It might seem unfitting to you that, while in the last couple of days all eyes turned on the US, we have been busy putting together a new ‘Common Article’ for you: this time on the topic on Brexit. And while Brexit now sometimes seems like a minor point in Western history compared to the US election, it is still in order to reflect on what is happening now, or even on what should happen. This is the first of two Common Articles focusing on the topic of Brexit. EST ambassadors have summarized their opinions for you, outlined how they think Brexit must be handled by the EU or what implications Brexit has for other EU countries. How should the EU negotiate with the UK? Can other EU countries profit from the UK’s ‘disappearance’ or will they suffer from less economic ties? And how does England’s youth feel about the vote? For answers to these and more questions, enjoy the opinion pieces below.
Austria – by Dominik Draxler
EU – UK Relations After Brexit
A strong cooperation on the political and economic level will be necessary in order for the European Union and the United Kingdom to effectively deal with modern issues such as terrorism. So while the EU must set clear guidelines when it comes to certain benefits, such as the access to its common market, it would not be beneficial to the Union to abandon its member.
I believe the only way forward would be to establish a strong cooperation based on conditionality, not on punishment. Admittedly, the EU would have an incentive to punish the United Kingdom by cutting it off from the common market in order to deter potential followers among its own ranks. Indeed, the EU should take a hard stance against the UK “cherry-picking” the benefits of EU membership without attached obligations. This does not mean however that the Union should punish the United Kingdom out of principle and automatically cut it off economically. That would neither be necessarily smart nor beneficial to any of the two because, under the aspect of comparative advantage, both partners gain by definition out of strong free trade relations to each other.
We should instead view the European Union as an exclusive club, shaped by its member states and with the potential to benefit them in various fields. The fact is that by voting to leave the Union, the United Kingdom has waived its right to actively shape this club’s policies and actions.
England – by Rensa Gaunt
As a UK citizen who argued strongly to Remain, I was particularly struck by how many Leave voters seemed unconcerned that there was no long-term plan for Brexit. It seems that they were much more occupied with the idea of separating from the EU than any details as to how this would be done, a pattern which has very much continued since.
Because we have no idea of what the terms will be like, we don’t know whether the UK will be worse off after Brexit. I personally do not want to see this split bring economic problems for either the UK or the EU, but I would not be surprised if the EU were forced to treat the UK harshly in order to discourage other countries from potentially voting to leave too. This is especially the case as our politicians seem to want access to the single market, whilst limiting free movement of people, something which has been explicitly ruled out by Brussels’ chief Brexit negotiator, Guy Verhofstadt.
I hope that the negotiations allow important programmes such as Erasmus+ to continue, and that free movement of people is upheld if not as now, then at least for students and for short stays. If our continent is to avoid fracturing then mixing of people and cooperation is what we need to focus on, which we can’t do if the UK is irreversibly cut off from the rest of Europe.
Finland – by Erik Immonen
Rising from the Brexit Ashes
If there is anything positive to be found in the debacle known as Brexit, it is the hope expressed by some that the EU might be able to develop more clearly into a new direction, since it will have lost this deliberately contrarian member. However, the various manifestations of Euroscepticism across the continent remain a problem, and it is likely that Brexit will serve as an inspiration to some of them. Indeed, eager to show their lack of understanding of even the most basic ideas related to European co-operation, some Finnish populists have already started dreaming of a Fixit. In order to weaken this possible effect, the EU must remain tough throughout the Brexit negotiations. Both the UK and all EU member states have to see that leaving our common European project will have consequences – it would simply make no sense whatsoever to allow the UK to leave the project and abandon all the EU-related duties it can, while still retaining the benefits associated with EU membership. Certainly, the best course of action must be worked out at a later date, and more calculations on the effects of Brexit on the wider European economy are needed. A principled stance is a good start, but some measure of pragmatism might be necessary at some point – from both sides. Merely exclaiming ’More integration!’ is not the solution, and the EU must learn from Brexit. However, the EU must not retreat in the face of pressure – rather, a renewed commitment to the European project must rise from the ashes left by the fire of Brexit.
France – by Moira Tourneur
In her first speech to the Conservative Party conference on October 2nd, UK Prime Minister Theresa May clearly stated that “Brexit means Brexit” and that “Britain is going to leave the European Union”. As a matter of fact, Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty should be triggered by the end of March 2017, so that formal negotiations with the EU over UK’s exit could be started – if Parliament votes for it, however. For that matter, Mrs. May made clear during the Brussels Summit on October 21st, 2016 that she would negotiate in order to “get the right deal for the United Kingdom”.
The British should nonetheless be ready to make some important concessions this time. Indeed, the UK has always had one foot in and one foot out of the door since it joined the European Community and has been continuously renegotiating the terms of its membership. But as far as the Brexit negotiations are concerned, the EU should be firm and “intransigent” as President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker said on October 7th in Paris. The coherence and the future of the Union are now at stake. It is highly desirable that the EU and the UK reach compromises to ensure good relations as well as comfort for their citizens. Nevertheless, the twenty-seven members of the EU should be ready to stand together in order to preserve the Union’s interests if the UK eventually pushes for a “hard Brexit”.
Greece – by Christodoulos Chrysafis
Britain-EU linked but not combined
The idea to create a European Union after 1945 was supported and inspired by important British voices, such as Winston Churchill. Unfortunately with that came a large movement of Euroscepticism that grew in the UK within the last decades and that five months ago achieved its goal: Brexit tends to reshape the “relationship” between the United Kingdom and the European Union.
Even though Britain is not a member of the euro-zone and the Schengen Treaty, the potential effects of a Brexit will be very serious for Britain itself and European Union.
Τhe negotiations should be fair but also highlight the effects of the withdrawal of a state from the European Union. So an ideal scenario for me would be taking the following decisions:
- The UK leaves the EU Customs Union, but the UK and EU agree to keep tariffs on each other’s exports as low as possible across all sectors, reflecting mutual benefit. This would be especially important to sustain integrated supply chains in the automotive and chemical sectors, for example.
- The UK retains most current EU regulations and standards, especially in key sectors such as financial services; so as to give its exported goods and services ready access to the EU single market. This would not be difficult, given the UK already applies these regulations and standards, which it helped design in the first place.
- The UK and EU27 agree on a framework for the movement of people and workers into each other’s jurisdictions, which lacks the present free movement arrangements. Proposed ideas have included allowing movement only where a job offer has already been made and providing limits on family reunions.
- The UK accepts to make payments to the EU in order to maintain its participation in pan-European scientific and educational programs and to EU regional support funds in order to help retain the most beneficial access to the single market.
- Mechanisms for ongoing coordination between UK regulators and their EU counterparts are established across all sectors, to ensure the mutual equivalence of regulations and their easy cross-certification. This would help both sides sustain the most barrier-free mutual market access possible in the future, as existing regulations and standards are adapted or new ones are introduced for new sectors, such as digital services, bio-technology and energy efficient products.
My personal assessment for the future of both sides is the following: the European Union will be affected negatively of Brexit, however in a medium term it will overcome this change.
For Britain the future is not so bright, a lot of consequences have already appeared, for example, the fall of the British Pound.
The Netherlands – by Rebecca Hogg
The Future EU-UK Relationship
According to Theresa May, ‘Brexit means Brexit’. But what does Brexit mean for the 1.2 million British nationals living in EU member states, and the estimated 3.3 million EU nationals who have made a life in the UK?
With an estimated 50,000 British citizens living in the Netherlands, a few Dutch law firms have been quick to provide legal advice to British citizens, reassuring them that for the foreseeable future, nothing will change. The notion of residency rights will form part of future negotiations once the British government triggers Article 50, the exit clause of the Lisbon Treaty, in 2017. It is only then that the legal rights of British nationals in the Netherlands can be established, and those of EU nationals living in UK territory.
In order to ensure a friendly future EU-UK relationship, residency rights of EU and British nationals need to be decided upon early in the Article 50 process. Treating EU nationals as ‘bargaining chips’ (as rumored in numerous British media outlets) diminishes the chances of a fair deal for the UK, especially considering member states such as Poland, whose nationals make up a large percentage of the number of EU citizens in the UK, plan to protect the rights of their citizens in the Brexit negotiations. With the power of veto that member states will possess during the negotiations, the protection of residency rights is essential in ensuring a good Brexit deal.
Poland – by Aurélien Pommier
What is interesting in the Brexit is the process of negotiation. Indeed, it is totally new; no Member State of the Union expressed the willing to withdraw yet. Actually, we do not really know what is going to happen. Article 50 TEU deals with the possibility of withdrawal, but only talks about the institutional procedure. In the end, it is to the European Council to issue guidelines for negotiations. It says that it is through an “agreement” that the Union should negotiate and conclude future relation with the United-Kingdom (UK).
But one thing is certain: Brexit must be hard. It cannot be an open window or a path for others Member States to follow. Indeed, conditions of withdrawal should be strict, especially concerning access to the single market; as Donald Tusk said: “The only real alternative to hard Brexit is no Brexit”. Furthermore, the UK has more to lose than the EU in this negotiation, that is why the Union should be strong and address this challenge with an iron hand.
Despite all, withdrawal of the UK remains a big loss for the European Union. Even as the UK was always reluctant to a full integration, it became an important member after all those decades. I am not sure that UK citizens realised what they did by quitting such a unique organisation. After all, two years of negotiation is a very long time, maybe they will realise this process is so complicated that it is better to negotiate a step back… But this is only a thought from a European citizen.
Portugal – by José Miguel Anjoy
If a few months ago we had said that the UK was leaving the EU everyone would have seen us as a maniac. In fact, on the 23rd June, the impossible happened: the majority of the British people decided to leave the EU. The EU itself didn´t work particularly well in the days immediately after the results: in fact, the President of the Commission, Mr. Juncker, made some disgraceful speeches about Brexit.
The UK cannot just be kicked out from the EU as some politicians say. The problem is not that simple: the UK has a long history and has, for instance, the most important financial district in Europe. Brexit could have a major impact on the EU´s financial system, which in fact is not living its golden days.
Further, there is a lack of preparation of the EU on how to deal with Brexit: during the days following the vote, a Scottish member of the EU Parliament asked the EU to “not let the Scottish People down”, referring obviously to the fact that Brexit will affect the whole UK, not only England. The rest of the Parliament gave a standing ovation to his speech. During the same day, the same deputies who gave the standing ovation also said Brexit will “catch” Scotland too. This is not ‘Realpolitik’, but hypocrisy.
The EU should be very cautious when dealing with Brexit. Due to the single market perspectives, the political and the economic issues, it is obvious the UK should have a special treatment and agreement, for example like Switzerland.
Portugal will have some very serious problems if the EU solution is dealing with the UK as a simple “third country” from now on. We have a lot of emigrants working and studying in the UK, and lots of British people come to Portugal (Algarve) for tourism and for business purposes.
Scotland – by Julian Lagus
After the Article 50 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) will be triggered, the negotiations on the divorce of the United Kingdom and the European Union will be subjected to major political scrutiny. The UK has expressed their unconditional willingness to have the unlimited access to the internal market of the EU and remain part thereof. However, whilst advocating for a friendly departure, many of the EU authorities are not ready to hand over access to this crown jewel of the EU so easily.
The UK is more or less in disarray when it comes to the whole process of departure from the EU, something that was shown recently in a decision of the High Court providing that the government is precluded from triggering Art. 50 TFEU without putting this decision to vote in the parliament. Even though this decision of the High Court will be appealed by the government, it shows that there is a major discrepancy between the powers and the people of the UK on the whole issue of Brexit. While the UK is struggling to decide on the constitutional requirements for it to trigger Art. 50 TFEU, the EU has time to adapt and prepare for the inevitable negotiations coming up. In this situation, it is apt to remind us of a quote by Benjamin Franklin: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
There is no doubt that both the UK and the EU wish to remain in good terms, however, with all the current problems that are embedded with Brexit, the UK’s negotiating position is severely undermined. Only the future will tell how the negotiations will pan out, but if I am to believe a certain professor of The University of Edinburgh the current situation looks like that at the time of the negotiations, on the one side of the negotiation table two very bright EU officials will be sitting; and on the opposite side Dupond and Dupont.
Spain – by Santiago Campos
It is said that almost 200,000 Spaniards live in the United Kingdom, the vast majority of them, around 70%, are between 25 and 35. Generally speaking, they have finished their degrees and have to move to the U.K. because of the lack of opportunities here in Spain (the well-known phenomenon of “brain drain”). On the other hand, there are approximately 700,000 Britons living in Spain, so it is obvious that both countries share strong ties and perspectives. That is in part why the announcement of the Brexit the last June has had a great impact on Spanish´s society (some analysts even speculated about the possibility of the influence of the Brexit in our general elections, which took place some days later June 27th).
I strongly believe that all political opinions must be respected (except those which promote hatred, racism, etc. of course) but I cannot see the point of the Brexiters. A stronger Europeans Integration process isn´t the problem but the solution. It is true that some mistakes have been made during this time but the reality is that the main challenges that we have to face in the present (immigration, inequality, unemployment) will only have a solution with stronger institutions, good cooperative politics and solidarity between countries.
‘Better together’ mustn’t be just a slogan. Now that the High Court has decided that MPs must have a vote on triggering Brexit, both the United Kingdom and the EU may have the opportunity to make an agreement for the common interest.
Ukraine – by Anastasia Kurguzova
Following the referendum, the UK has been struggling to come up with a plan to renegotiate their position in Europe. Ideally, the UK will be able to follow Switzerland’s model and join the European Economic Area, which will allow for the UK to keep the EU market. The EEA adopts most of the EU legislation concerning the single market with exception of laws regarding agriculture and fisheries. This plan would be perfect for the UK as they appreciate the flexibility in legislature and the single market. Free trade with the EU is essential for the UK economy, as around 50% of the UK exports are to Europe. This may be difficult to negotiate, as the EU leaders say that the UK cannot have a single market without accepting all four freedoms, including the freedom of movement. It will be interesting to see how the situation unfolds as EU countries rely on the UK market just as much as the UK relies on the EU.
I feel that the EU without the UK will be to some extent weakened because it loses a superpower. However, the loss of the UK can potentially mean that Western democracies like Germany will have more influence on the EU decision-making. Although it may seem like there will be less disagreements within the European Parliament, we see a rise in anti-EU movements in countries like Hungary and Austria, which shows that the EU is in the middle of a structural crisis and the EU citizens are likely to suggest reform soon. Regarding the Brexit implications, on 3rd of November, there was a High Court ruling, saying that the UK Parliament must vote on whether the UK can trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. This gives me hope that the Parliament might not pass this decision if the MPs choose to vote according to their constituents’ will.
 Theresa May’s Conservative conference speech on Brexit.Speech available at: https://www.politicshome.com/news/uk/political-parties/conservative-party/news/79517/read-full-theresa-mays-conservative (accessed: 30/10/2016).
 European Council October 2016: Prime Minister’s press statement. Speech available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/european-council-october-2016-prime-ministers-press-statement (accessed: 30/10/2016).
 Le Monde. “‘Il faut être intransigeant’ sur la question du Brexit selon Jean-Claude Juncker”. October 7th 2016. Available at: http://www.lemonde.fr/referendum-sur-le-brexit/video/2016/10/07/il-faut-etre-intransigeant-sur-la-question-du-brexit-selon-jean-claude-juncker_5010180_4872498.html (accessed: 30/10/2016).
 Migration Watch UK. 2016. “The British in Europe – and Vice Versa”. Accessed October 24, 2016. https://www.migrationwatchuk.org/briefing-paper/354
 Full Fact. 2016. “Brits abroad: how many people from the UK live in other EU countries?”. Accessed October 24, 2016. https://fullfact.org/europe/how-many-uk-citizens-live-other-eu-countries/
 Fransenn Advocaten. 2016. “Now that Brexit looks certain: consequences for Brits in the Netherlands?”. Accessed October 24, 2016. http://franssenadvocaten.nl/english/brexit-consequences-for-brits-in-the-netherlands/
 Wintour, Patrick. 2016. “Polish president urges better protection for Poles in Britain”. The Guardian, accessed October 24, 2016. https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2016/sep/06/polish-communities-in-uk-to-get-more-protection