Last Wednesday, 29th March, the British PM, Theresa May, enacted the infamous Article 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon. Which will formally begin the long awaited ‘divorce’ procedings between Britain and the E.U.
Many were shocked last summer when on the moring of the 24th of June they tuned in on their T.V. or social media and saw that when the British voted on a decisive referendum the day before, they had chosen to leave the European Union. A decision which not only sparked fear to the supporters of the European Dream, but also sent the EU on a long and deep moment of thought on what it has done wrong and how to fix it keeping the citizen’s best interests at heart.
In the referendum campaign, the Brexiteers had campaigned with the cry ‘Taking Back Control’. This means control over their borders, who gets in and who gets out, money (and for some reason the iconinc red brexit bus has to pop up in my mind) and control over jobs and trade. With the British having voted in favour of the Brexit camp. They had effectively expressed that Britain shall not take any part in sovereign sharing with any of its European counterparts; thus laws will only be made by the British parliament and no one should interfere with their country.
That sounds easy enough, I govern my own affairs while you govern yours. However, the situation gets complicated when we see the aims of the British government and of the EU. Apart from the total return of their soveriegnty, the British government is aiming for a free trade agreement and the end of freedom of movement. Whilst the EU wants a finacial settlement, an agreement on the rights of citizens living in the UK and EU member states, border issues with Northern Ireland, and free trade later. With the hot potatoes being the rights of residents and the €60b bill.
Moreover, the insistence of European diplomats that a free trade agreement will be reached later risks prolonging the Brexit talks, which will add further uncertainty as a great majority of British did vote for it. An odd stance given the fact that free trade is a rather globalist approach. However, the EU has the backing of the Lisbon Treaty since article 218 gives the Union the legal right to discuss free trade with non-EU members, and not Article 50 which focuses on exiting the Union.
Despite the chaos, the aim of the EU should be to keep Britain as close to the continent as possible. With Putin being more aggressive and Trump too busy in reaching a new low every day, it is vital that the EU has as much allies as possible who are prospering in order to ensure a secure future. There must be no push towards a hard Brexit, but as agreeable a Brexit as possible for both sides. When Britain eventually does leave, the hand of friendship must always be offered to the UK, because if your neigbhour’s house is on fire, then your house is too.
Thomas Cassar Ruggier