economically more active than the two-million British living outside the UK in the EU.

Bearder also said she is not certain Cameron understands that any curbing of benefits will affect UK citizens living in European countries too.

She recalled that the Brits put the phrase “ever closer union” into the treaty of Maastricht, another contentious topic, and a commitment Cameron now wants to exclude the UK from.

“We want to bring the peoples of Europe together,” she said of the phrase. “Not the governments of Europe.”

Cameron has set out to come to an agreement on Britain’s requests at the December summit with fellow EU leaders, but it seems increasingly unlikely he will make that deadline.

Swing voters

The referendum on the UK’s EU membership has nothing to do with the UK and EU, Bearder argued.

“This is all to do with the Conservative party, “ she said, adding that both Labour and the Conservatives are divided over the issue, while LibDems are entirely committed to staying in.

They will start campaigning as soon as there is a date for the plebiscite and will focus on undecided voters.

“We want to explain what the EU is and make sure they realise that it is in our long-term interest to be part of this Union,” she said, adding that staying in is the only way the UK can reform the EU.

For her part, Bearder would like to see more transparency within the EU, especially more insight into the closed-door meetings of the heads of states and governments at the European Council, where major decisions are made.

She noted that 20,000 new members have joined, bringing the LibDem party ranks to a total of 60,000, most of them young and pro-European. That is an increase of 50 % since the general election last May, a wave possibly caused in part by Labour’s shift to the left.

Swing voters could be impressed, she said, with quick and effective decisions by the EU on the migration issue, for instance - something that so far has been lacking.

Brexit talks must get political, or face delay

Leaders at Thursday's summit will take stock of Brussels-London talks on the in/out referendum, but real negotiations can't start until Britain submits detailed wish list of EU reforms.

UK demands treaty guarantees on eurozone relations

UK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne said that treaty change will be necessary to accommodate British demands on relations with the eurozone, ahead of the EU membership referendum.

EU aims for UK deal in February

In December, EU leaders will hold initial talks. In February, they'll try to agree on reforms to keep Britain in the EU. "It will be all about the details."

Opinion

Setting course for strong and focused EU

From strengthening the internal market to completing the energy union, the prime ministers of Denmark, the Netherlands and Finland set out their vision for the EU.

News in Brief

  1. Austria has begun checks at Italian border
  2. Slovenian PM: Brexit talks will take longer than expected
  3. Merkel backs diesel while report warns of economic harm
  4. UK to publish new Brexit papers this week
  5. Macedonia sacks top prosecutor over wiretap scandal
  6. ECB concerned stronger euro could derail economic recovery
  7. Mixed Irish reactions to post-Brexit border proposal
  8. European Union returns to 2 percent growth

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressEuropean Governments Must Take Stronger Action Against Terrorism
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceDoes Genetics Explain Why So Few of Us Have an Ideal Cardiovascular Health?
  3. EU2017EEFuture-Themed Digital Painting Competition Welcomes Artists - Deadline 31 Aug
  4. ACCABusinesses Must Grip Ethics and Trust in the Digital Age
  5. European Jewish CongressEJC Welcomes European Court of Justice's Decision to Keep Hamas on Terror List
  6. UNICEFReport: Children on the Move From Africa Do Not First Aim to Go to Europe
  7. Centre Maurits CoppietersWe Need Democratic and Transparent Free Trade Agreements Says MEP Jordi Solé
  8. Counter BalanceOut for Summer, Ep. 2: EIB Promoting Development in Egypt - At What Cost?
  9. EU2017EELocal Leaders Push for Local and Regional Targets to Address Climate Change
  10. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceMore Women Than Men Have Died From Heart Disease in Past 30 Years
  11. European Jewish CongressJean-Marie Le Pen Faces Trial for Oven Comments About Jewish Singer
  12. ACCAAnnounces Belt & Road Research at Shanghai Conference

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ECPAFood Waste in the Field Can Double Without Crop Protection. #WithOrWithout #Pesticides
  2. EU2017EEEstonia Allocates €1 Million to Alleviate Migratory Pressure From Libya in Italy
  3. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen's Message on the Anniversary of the Coup Attempt in Turkey
  4. Martens CentreWeeding Out Fake News: An Approach to Social Media Regulation
  5. European Jewish CongressEJC Concerned by Normalisation of Antisemitic Tropes in Hungary
  6. Counter BalanceOut for Summer Ep. 1: How the EIB Sweeps a Development Fiasco Under the Rug
  7. CESICESI to Participate in Sectoral Social Dialogue Committee on Postal Services
  8. ILGA-EuropeMalta Keeps on Rocking: Marriage Equality on Its Way
  9. European Friends of ArmeniaEuFoA Director and MEPs Comment on the Recent Conflict Escalation in Nagorno-Karabakh
  10. EU2017EEEstonian Presidency Kicks off Youth Programme With Coding Summer School
  11. EPSUEP Support for Corporate Tax Transparency Principle Unlikely to Pass Reality Check
  12. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament Improves the External Investment Plan but Significant Challenges Ahead