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Official EU stance: UK should launch exit procedure as swiftly as possible

In what certain media describe as a stormy session at the European Parliament on Thursday, EC President Jean-Claude Juncker warned against a longer period of uncertainty in the wake of Brexit and proclaimed: “No notification, no negotiations,” sources such as FAZ report, as the European Parliament passed a resolution calling for a “rapid and coherent” procedure for the UK to quit the EU, Corriere.it for instance says, and as the EU heads of state and government met in Brussels to debate Great Britain’s decision to leave the EU – media widely report.

Reporting live from Brussels on TF1, Valérie Nataf notes that the agenda of yesterday’s summit was not amended, “as if the European Union and leaders refused to let themselves be thrown off balance by the Brexit earthquake.” The issue was discussed over dinner and all efforts were made “not to humiliate David Cameron.” Great Britain is “still a friend and partner, although we regret this decision,” German Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed, as reported by Austrian media for instance.

With her attitude, Münchner Merkur comments, Ms Merkel is “leaving a small door open” for the pro-European powers in Great Britain. During the last Council meeting with 28 participants, the EU-27 however asked the British PM “a schedule and instructions” to lift the veil of uncertainty on further proceedings, TF1 reports. The official EU stance is to launch, as swiftly as possible, the UK’s exit procedure and then start the ensuing negotiations, Les Echos notes, a stance – Le Monde says – is shared by most EU leaders, and reiterated yesterday by French President François Hollande.

 European President Martin Schulz said Europe was “taken hostage” by David Cameron’s overlong deadlines, whose main purpose is “the blind defence of the British Conservative Party’s interests,” French media report. British Prime Minister David Cameron told EU leaders that it must reform freedom of movement rules if Britain is to maintain close economic ties with the bloc, The Daily Telegraph reports. In his final European Council meeting, Mr Cameron identified immigration as the main driver of the UK’s vote to leave the EU, as voters felt the country has “no control” of its borders. Setting out the basis for a future deal with the EU, Mr Cameron said that Britain would only be able to maintain access to the single market if the bloc agrees to look again at its policy of open borders.

European Council President Donald Tusk, several media note, announced there will be an informal EU summit in September in Bratislava, Slovakia, among the 27 member states to discuss the future of the EU. Following the UK’s EU referendum, EU leaders seem disoriented, Le Monde notes. The European Union had no Plan B for a Brexit, and Brexit points to the need to rethink the European Union. But what kind of EU, the French newspaper wonders. A more integrated Europe? A less integrated Europe? A tailor-made Europe? While Paris and Berlin want to reinforce integration within the EU, Eastern European countries are ready to denounce any Franco-German directive, Le Monde says.

What is more, according to The Daily Telegraph, whereas President Juncker yesterday attempted to ban nations from negotiating with the UK until Article 50 is triggered, Eastern EU member states want to speak with British leaders in the hope that a deal can be struck. Writing in The Telegraph, Stephen Booth suggests that there is not a united front from the EU over how to pursue negotiations with the UK. He suggests there are three broad groups: the European Commission, Parliament and French-led group pushing for a quick exit; Eastern and Central members who broadly agreed with Britain’s more sceptical view of EU efforts to centralise power; Germany, the Netherlands and Scandinavia which are broadly in the middle and are preaching pragmatism. Merkel, Renzi and Hollande; are also said to want to give a new boost to the EU, La Libre Belgique‘s Olivier le Bussy notes.

In the EP yesterday, EC President Juncker clashed with British leader of Eurosceptic party UKIP, Nigel Farage, European media, notably from the UK, report. President Juncker turned to Mr Farage, who was booed at the EP: “I am surprised you are here. You were fighting for Brexit and the British people voted in favour of it. Why are you here?” – sources such as The Guardian; MDR, Trud Daily and Adevarul report, with Adevarul highlighting the ironic nature of Mr Juncker’s statements “It is my pleasure,” answered Farage, as quoted by Trud Daily. The EC President, in turn, accused Farage of lying to the British people about the amount of the UK’s instalment to the EU budget.

In an interview with La Stampa, UKIP leader Nigel Farage criticises reported plans by some people to prevent Brexit as a “horrible scenario,” as this would mean “betraying the trust” of all those who voted to leave the EU. In the EP, Mr Juncker also vowed to “fight” for a unified Europe “until his last breath,” FAZ reports adding that, within the European Commission, there appears to be regrets about not having intervened more actively in the British debate, particularly through European Commissioner Jonathan Hill.

There are actually some calls for EC President Juncker’s, or the College of Commissioners’, resignation. Polish Minister of Foreign Affairs Witold Waszczykowski requested the resignation of the entire College of Commissioners, at a meeting of EU foreign affairs ministers in Prague on Tuesday, with the argument that the EC has failed to prevent Brexit, Capital Daily reports. According to the minister, some of the Commission’s prerogatives have to be transferred to the European Council and the European Parliament, which in his words are the most legitimate authorities. “The East Europeans want to get rid of President Juncker”, reads a Tageblatt headline, as the Visegrád Group – Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary – blame the EC President for not having done enough to keep Great Britain in the EU.

The Visegrád countries want to take away powers from the European Commission in favour of the European Council, La Libre Belgique further reports. In an editorial in L’Opinion, arguing that the EC President has had an emotional reaction to the Brexit but does not seem to have realised his own accountability, Nicolas Beytout calls for Mr Juncker’s resignation. President Juncker, Nicolas Beytout claims, embodies “eurocracy.” To put it in a nutshell, “he is Brussels,” Mr Beytout writes, and one cannot think that this earthquake, which is shaking the British political class, will not have any aftershock in Brussels.

Mr Juncker, Latvijas Radio 1 reports, does not plan to step down, as he believes that those who initiated the referendum should take responsibility for it. An editorial in The Telegraph further argues that the European Commission has been given too much power, and needs to be reined in in order to restore authority within the EU to elected politicians. What is more, Jonathan Hill, British media report, will receive a golden goodbye of more than £250,000 after resigning as Britain’s European Commissioner, despite having only served for 20 months. Under a “transitional allowance,” Lord Hill will be paid 40% of his salary until July 2019 for doing nothing unless he earns income from a new job of more than £80,000 a year.

The payments are justified as a measure to prevent former commissioners from feeling “financial pressure” that might tempt them into inappropriate jobs. “It’s important that commissioners take their time over finding appropriate new employment”, a Commission spokesman said. “That way there is much less risk of a conflict of interest.”

While admitting that frustration is very high among EU citizens, former ECB president Jean-Claude Trichet stressed, in an article on lemonde.fr, that this frustration is more at national institutions than at European institutions, more at national parliaments (66% mistrust) than at the European Commission (46% mistrust); more at national Parliaments (64% mistrust) than at the European Parliament (47% mistrust), according to the latest Eurobarometer data. Many of the problems that are fuelling this frustration – migration, the emergence of China and India, etc. – cannot be efficiently managed at the national level and can, and should be managed at the European level Mr Trichet claimed.

©europeanunion2016

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