Is the UK already sidelined or ready to prosper from Brexit?

As you – a British or EU expat – contemplate your lunch in the UK, the EU, or even further afield, do the Brexit shenanigans make you feel happy to be free of Brussels or sad to leave? I know how I feel…

Two pairs of hands across a negotiating table with UK and EU flags behind
Testy divorce or flexible separation?

I was/am a Remainer, because I feel strongly European. I find the current “negotiations” disturbing and unsettling. I’ve asked friends who were Leavers if they now regret their decision, based on the seeming inability for either the EU or UK to work things out. My unofficial poll of about 10 people is about 50:50. Interesting… The 50% who regret their vote said they are now worried that the UK will be “sidelined” and cut out of important job-producing trade, while the other half say they feel the UK would prosper, once things had “settled down”. How long will that take before the UK “prospers” from Brexit? Or will the UK’s economy fall into recession before things “settle”? No real response to that because in all honesty even financial experts don’t know the answer to those questions.

There certainly doesn’t seem to be a clear path to a fruitful and agreeable post-Brexit relationship. Indeed, on 13 September, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker delivered his 2017 State of the Union Address, before the Members of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, presenting his priorities for the year ahead and outlining his vision for how the European Union could evolve by 2025. He presented a Roadmap for a More United, Stronger and More Democratic Union (see Roadmap Factsheet).

The President also set out how the Commission will address the most pressing challenges the European Union is facing, but did not mention the UK. His speech had a very nautical tone (perhaps another subtle jibe at the UK, with its strongly nautical history?). Here’s an extract of Juncker’s speech, “Catching the wind in our sails” in which he did not directly mention Brexit or the UK once. (See full speech.)

“On 30 March 2019, we will be a Union of 27. I suggest that we prepare for this moment well, amongst the 27 and within the EU institutions.”

“My hope is that on 30 March 2019, Europeans will wake up to a Union where we all stand by our values. Where all Member States firmly respect the rule of law. (…) Where we have shored up the foundations of our Economic and Monetary Union so that we can defend our single currency in good times and bad, without having to call on external help. (…) Where a single President leads the work of the Commission and the European Council, having been elected after a democratic Europe-wide election campaign.”

“We started to fix the roof. But we must now complete the job now that the sun is shining and whilst it still is. (…) So, let’s throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the harbour. And catch the trade winds in our sails.”

UK flag with two jigsaw pieces with words economy and growth
Will the two parties piece things together amicably?

On trade, President Juncker stated “Today, we are proposing to open trade negotiations with Australia and New Zealand”

“We find it interesting,” says “that the EU Commission mentions Australia and New Zealand – both countries with whom the UK is seeking early trade agreements. In each case, these countries expressed their keenness to start with the UK, and initial discussions have already begun. It’s almost as if the Commission named the two countries most likely to annoy the British.”

Three young girls waiting to be chosen to play football, sitting on footballs on the sidelines
Sidelined while the other teams play…

Side-lined or at least out of mind? I think so…

On Monday, 11 September, the UK Parliament voted on the second reading of the EU Withdrawal Bill. MPs backed the much-debated bill by 326 votes to 290. The Bill is a major parliamentary test for the government – agreement on it is needed to end the EU laws ruling over the UK once the UK has left the Union. Detractors are concerned that it will give Ministers too much control and power over the UK’s laws. What next? All MPs must consider the Bill in a so-called Committee of the Whole House, when the Bill will be debated again and when MPs of all parties are expected to make attempts to change it, according to the BBC, which reports that there are an expected “157 amendments, covering 59 pages”. Following the Committee stage, there will be a Report stage and then a Third reading before the Bill goes to the House of Lords and then finally is passed to the Queen for Royal Assent. You can track its progress on Parliament.UK.

Prime Minster Theresa May is set to deliver a major speech in Florence, Italy on 22 September in a bid to break the seemingly gridlocked Brexit talks. The EU’s Michael Barnier has said there has been no “decisive progress” in Brexit talks, particularly in three important areas: the rights of expats, the Irish border and the settlement of the £50bn+ “Brexit bill”. Meanwhile, the UK says that the separation from the Union and the future relationship are “inextricably linked” and has asked the EU’s negotiators to show some flexibility. I won’t be holding my breath for a more flexible Messers Junckers and Barnier to evolve.

Does the subject of Brexit and the progress of talks get you “hot under the collar”? Or are you happy to sit back and watch it all unfold because it feels like there’s nothing you can do anyway? Let me know in the comments section below.

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