Thursday

25th May 2017

Interview

UK leaders will have to 'tell the truth' on Brexit

  • Daul: Britons "are not aware" of the price of Brexit, "or they don't want to know" (Photo: EPP/Flickr)

The British government and Brexiters will have to "tell the truth" about the price of leaving the EU, the president of the European People's Party (EPP) told EUobserver.

"I think Britons don't know yet how the negotiation will go," Joseph Daul said in an interview on the margins of the EPP congress in Malta, a day after British prime minister Theresa May sent the notification of her country's exit to the EU.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Le Pen wants a referendum on French EU membership (Photo: European Parliament)

Daul said that the British government would "get it all wrong" if it thought that it could "negotiate country by country, sector by sector. On agriculture with one country, on fisheries with another".

He said the EU would "follow the plan established by the European institutions and Michel Barnier", the EU chief negotiator.

Daul's center-right EPP is the party of the three top EU institution's heads - the European Commission's Jean-Claude Juncker, the EU Council's Donald Tusk and the European Parliament's Antonio Tajani - as well as of Barnier.

The EPP, like the EU as a whole, said at its congress that the three top priorities in the upcoming negotiations would be the rights of EU citizens living in the UK, the UK's financial commitments towards the EU, and the status of the border between the Republic of Ireland and the UK's Northern Ireland.

"I think that we will be very united on that," Daul said, referring to the EU position that the UK's only negotiating partner is Barnier, with the support of the European Council, where EU leaders meet.

"Do you think there will be division on the question of the right of European citizens? Do you think there will be division on the question on funding?" he said.

"That is why we need to start with the main problems first. Then we'll negotiate how we'll work with the UK."

If there is no deal on citizens's rights, Daul said, "it will be a hard, hard Brexit".

He said that the UK would "not leave the table without paying the bill", which he said would be "over" the €60 billion that has been unofficially mentioned so far.

"They don't want to talk about it, but the bill must be entirely paid by the UK," he said. "They are not aware of that or they don't want to know."

He said that May was probably "aware of what is going to happen" but that she, and the British politicians who supported Brexit, "will have to tell people the truth".

Daul admitted that Brexit would hurt Europe, but insisted that the UK had more to lose.

"I met recently a Chinese official who told me that for them, England is like a big Chinese city," he said. "He told me: 'If we have to choose between a big Chinese city and the EU, we'll chose the EU'."

"We also have to see the opportunities that Brexit offers [for the EU]," he said, adding that, for exemple, "we'll progress faster on security and defence [because] the Brits always blocked everything".

Le Pen

Asked about the French presidential election next month, the EPP chief, a Frenchman, said that a victory for far-right leader Marine Le Pen was "unthinkable" for him.

If she was elected "it would be bad for Europe and the euro, but it would be catastrophic for France," he said.

Le Pen has promised to organise a referendum on France's EU membership and wants to re-introduce a national currency to replace the euro in France.

Daul admitted Le Pen would pose "more problems than Brexit", but that "there are plans" afoot on how to cope even with her.

He told EUobserver that "committes, at the highest level, are working on the hypothesis that France leaves the euro and the EU".

He declined to specify whether these working groups were in EU capitals or in the EU institutions.

"If Le Pen is elected and wants to leave the euro and the EU, Europe would not stop," he said. "Germany and other countries would still have their currency."

"I hope that Europe would resist, not only Germany," he added.

Poland

Mentioning Poland, a country under EU monitoring over concerns about respect of the rule of law, Daul said he was "not worried as long as we are in a democracy and we vote every four or five years".

"I will be worried when one wil start putting democracy into question, changing the rules so democracy cannot work anymore," he said.

For that reason, the head of the EPP said, "it is too early" to trigger Article 7 of the EU treaty, which can lead to sanctions, against Poland.

Brexit as well as the rise of anti-EU parties like Le Pen's National Front are considered by some as the consequence of the EU's failure to address Europeans' concerns.

On 25 March, in Rome, EU leaders pledged to make the EU closer to citizens and more efficient.

"We have to address the fears of our European fellow citizens, which are exploited by populist parties," Daul said, admitting that Europeans "have not understood" what the EU has been doing.

"We have seen that with the migration, the question of the control of borders … We wanted to prepare the future, and we didn't explain enough what we were doing," he said.

Multi-speed EU

In the Rome declaration, EU leaders did not endorse the idea, supported by the EPP, of a multi-speed EU, but they said that some of them could push forward on certain issues

Daul said that a multi-speed Europe meant both institutional engineering and concrete projects, like the monetary union or defence policy, "but also professional training for youth, or the digital single market".

"Those who want to go faster and farther on some issues, let's let them do it, and let's not block them by saying that they have to wait for the ones at the back to go forward," he said.

Be fair in Brexit talks, EU tells UK

European Council chief Tusk sent draft guidelines to member states. He said the EU wants "fairness" and then warned against using security cooperation as bargaining chip.

EU guidelines set out two-phase Brexit talks

According to the draft negotiating guidelines, the EU-27 would open negotiations on future EU-UK relations when "sufficient progress" has been made on citizens' rights, the British financial bill and the status of the border in Ireland.

European right divided on EU values after Brexit

A day after the UK notified its exit from the EU, leaders of the European People's Party expressed a different vision of Europe's identity, with Hungary's Orban calling for a stop to the Muslim "invasion".

EU rounds wagons in Gibraltar dispute

Spectacle of EU institutions and 27 remaining member states taking a common line against an outgoing member is a first in EU history.

MEPs vote to start democracy probe on Hungary

The European Parliament took the first step towards launching the Article 7 procedure against Hungary for backsliding on democracy. The process might lead to sanctions, but Orban is not backing down.

Schulz fails to beat Merkel in German home state

Former EU parliament leader, Martin Schulz, says the defeat of his social-democrats in North Rhine-Westphalia is "difficult". The elections showed that a "Schulz effect" does not (yet) exist.

Austria heading for snap elections

Foreign minister Kurz has taken leadership of the conservative party in what could lead to an alliance with the far-right.

News in Brief

  1. Pressure grows on climate impact of EU timber harvesting
  2. US goes after Fiat Chrysler over emissions cheat
  3. Munich police break up Europe-wide burglar clan
  4. Report: VW threatened with €19.7 billion French fine
  5. Turkey begins mass trial of suspected coup leaders
  6. Merkel's CDU consolidates lead in polls
  7. France to host Russian president
  8. Switzerland votes against nuclear power

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFChild Alert on Myanmar: Fruits of Rapid Development yet to Reach Remote Regions
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersBecome an Explorer - 'Traces of Nordic' Seeking Storytellers Around the World
  3. Malta EU 2017Closer Cooperation and Reinforced Solidarity to Ensure Security of Gas Supply
  4. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceHigh-Intensity Interval Training Is Therapeutic Option for Type 2 Diabetes
  5. Dialogue Platform"The West Must Help Turkey Return to a Democratic Path" a Call by Fethullah Gulen
  6. ILGA-EuropeRainbow Europe 2017 Is Live - Which Countries Are Leading on LGBTI Equality?
  7. Centre Maurits CoppietersWhen You Invest in a Refugee Woman You Help the Whole Community
  8. Eurogroup for AnimalsECJ Ruling: Member States Given No Say on Wildlife Protection In Trade
  9. European Heart NetworkCall for Urgent Adoption of EU-Wide Nutrient Profiles for Nutrition & Health Claims
  10. Counter BalanceInvestment Plan for Europe More Climate Friendly but European Parliament Shows Little Ambition
  11. Mission of China to the EUPresident Xi: China's Belt and Road Initiative Benefits People Around the World
  12. Malta EU 2017EU Strengthens Control of the Acquisition and Possession of Firearms

Latest News

  1. Openness over Brexit is 'political play', says EU ombudsman
  2. Le Pen's EU group in fresh spending scandal
  3. New EU right to data portability to cause headaches
  4. Cyber threats are inevitable, paralyzing impact is not
  5. Transparency complaints keep EU Ombudsman busy
  6. EU sets out criteria for relocating UK agencies
  7. EU states back bill against online hate speech
  8. Dutch coalition talks collapse again

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership for Human RightsThe Cost of Speaking Out: Human Rights Violations Committed in Belarus
  2. ACCABanishing Bias? Audit, Objectivity and the Value of Professional Scepticism
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Oslo Climate Declaration Focuses on Rising Temperatures in the Arctic
  4. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceAbdominal Obesity: A Causal Risk Factor for Cardiometabolic Diseases
  5. EU Green Week 2017Discuss EU Environmental Policies With Industry Experts and Thought Leaders
  6. GEN Summit 2017Join the World's Leading Media Summit for Thought-Provoking Talks and Experiences
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsTogether for Human Rights: A Year in Review
  8. Malta EU 2017EU All Set for Free Roaming Starting 15 June
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersRefugee Unemployment Biggest Drain on Public Purse, Says New Nordic Studies
  10. Dialogue Platform17,000 Women, 515 Babies in Turkish Prisons, a Report Reveals
  11. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceCharlotte Hornets' Nicolas Batum Tells Kids to "Eat Well, Drink Well, Move!"
  12. ECR GroupSyed Kamall: We Need a New, More Honest Relationship With Turkey