Monday

21st May 2018

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 for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  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

Linking EU funds to 'rule of law' is innovative - but vague

Defining what constitutes 'rule of law' violations may be more difficult than the EU Commission proposes, as it tries to link cohesion funds in east Europe to judicial independence. A key question will be who is to 'judge' those judges?

Opinion

Europe's budget stasis

The EU's budgetary muddling through might not be enough when the next crisis hits.

News in Brief

  1. Trump warns Nato allies' low budgets will be 'dealt with'
  2. Only Estonia, Greece and UK hit Nato spending target
  3. EU to start process to counter US Iran sanctions
  4. Macedonia PM sees 'possible solutions' in Greek name row
  5. EU takes six countries to court over air pollution
  6. New Catalan leader sworn in without reference to Spain
  7. Merkel and Putin revive dialogue in troubled times
  8. European companies putting Iran business on hold

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersOECD Report: Gender Equality Boosts GDP Growth in Nordic Region
  2. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Peace and reconciliation is a process that takes decades” Dr. Anthony Soares on #Brexit and Northern Ireland
  3. Mission of China to the EUMEPs Positive on China’s New Measures of Opening Up
  4. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOld White Men are Destroying Macedonia by Romanticizing Greece
  5. Counter BalanceControversial EIB-Backed Project Under Fire at European Parliament
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersIncome Inequality Increasing in Nordic Countries
  7. European Jewish CongressEU Leaders to Cease Contact with Mahmoud Abbas Until He Apologizes for Antisemitic Comments
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual Report celebrates organization’s tenth anniversary
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Cooperation Needed on Green Exports and Funding
  10. Mission of China to the EUPremier Li Confirms China Will Continue to Open Up
  11. European Jewish CongressCalls on Brussels University to Revoke Decision to Honour Ken Loach
  12. Sustainable Energy Week 2018"Lead the Clean Energy Transition"- Register and Join Us in Brussels from 5 to 7 May

Latest News

  1. Zuckerberg and Trump top the EU's agenda This WEEK
  2. Integration of Syrian refugees in Europe needs scrutiny
  3. Bulgarian PM: No asylum reform without stronger border
  4. Eight countries to miss EU data protection deadline
  5. Italian populists to defy EU debt rules
  6. Commission 'playing tricks' with EU budget figures
  7. How France escaped EU legal action over chemical ban
  8. 'Connectivity' trumps enlargement at Balkans summit

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. EU Green Week 2018Green Cities for a Greener Future. Join the Debate in Brussels from 22 to 24 May
  2. Nordic Council of Ministers12 Recommendations for Nordic Leadership on Climate and Environment
  3. Macedonian Human Rights MovementOxford Professor Calls for an End to the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. ACCAPeople Who Speak-Up Should Feel Safe to Do So
  5. Mission of China to the EUProgress on China-EU Cooperation
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWorld's Energy Ministers to Meet in Oresund in May to Discuss Green Energy
  7. ILGA EuropeParabéns! Portugal Votes to Respect the Rights of Trans and Intersex People
  8. Mission of China to the EUJobs, Energy, Steel: Government Work Report Sets China's Targets
  9. European Jewish CongressKantor Center Annual Report on Antisemitism Worldwide - The Year the Mask Came Off
  10. UNICEFCalls for the Protection of Children in the Gaza Strip
  11. Mission of China to the EUForeign Minister Wang Yi Highlights Importance of China-EU Relations
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersImmigration and Integration in the Nordic Region - Getting the Facts Straight