Friday

16th Apr 2021

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

“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."

MEPs to declare EU an LGBTI 'freedom zone'

The symbolic move is an attempt to buttress against right-wing governments' increased scapegoating of LGBTI people, particularly in Poland and Hungary.

News in Brief

  1. EU postpones decision on labelling gas 'sustainable'
  2. MEPs call for mass surveillance ban in EU public spaces
  3. Greek and Turkish ministers trade jibes in Ankara
  4. Biden repeats opposition to Russia-Germany pipeline
  5. Navalny in danger, letter warns EU foreign ministers
  6. Lithuania keen to use Denmark's AstraZeneca vaccines
  7. Gas plants largest source of power-sector emissions
  8. Study: Higher risk of blood clots from Covid than vaccines

EU adds new 'dark red' zone to travel-restrictions map

The European Commission has proposed additional measures to limit non-essential travel within and to the European Union - amid fears over more transmissible mutations triggering a new surge in cases across the bloc.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market

Latest News

  1. US rejects Slovenia-linked plan to break up Bosnia
  2. Ukraine urges Borrell to visit Russia front line
  3. Could US sanctions hit Russia vaccine sales to EU?
  4. Polish court pushes out critical ombudsman
  5. Political crises in Romania and Bulgaria amid third wave
  6. Von der Leyen's summer plans undisclosed, after Ukraine snub
  7. Over a million EU citizens back farm-animal cage ban
  8. Three options for West on Putin's Ukraine build-up

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us