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Europe-27 bids farewell to Cameron, there’s no longer room for the United Kingdom. But the EU “must change”

The European Council of June 28-29 has taken stock of the Brexit vote and is now preparing to hold negotiations on Britain’s farewell to the “common home.” London will remain a privileged “friend and partner” of the EU, which, in the meantime, has activated its internal reform process, for everyone is afraid of surging nationalism and populism

Europe doesn’t turn the other cheek. After the blow inflicted with last week’s British referendum, the European Council held in Brussels on June 28-29 underlined: “The EU goes on, with or without the United Kingdom.” Indeed, there is widespread “deep regret” over London’s reverse course (put into writing in the Summit’s documents) and concerns linger on, also owing to the lucid awareness that if populism and nationalism have prevailed in the Island, they could be imposed also throughout the continent. Maybe that’s why there’s no “softened” position to be seen on the horizon. Thus the first day of the summit welcomed and bid farewell to outgoing Prime Minister David Cameron, who joined the meeting of the heads of Government and State defeated by his own decisions. The second day of the meeting continued with EU27 representatives, to prepare the grounds for Britain’s exit and envisage a future with “smaller numbers”.

 

No exception. The President of the European Council Donald Tusk drew a preliminary balance of the meeting. “There will be no negotiations” on Brexit “until the UK formally notifies its intention to withdraw.” EU-27 leaders “made it crystal clear today that access to the single market requires acceptance of all four freedoms of the EU”, these are: freedom circulation of people, goods, capitals and services, and that “there will be no exception.”

In other words: if London had imagined that the EU would give in to its desires while treating EU workers as foreigners or second-class citizens with limited access to social benefits, it got it all wrong. 

The European Council in February had “offered all it could” to Cameron’s government, which included the possibility of not being involved in the consequences of further political integration, with freedom of decision on currency and financial markets, and on “Social Europe.” “But British citizens chose otherwise” and now there is no other option than to discuss the details of its departure from the “common home.”

Negotiating mandate. It will all happen “without hurry”, in the full respect of the Treaties and of “mutual interests”, Tusk reiterated umpteenth times over the past few days.

“The United Kingdom will remain an important partner” and a friend of the EU:

there are evident economic, social and cultural ties. The common strategic interests – for example –in the area of security, borders, energy, enterprises, research and market, are out of the question. Thus it is expected that Cameron’s successor will have full negotiating mandate in September in view of a mutually agreed divorce to be completed in two-three years.

A necessary change of direction. Then Tusk changed his tone and recognised that “this Europe must change.” It was – finally – discussed in the last hours of the summit, adjourned to mid-September in Bratislava, when the presidency-in-office of the EU Council of Ministers will have passed from The Netherlands to Slovakia (on July 1st). That is when EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker will come into play. In fact, the Executive is the institution which, according to Art. 50 of the Treaty, is tasked with conducting negotiations with London on the basis of a mandate decided EU Council and European Parliament. There will be “no informal secret negotiations in darkened rooms. That is not going to happen”, Juncker said. “There will be no single market “à la carte”, he pointed out. The Commission, “guardian of the Treaties”, will thus be firmly at the helm.

Juncker, experienced negotiator, eventually had to admit that “this EU has to change.” “But reforms should be aimed at Community integration”, without proceeding in the opposite direction. 

De facto solidarity. Implementing, improving, boosting efficiency without changing track: “There will be no renegotiation of EU Treaties or a new European Convention.” Thus, the United Kingdom has to leave. What remains is a warning, a “beneficial wake-up call” from the Brexit vote, is being remarked in Brussels. Moreover, during the summit a number of EU leaders – notably from East-European countries, and not only – have called for changes. Although, all considered, close ties with the EU are always synonyms of peace, rights, democracy. The single market is a good opportunity for business and EU funding is tempting for everyone.

Thus common sense and “de facto solidarity” prevailed once again

as in the past 70 years, keeping together diverse States and peoples that can become vital in times of economic downturn, migration pressures and terrorist threats. The Community project remains a good project, the leaders said as they left Brussels. It needs to be updated to our modern times and to the challenges that Member Countries and the EU as a whole are called to face inside and outside the borders.

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