Brussels must also listen, and not only boss around
An interview with Syed Kamall, chair of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) Group in the European Parliament.
Gazeta Polska: At this early stage of Brexit, what do you think the difference is between the European Union as we know it today and its predecessor, the European Economic Community (EEC), which was established sixty years ago under the Rome Treaties?
Syed Kamall, chair of the European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) Group in the European Parliament: After the UK joined the EEC in 1973, a number of new treaties have been adopted, the organization’s membership has grown, and the co-decision procedure has been introduced. These events have coincided with changes in global economic trends, geopolitics, and migrant flows. Today the EU, which is the EEC’s successor, has a centralized decision-making process. Europeans feel less involved in making decisions. We are witnessing ever more arbitrary regulations enacted by Brussels, whilst the citizens do not think their introduction will make a positive impact on their lives. People don’t feel there are more jobs, rising wages, or more security.
What is Europe’s future in the face of increasing Euroscepticism?
European voters are on the lookout for political alternatives to the mainstream parties. Politicians in Brussels must start asking themselves what motivates these voters. The electorate wants a reformed EU, a community whose leaders would consider charting a new course to improve the alliance’s functioning. The EU must find solutions that would cut red tape. Brussels should also ponder how to regain the trust of the Europeans. It will succeed once the politicians realize that the EU must control its budget by slashing onerous business regulations, opening up to trade, and laying down firm but fair migration rules.
Even as late as the early 1970s, the UK government was reluctant to join the EEC on account of its relations with the former and existing colonies, while defending the idea to establish a free trade area. Could you say then that British history has come full circle?
In my opinion, it’s not so much about circles as conceding that the UK has always had a peculiar relationship with the European Union. Whereas politicians in Brussels talk about “the European project” of political integration, members of all British political parties tend to focus on trade with the EU. Moreover, the UK has always seen itself as a global nation rather than a rank-and-file member of the EU. Many people I talked to during the referendum campaign in June advocated leaving the EU ranks to allow Britain to look for opportunities and trade contacts with countries and nations across the globe, rather than just its small European part.
How long do you think will Brexit negotiations take between the UK government and Brussels?
The treaties make it clear that negotiations should conclude within two years of triggering Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. I believe the talks could end within the regular time framework, but it’s possible that on some aspects the UK and the EU will agree to extend that deadline to work out the best solution.
Source: Gazeta Polska