Brexit is Not a Priority for Europe say Economists

David Davis claims the European Union is stalling Brexit negotiations for cash. But reporting from Brussels, Emma Wall learns that Brexit just isn't a priority for Europe

Emma Wall 18 October, 2017 | 4:39PM
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“Brexit is a third level issue for Europe – they have other priorities,” says Guntram Wolf, director of European think tank Bruegel.

Outside of the Brussels bubble, people in Europe don’t care about Brexit

“Angela Merkel is foremost concerned with getting the collation government of Germany to work, and sorting out the immigration concerns. Emmanuel Macron wants to fix the labour market of France and focus on European integration. For Spain, there is the issue of Catalonia.”

It is incomprehensive this side of the Channel that Brexit may not be at the top of the to do list for our European neighbours. But while Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union David Davis claims the EU is dragging out negotiations to secure a bigger divorce bill from the UK, the truth may be more mundane – they simply haven’t got the time right now, they have bigger fish to fry.

Speaking in Brussels last week, Wolf said that UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s speech in Florence was well received, and with good will, but did not bear the same sentiment as it did back in the UK.

“Michel Barnier has a job to do, but the deal will not be agreed by him and Davis. The situation will first escalate and may then be resolved at the heads of state level.”

Wolf suggested this would not happen until other political uncertainties had been resolved however, such as the forming of the new government in Germany in the first quarter of next year.

To add to that, the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker is fully tasked with what the EU ex-UK will look like; the forming of a new, more integrated 27-state Union.

“Junker has many concerns; Russia, migration, security and defence. They have to pool resources. Work out what the EU response is to a global event,” commented Conservative MEP for Wales Kay Swinburne.

Daniel Gros, director for the Centre for European Policy Studies, is more blunt.

“Outside of the Brussels bubble, people in Europe don’t care about Brexit,” he says. “I am concerned for what it means for the UK voters however. If the vote had been 30/70 with a clear plan for exiting that would be different. But 50/50 with no plan… it leads to feelings of betrayal and disappointment among the voters.”

Swinburne says that her colleagues in the European Parliament could not believe the Government had no plan for Brexit.

“The members here are bemused by the political turmoil back in the UK. We are usually known as one of the most organised governments. They could not believe we did not have a secret plan up our sleeve. They thought we would just turn up to the first meeting and say ‘here’s the deal’. What we wanted, our specific requests. It took about six months for other members to believe we had no plan.”

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Emma Wall  is former Senior International Editor for Morningstar

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