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Will Brexit Strengthen European Solidarity?

On March 29, 2017, British Prime Minister Theresa May signed a notice that formally launched the UK's withdrawal from the European Union. On March 31, Donald Tusk, Chairman of the European Council, is to submit a plan for negotiations on Brexit, which will be discussed on April 29 at the EU summit. After this the formation of an agreement with Great Britain on its dissociation will begin. According to Benjamin Wegg-Prosser, Valdai Club expert, the way the British government is going to take is in many ways unique for our time.

Speaking in the British Parliament, Prime Minister Theresa May called the launch of the Brexit procedure a historic moment, after which "there can be no way back." According to Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, Great Britain will have to leave the EU in two years after sending an official notification, which should happen on March 29, 2019. "Britain is leaving the European Union – we are going to make our own decisions and our own laws, "May said, adding, that "we are leaving the European Union, but we are not leaving Europe."

"The process which the British government is about to embark on is in many ways unique in modern times: a “deliberalisation” of trade; an explicit rejection of the forces which have driven the UK and continental Europe closer since  1945; an attempt to re-build trade links with countries who are close to the UK culturally if not geographically," said in an interview to www.valdaiclub.com Benjamin Wegg-Prosser, managing partner of Global Counsel, former Director of Strategic Communications in the Prime Minister's Office.

According to him, Brexit came to pass thanks to a breakdown in trust of elites and a sense that the British electorate were prepared to vote against their own economic self-interest.  The British government now has to deliver not only a comprehensive “divorce” deal but also a package to re-build the relationship with Europe at speed. The bar has been set very high and the British government will have to jump a long way to clear it.

Earlier in the report, titled "International Implications of the Brexit Referendum", prepared specially for the Valdai Club, Benjamin Wegg-Prosser wrote that the result of the referendum on the withdrawal of Britain from the EU became one of the least predictable international events in 2016 - alongside with an attempted coup in Turkey, Donald Trump's electoral success in the United States and the failure of TTIP negotiations. According to him, the importance of Brexit goes far beyond the borders of the UK and therefore the assessment of its consequences is so important.

Professor Piotr Dutkiewicz, Director of the Center for Governance and Public Management at the Carleton University, also noted in interview with www.valdaiclub.com the importance of Brexit for the whole of Europe. He added that for the UK itself the consequences of leaving the EU will be rather "sad". He called the official beginning of Brexit "a triumph of one of the specific forms of populism, from which nothing good is to be expected."

"I think that the consequences for the UK will be rather sad: not only that the EU has put rather harsh conditions for the UK secession. Brussels is ready to establish financial barriers for services by British companies. It would be logical to expect the withdrawal of the European banks headquarters from London: at least half of their operations are connected with the European market. Moreover, many people who worked in the UK in innovative sectors of the economy (for example, IT and healthcare) did so on programs funded by the EU. When the work with European partners becomes less intensive, and the funds inflow from the EU will be shortened, the UK will seriously lose this market," the expert said.

According to him, the Great Britain expects assistance from the US, believing that it will be able to break through to the North American market. "I'm not sure that it will be possible. For example, a free trade agreement between Canada and the European Union was signed. After the exit of Britain from the EU, it will not act in its respect. The consequences of Brexit can weaken the economic and political influence of the UK, " Dutkiewicz said.

"I think that Brexit implementation will give impetus to another way of thinking - it will be a blow to Eurosceptics, who may lose their influence in Europe. The opposite process will begin, Euroskepticism will begin to lose its influence, and European solidarity will intensify. This means that the same Poland and Hungary, seeing the results of Brexit, will come to the conclusion that it is more profitable to be in a united Europe," Piotr Dutkiewicz concluded.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.