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The issue of the United Kingdom leaving the European Union - a move British citizens decided through a referendum in 2016 - is an unprecedented challenge for the European community.
Negotiations for an agreement ahead of an amicable parting are a difficult process, with many chapters, allegedly complicated. The Euranet Plus, the European Radio network, where Radio Romania is a founding member, has recently staged a debate with Michel Barnier, the European Union's chief negotiator in the process of Great Britain exiting the EU.
These past days we have already presented a couple of relevant points from that debate, related to the framework of the ongoing negotiation and some of the key points, among which the rights of European citizens who are residents in the UK, the rights of the British nationals who live in the EU, as well as issues related to the free movement of people, capital and services, in the post-Brexit period of time.
Today we want to go deeper into the matter. One of the concerns of the European officials and of the EU business environment takes into account the likelihood of certain unfair competition policies being promoted by Great Britain, post-Brexit. With details on that, here is Michel Barnier himself.
Michel Barnier:"It is a very important issue, capable of targeting many other issues as well, whether we speak about food safety, the competitiveness of joint ventures, the whole range of dumping-related risks we anticipate or fear, as far as Brexit is concerned. A first answer would be that, in our dialogue with the British, we really need to stick together. If we want to protect a certain kind of economic reality, be it the reality of financial services, or the reality of agricultural safety, it is better for us to stick together before talking to the British. This is the real goal of the mandate I've been entrusted with, that of being the sole negotiator, at the same time assuring the member states that I negotiate on their behalf, taking their preoccupations into account. In our future relation with Great Britain, we disagree with the idea of accepting the existence of a big state, in our immediate vicinity, that runs a fiscal dumping policy, an environment dumping policy, or at social level, a policy that runs counter the consumers' rights. We are going to clearly state the issue, so that we may bring negotiations on a fair basis, playing by the rules in order to avoid the risks caused by dumping, by fiscal competition, risks related to the infringement upon our rights related either to financial services and other rights. Speaking about financial services, which are a major issue for London, the European Union's biggest financial center - which still remains the biggest financial center even after Britain leaves the Union - it is clear that, after they leave the Single Market, the British financial institutions will lose what we call the financial passport, which means they will not enjoy the same status unless they set part of their assets and services here, with us, in the European Union."
The reality of Brexit, and the grassroots vote leading up to that process, have also caused a new round of challenges for the European Union. Here is Michel Barnier once again, with some of the questions that have already taken shape, as part of the aforementioned debate staged by the Euranet Plus European Radio Network.
Michel Barnier:"How can we reform the European Union? How can we possibly reconcile citizens with Europe when they feel they're being drawn away, what are the lessons we can learn from Brexit? Brexit has its own consequences, consequences I've been trying to manage as a negotiator, but there are also lessons to learn. When there are so many people voting against Europe, against globalization, because they didn't get enough protection from Europe, we need to learn something from that! And what I've noticed is that European leaders such as Jean Claude Juncker, in his address on the state of the Union, or president Macron and Ms. Merkel have begun to come up with answers. Border management is now being done on a more common basis, even at a federal one, because we now have the European coast and border guard that were set up precisely to help those countries that are unable to make it on their own...The European Commission has come up with proposals, which are about to materialize, in terms of European defense, external security, to have a defense fund and a cooperation structured on defense - related issues. Then we have the Juncker fund, with investments accounting for 500 billion Euro, for the creation of common infrastructures, in order to invest in the future...All these are the initial answers but we need others as well..."
But how does the European Union answer the Eurosceptic trends that have been gaining ground all across Europe? Here is Michel Barnier once again.
Michel Barnier:"It's been quite clear already, for many Brits and for many Europeans, and it will be even clearer, that the best relation one can have with the European Union is from the position of a Union member. And when you choose to pull yourself out of the Union, you no longer have the same rights and the same opportunities you used to have as an insider. This is going to be very clear at the end of this round of negotiations. It is a lot more complicated than people think. The day the British leave the European Union, as it is their choice, not ours, they leave 750 international agreements. They leave the Europol, that is the internal security, they leave the Euratom, that is the management of fissile and nuclear materials, they leave trade agreements...This is the aftermath of Brexit, and the whole array of consequences had not been explained before. I think this negotiation must be viewed extremely carefully, objectively, by all those who might nurture the same ideas. I should like to remind you that my country, and I am very happy because of that, voted for a European president of the Republic and the option was very clear. It was either Emmanuel Macron, or the option for a European France, or Mrs. Marine Le Pen, who at that time advanced the idea of withdrawing from the Euro zone and even from the European Union, maybe...she no longer supports this idea though...In fact, the option was clear, and my country made its decision. But mark my words!...The right way to answer all that, in this debate, is not to hide ourselves but to come out in the open, to open up debates, fighting demagogy with democracy...We must not hesitate to admit that Brussels wasn't always right. That mistakes have been made, that sometimes we've had too much red-tape, an issue the Juncker team is about to tackle shortly. Moving too much along the path of ultra-liberalism, of deregulation, was another mistake which eventually sapped our strength during the financial crisis. Mistakes have been made that need to be corrected; there are reforms that need to be made, but also, debates must be held, with the citizens...They are worried about, but also interested in Europe...Everywhere. Such a concern must be addressed, as well as such that interest, through public debate."
It might also be interesting to find out how optimistic is Michel Barnier about how the negotiations on Britain's leaving the Union unfold. We recall that Michel Barnier is the European Chief negotiator for the United Kingdom Exiting the European Union.
Michel Barnier:"When, a long time ago, one of the Union's founding fathers, Jean Monnet, was asked whether he was pessimistic or optimistic, he used to answer: Neither! I am determined!" And I am determined to work towards a neat agreement. But I have found out that 'the clock is ticking!' time is running out very fast...I think we need to speed up the negotiation process, and the team of the European Union is ready. For that, the British ought to consent to lay everything on the table, like we did, with our treaty draft which is available and accessible on the Internet to all those who are listening to us. So at that, the British, with respect to a great number of points where they failed to do that, must also present their position at the negotiating table. Then we could speed up the negotiation process, but I am concerned with the fact that time goes by...
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