The Observer reports: European leaders have come to a 27-nation consensus that a “hard Brexit” is likely to be the only way to see off future populist insurgencies, which could lead to the break-up of the European Union.
The hardening line in EU capitals comes as Nigel Farage warns European leaders that Marine Le Pen, leader of the Front National, could deliver a political sensation bigger than Brexit and win France’s presidential election next spring – a result that would mean it was “game over” for 60 years of EU integration.
According to senior officials at the highest levels of European governments, allowing Britain favourable terms of exit could represent an existential danger to the EU, since it would encourage similar demands from other countries with significant Eurosceptic movements.
One top EU diplomat told the Observer: “If you British are not prepared to compromise on free movement, the only way to deal with Brexit is hard Brexit. Otherwise we would be seen to be giving in to a country that is leaving. That would be fatal.”
The latest intervention by Farage will only serve to fuel fears in Europe that anti-EU movements have acquired a dangerous momentum in countries such as France and the Netherlands, following the precedent set by the Brexit vote. Ukip’s interim leader, who predicted both the vote for Brexit and Donald Trump’s US victory, told the Observer that while Le Pen was still more likely to be runner-up to an establishment candidate next May, she now had to be taken seriously as a potential head of state. [Continue reading…]
Toby Helm writes: From Paris to Brussels, and Berlin to Warsaw and Bratislava, there is much sadness that the British are leaving. In the central and eastern European member states in particular, governments will fight tooth and nail to ensure their people can still travel to, and work in, the UK post-Brexit.
The right to move around the EU has symbolised, more than anything else, the break from their pre-1989 past under Soviet influence.
From his office in Bratislava, Slovakia’s state secretary at the foreign ministry, Ivan Korcok, can see Austria and speaks of the “emotional” importance of the EU to all Slovakians. “Our people are buying their apartments and building their houses across the border over there in Austria. Slovakia is a very pro-European country. People are concerned about the British situation [if it means they will no longer be able to move to and work in the UK]. The older generation here see their kids travelling abroad, and thinking differently to how they did. If one day a child in Slovakia decides to study elsewhere in Europe, including in the UK, and they can afford to, they go, they just go! This is such an emotional thing in positive terms about the EU.”
Marek Prawda, Poland’s former ambassador to the EU and now head of the European commission in Warsaw, says: “For us, being an EU member is the inverse of what was said in your referendum campaign about ‘taking back control’. To us, being a member of the EU has been about gaining back control, about freedom, about security, about being able to run an economy in a modern way. EU membership was a chance to shape our own life. We are able to borrow and invest in our economy. We are part of a rational world.” [Continue reading…]