Collaboration UK-EU paramount for EU safety, freedom and welfare
Now that the United Kingdom’s government has formally given ‘notification of its intention’ to the European Council to withdraw from the European Union, the notorious scenario as provided for in Article 50 of the Treaty on the European Union (TEU) will start to be acted out. Even before the Lisbon Treaty added this article to EU law, it was generally assumed that a Member State would be able to leave the EU. However, with Article 50, the exit process is linked to European procedures and time periods. Given the exacting nature of this process, requiring the withdrawal agreement to be made within the brief period of two years, the preparations for the negotiations are already in full swing on both sides of the Channel. For many citizens and businesses, the moment of Prime Minister May’s formal notification is in fact the crucial signal that ‘Brexit means Brexit’.
Three aspects may be distinguished in the upcoming negotiations between the UK and the EU27:
(1) negotiating the withdrawal agreement, that is ‘the terms of the divorce’, in which particularly the position and the rights of expatriate citizens, and the level of the ‘exit bill’ for the UK will be the hot issues;
(2) negotiating the future relationship between the UK and the EU, in which efforts are expected on a comprehensive free trade agreement, comparable to the EU’s free trade agreement with Canada (CETA). In her Lancaster House speech in January, Prime Minister May emphasised that ‘… taking back control of our laws, bringing an end to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, controlling immigration to Britain from Europe and negotiating Britain’s own trade agreements’ weigh so heavily that the UK is renouncing membership of the internal market;
(3) a transitional regime that applies to the period in which the new relationship is still under negotiation. On the EU27 side, it is considered extremely improbable that both the terms of the divorce and an agreement about the future relationship can be made in only two years. A transitional regime should in that case prevent a ‘cliff edge’ scenario when the two-year Brexit negotiating period comes to an end, in which the UK would end up outside the Union without any arrangement, with sudden and overnight transformations in trading conditions for businesses as a consequence.
When fleshing out the new relationship between the EU and the UK, it is to be hoped that both sides can keep the long-term importance of continuing intensive European collaboration central. Not only are the economies of the UK and the other EU countries (and in particular that of the Netherlands) strongly interconnected, but Brexit must be seen against the background of the economic and geopolitical shift that is under way, as well as the huge external challenges the European countries face. The collaboration between the UK and the EU27 remains of paramount importance to guaranteeing safety, freedom and welfare within Europe, while contributing to the stability and perspective of the peoples surrounding Europe.