A former ECJ judge says Britain's departure is a boost for Europeby Franklin Dehousse / August 9, 2018 / Leave a comment
Each time I’m asked by a British friend how Brexit is seen from the continent, I think about my great aunt. Whenever we had a family gathering, she demanded special treatment and special food, posed as the embodiment of tradition and respectability, and gave lessons to everybody. There were various opinions about her, but all agreed that she was certainly hard work.
There are various opinions about Brexit, too, and this is important to remember. For many, who have better things to do than to follow the ins and outs, the perception is quite blurred. They know that the UK had a referendum and went quite peculiar thereafter. Some have a vague feeling of regret, others remember that the British in fact never liked being in Europe. This is the dominant, but very foggy vision. Brexit is no real preoccupation.
This changes with business leaders, who understood at once that trade damage was quite likely (especially in the neighbouring states—Ireland, Belgium, the Netherlands). The British half of the negotiations is seen now as a total mess, thanks to the UK’s pompous politicians, their general absence of understanding of EU matters and bombastic threats. As the economic damage grows, the sympathy diminishes. There is also a rising sense that enterprises must now begin to look to positive aspects. Some UK activity may move to France, while Germany may also benefit from greater market shares.
Politicians have yet another perception. At the beginning, there was a fear of general disruption. This has completely disappeared. On the contrary, after two years of lost time and nonsensical demands by the UK government, the feeling grows that getting the UK back in its present state could be quite destabilising. If this is what the Brits demand from outside, what could they from inside? Negotiating the present difficult EU agenda (policy on immigration, refugees, the euro, the budget, defence) with a hugely polarised country wouldn’t be easy.
Theresa May looks totally weak, and Jeremy Corbyn totally unpredictable. Both look occasionally disingenuous and rather ignorant of EU matters. Brexit has become a drain on the European agenda (especially in a very dangerous period), an economic threat, and frankly a bore. At the beginning, politicians from member states sometimes viewed Michel Barnier with distrust, but now he brings relief.
“Brexit is the least damaging…