7 things you didn’t see from the EU’s reaction to May’s Brexit trigger

Nathanael Williams

CommonSpace goes to the continent to find rare glimpses of European reaction to May’s Article 50 triggering

EUROPE was ablaze with reaction to the news that the UK Prime Minister Theresa May had finally signed and sent the Article 50 letter to the EU.

By completing this action yesterday (29 March) she ensured that the UK formally notified the remaining EU member states of its desire to leave the bloc and begin trade and transition negotiations.

We take a look at the six things you missed that may indicate how the EU will deal with Theresa May’s position on subjects as wide-ranging as finance to border controls. 

1). Das Boot

The German Banking Federation were less than pleased. Airing their deep pessimism about the prospect of the UK gaining any decent concession. Hans-Walter Peters, the president of the association, said: “The prospect of a comprehensive deal within two years is questionable. It’s unlikely, that we will see a comprehensive economic treaty regulating market access within 2 years.”

2). You’re on your own mate

The chairman of the European People’s party, the right of centre EU parliamentary grouping that the Tories used to sit in, came out airing the built up resentments of many in the EU. The feeling has been that the UK has traditionally since 1974, the main block on any substantial progress towards a more integrated and efficient union. The mood by this wing of European thought is to punish the UK harshly for its current and previous folly.

3). Bring it on!

Sweden’s EU affairs and trade minister reacted to the news the UK had handed in its Article 50 letter by saying, “Bring it on…we are well prepared and ready for the negotiations.” The tone was determined but friendly and a sign that most EU members states are in a mentality of unity when facing the negotiations that lie ahead.

4). Rights of the EU citizen

Tomáš Prouza, a Czech economist, former Deputy Minister of Finance (2004–2007) and since January 2014 State Secretary for EU affairs for the Czech Government, made it crystal clear that the sticking point for his government would be the treatment of EU nationals. Analysts have argued that the UK not giving a caste iron guarantee to EU nationals that their rights will be recognised in the UK has soured the start of any future negotiations. The EU President Donald Tusk has made it clear this week that any talks will be predicated on the treatment of EU nationals living and working in the UK.

In Scotland, there are 180,000 EU nationals who have been welcomed by the Scottish Government but have not received any guarantees of stay and rights by the UK Government. In fact in a vote last month the House of Commons voted to reject an amendment from the Lords calling for EU citizens to have guaranteed rights.

5). The hills are alive with the sound of Brexit

The social democratic Austrian Chancellor Christian Kern has predicted “a dogged fight about” the exit bill, estimated at 60bn euros.

It is claimed by the EU that the UK must pay a “divorce bill” which includes payments on previous and current obligations to the bloc.

He also focused on Austria’s aims during the EU-Brexit negotiations saying: “The status and the rights of the roughly 25,000 Austrians living and working in Great Britain will be my main concern. We also want clarity and legal certainty for the Austrian companies working in Great Britain.”

Additionally, there was a draft resolution in the EU Parliament yesterday also calling on the UK  to “honour all its legal, financial and budgetary obligations.”

6). Bellissima Brexit

On the day that Brexit was triggered, Italian Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan spoke to investors at an event in London saying Brexit “generates costs, but also opportunities.”

Italy will present itself to investors in London and the rest of the EU as a united nation ready to collect the pieces of the UK economy for any firms looking for a new location. Along with Dublin it has zeroed in on the City of London eyeing easy pickings. 

Italy secretly hopes bodies such as the European Medicines Agency (EMA), the European Banking Authority (EBA) and the financial activities division of the EU will be forced to leave the City to go to perhaps, Milan.

7). Deutsche Komödie

German paper Die Welt signed off on the whole Article 50 business with some sharp pointed German wit poking fun at British stereotyping of Germans. It mirrored opinion from Germans, alone in the EU, of deep sadness and possible hope the UK Government could revoke Article 50’s triggering and as the article said, “come to its senses.”

Pictures courtesy of Terry Anderson, Michael Frutt, CommonSpace & Lefora

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