Political expert: “Norway model would undermine the British sovereignty” - INTERVIEW

Political expert: “Norway model would undermine the British sovereignty” - INTERVIEW
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  • calendar-gray 18 March 2019

The UK cannot expect a long delay from the European Union based just on wanting ‘one more time’ - Dr. Stefano Braghiroli, Researcher on European Studies at Johan Skytte Institute of Political Studies, University of Tartu said in an interview with APANews Agency.

- If Britain leaves the EU without a deal what is highly likely, on 29th March, how will the process work?

- The parliament approved the resolution in which they basically stressed they are against leaving the EU without a deal, and while the government’s proposal was to bound to the date of 29th of March, that would be without end date and basically the Commons accept that they do not want this option. However, there is a law what says the UK will leave on 29th of March with or without a deal. A law is stronger than the resolution in terms of effect. How would it work? None of us can predict the future and here the situation goes very much into the non-ground.

But so far, what observations say that this will somehow go back to the reset situation in which basically so-called WTO rules applies. But in fact it will be economically disaster for the UK, because regardless of how well the arrangements have been done, simply, we are talking about the country that for 60 years has had no blocs in terms of trade, no kind of limits in terms of circulation of goods and in the recent time, even there is no limit in terms of circulation of people… So, building up those structures becomes increasingly complicated, that is why hardcore, no deal Brexit without even a transitional period would be extremely difficult to manage.

In fact, I do not think regardless of whatever the UK government says that there is enough capacity to make it painless, it will be actually quite painful and that is why regardless what is politicians say but very few actually want no – deal Brexit. Even the ones of European research group in fact are pushing for hard core Brexit, they say that the no-deal Brexit should not be taken out of the table simply because that increases the bargain capability of the UK not because they want a no-deal Brexit.  

- EU leaders’ summit scheduled for 21 to 22 March during which a formal request for an extension could be made. What we may expect from this summit, is it likely that the request could be approved?

- It is predictable now in the light of what happened the past days, the Commons and the British government will ask for a delay. The first question is how long the delay is, and the second question is for what is the delay?!

 I think when it comes to the first question if it is a matter of few weeks, there is something that the EU can afford quite painlessly but if we go beyond May than there will be a big question related to the European Parliament election.

On the one hand, of course, there is no way, no legal way in which a country which still is a Member State of the EU does not take part in European Parliament election and if it happens that would be pretty much outlaw. Politicians, even Nigel Farage mentioned that they could go the European Court of Justice and British government has to be condemned for violating the rights of the EU citizens to vote the European elections. In this case it is clear that, time spend is crucial factor. And it seems, Member States are also increasingly concern about going beyond May, although, recently Tusk said that he would be in favor of longer negotiation period.

But in practical terms, this would be difficult to organize.

We know that the more we wait the more likely the Brexit does not happen at all or it would become softer Brexit. But it is also true that going beyond May would create a lot of confusion, and problems for the EU and for the UK.

When it comes to other point, in terms of “for what”, well, here I think that both the EU and the Member States have been very clear. France, Germany and also Michel Barnier, the European Chief Negotiator for the United Kingdom Exiting as said, the UK cannot expect a long delay based just on wanting more time. If you want more time it has to be for a reason. EU Chief Negotiator, Barnier said very openly that the negotiations are over and now we need to deliver. So what the EU expects is a clear position from the UK, but at the moment is not there.

-You mean that if extension allowed British parliamentarians will also run for European Parliament?

-The point is if for some reason the EU grants a delay longer than May, so basically that goes beyond May, then the only option I see, is the UK’s participation in the European election. Some politicians would say they run to grant Brexit and pro-Europeans would say they run to keep the UK inside the EU, but practically, that would be all the British parties competing in the European elections.

It might happen, of course, when we talking about the situation that very hard to predict. But frankly, I believe that not many want that scenario because it is uncertainty also for the EU.

-German and France are among several countries which want to see more flexibility. Those leading countries can somehow influence by using their reputation, voice on the rest for that flexibility in favour of the UK?

- Yes and no. Because in a sense, just recently Macron said that yes in a principle he is not against an extension which should be short that was a kind of stress, but should be reason not just to give more time, the UK should say what wants to do. In general, the Member States, even more specifically, France and Germany which are basically a key engine of the EU are trying to avoid hard Brexit or even no-deal. But here we can say that two key member states are much in line with the position of the Commission.  

At the same time both, France and Germany had also said there is no way in which the EU should put the Common market at risk just to please the UK. There are very clear red-lines beyond which flexibility does not apply. And while Germany and France might try, and have tried to support British PM May in her attempt to have the deal approved, at the same time they will not compromise the Single Market.

Also because in due frankness, the UK risks much more than the EU in this no – deal. In practical terms for the UK it would be tragedy, for the EU it would be an issue of concern. The level of damage between the EU and the UK is not comparable. So, the West to lose the most is the UK.

-For an alternative outcome, is there a possibility of election or another referendum in near future?

-This is good question. When it comes to the second referendum the only thing I can say is that it more likely today than it was likely a month ago. Because now the British Labor has become increasingly open to the option of the second referendum. Jeremy Corbyn as mentioned it is one of the options and frankly I believe that if Jeremy Corby will feel that in the short term a change of government is not likely and that no deal with Conservatives postponed. He will much push the second referendum. Because in that case he would be able to attract voters, also some of the conservatives are in favour of staying in the EU and the liberal democrats, too. So in that sense, the idea of second referendum could bring together enough supporters. When it comes to the election, well, it depends how resilient is May to defeat and how united is the British conservatives. Because so far May as proven very resilient despite experience of most disruptive wave of defeats every contemporary British ministers. She is still there. But at the same time if the British conservatives will proven divided, then possibility of the election will not be so unlikely. Of course, the point is that possibility of election takes time that also might clash short term delay that the EU allows. So there are a lot of question-marks.

- Future European Union and UK trade deal has not been decided yet. What it will look like? What kind of cooperation model can be predicted between these two, such as Norway model?

-It is hard to predict, we are in terra incognito. But the EU always tells us one thing how it closes the door and another thing is how it opens the new one. That is true but at the same time the type of deal that we get will also tell us what type of future relations will get. Because if we look at the deal that now is on the table would basically exclude the certain scenarios. For example, if one day the May agreement is approved, then Norway scenario would not be on the table. Still the type of deal that Britain get to leave will already tell us which way they will follow. However, I think that if we have a long term or a mid term delay and we go towards soft Brexit also maybe trying to inward the Labour party then in that case Norway scenario would not be excluded.  

On the other hand, paradoxical thing is that Norway model would very much undermine the British sovereignty, because Norway scenario is participation in single market but having very little voice in deciding how the market is managed. But that would be contradiction of the Brexit.

-Some of politicians say that however Britain leaves the EU but this country will remain close ally because the EU and UK share common values. What do you think, after Brexit the EU and UK will remain a very close ally as it was?

- I think in a way that is correct. Britain leaves the EU, but it does not leave Europe. In a post-Brexit Britain, it will be more and clearer that the idea of new imperial Britain, special relationship with the United States, especially Trump’s U.S., all these would be pretty much a dream. I think that Britain itself realizes that strong ties with the continent will be fundamental. And as for the relations in the field of defense and security, the EU has already made clear that whatever the outcome of Brexit it would be good to have the UK on board as part of the security structure.

French President Macron in his recent letter to the European citizens he proposed the idea of European Security Council with which the U.K. would be associated.

Zumrud Pashkin

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