Interview: Uncertainties remain as Brexit looms

Source: Xinhua| 2018-09-12 19:45:29|Editor: xuxin
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by Nathan Morley

BRUSSELS, Sept. 12 (Xinhua) -- With less than 200 days to go before the official departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union, Conservative European parliamentarian Charles Tannock says many uncertainties still remain around Brexit.

Tannock, who campaigned for Britain to remain in the European Union, is most concerned about the vexed issue in Northern Ireland, where the possibility of a physical border between the UK and the Republic of Ireland - an EU member - might become an inevitable, if an amicable divorce cannot be agreed between London and Brussels.

"I'm still not clear in my mind how the Irish border question will be solved if they can't agree on the long-term trading relationship," Tannock, who represents London in the European Parliament, told Xinhua in an interview.

"There are still a lot of 'ifs' and 'buts' but maybe the British government can pull the so-called white rabbit out of the hat and surprise us all."

The term 'Brexit' refers to the UK's decision in a 2016 referendum to leave the European Union, which it joined in 1973.

It's now two years on since the vote, and as negotiators continue to grapple over the terms of the separation, the EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier said on Monday that a Brexit deal was possible within six to eight weeks.

TRADE

Brexiteers - the term used for those supporting Britain leaving the European Union - insist that a key benefit of leaving the EU is the prospect for new trade deals with Commonwealth countries like India, and emerging economies in Africa. As it stands, the EU is the UK's biggest trading partner.

Tannock doubts Britain's trading relationship with rich nations like France, Germany, and Italy can be replaced by deals with 'far-flung countries' on the other side of the world.

"One of the big deceits which was perpetrated and inflicted on the British electorate was the promise of a 'global Britain,' unshackled from the rotting corpse of the European Union and the eurozone - where, as actually, Britain has been growing less than the rest of the European Union, the pound has even devalued by 15 percent since the result of the Brexit referendum," he said.

"Those that wanted to leave were counting on (U.S. President) Donald Trump, who has become increasingly protectionist, slapping tariffs on exports, including potentially British steel."

Tannock, an MEP of 19 years, laments the 'great irony' of trade issue being that as Britain departs from the EU, Brussels is working on over 60 large free trade agreements with countries including Canada and Japan.

CITIZENS

By contrast, he believes the rights of British expatriates and workers based in Europe have been covered adequately in the ongoing talks.

"As I understand it, the basic right for all the British - 1.1 million of them - scattered across the European Union, particularly in Spain and countries like Cyprus - many of the retired and some working - if they are self-sufficient by being in a full-time job or being a pensioner, or having independent means or being self-employed, their status will be that they will be allowed to stay in the country in which they reside for the rest of their lives."

As it stands, almost 250,000 British pensioners have chosen to make mainland Europe their home, where, just like the locals, they currently enjoy the full benefits of the health care system.

SECOND VOTE

For Tannock, calls from a leading campaign group for a second Brexit referendum should be heeded by the British government if negations end with a no-deal. That scenario would mean the United Kingdom quitting the EU without any agreement on key issues like the movement of people, money, and goods.

"Let's face it, this huge change to Britain's constitutional and economic arrangement has been carried on only a very small majority. And added to which, a lot of false promises and lies were made about the money that would come to the National Health Service, and a lot of evidence is now emerging of possible foreign interference in the funding of one of the groups which campaigned to leave," he said.

"Given all the uncertainties, there is a very strong case to submit the final deal or no deal for a final say confirmation in a second referendum to the electorate. And I think the electorate now are much more informed - one of the great ironies and tragedies is that the British public knows much more about what the European Union is, and does, after the referendum."

Britain is slated to officially leave the European Union on March 29, 2019.

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