EU parliament president’s take on Britain’s future in the EU

EPA/JULIEN WARNAND

In a speech, European Parliament President Martin Schulz outlined the reasons why a Brexit would be bad news for both sides.

EU parliament president’s take on Britain’s future in the EU


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In the European Parliament, an overwhelming majority of lawmakers want the United Kingdom to remain in the European Union. According to a European Parliament press release issued on February 18, the EU needs the UK more than ever and the UK will be better off as part of the EU.

In a speech, European Parliament President Martin Schulz outlined the reasons why a Brexit would be bad news for both sides.

“At a time when the United States are increasingly turning inward, when Russia is challenging the global security architecture in Ukraine and Syria, when China is rising in East Asia and simultaneously slowing down economically, surely, we Europeans have to stick together more than ever,” he said. “Together, with 508 million people, 28 nation-states and the richest single market of the world, we stand a fair chance to shape the rules of the international order and manage globalisation according to our interests and values. But if we Europeans part ways, labouring under the fond illusion that, now of all times, the finest hour of the nation state has arrived, we should make no mistake about the consequences. We will be left to drift into the insignificant backwaters of the world political scene.”

However, the EU has “concerns” about several proposals tabled by the UK.

“And here the devil is in the detail,” said Schulz. “We would like to use this opportunity today to raise these concerns with the goal of solving issues at this early stage and avoiding misunderstandings later on when legislation will need to be debated and adopted in the European Parliament.”

As regards the ever-closer union, Schulz said the European Parliament believes this concept is important piece of the bloc’s heritage.  “It’s also about what we can accomplish together in the future and we know that many Member States and a large majority of citizens want to go further in this way.”

Another issue is the “multicurrency union” demanded by British Prime Minister David Cameron. This is just not possible, according to Schulz. “The treaties are very clear: the currency of the European Union is the euro,” he said. “The UK is guaranteed an opt-out from the common currency. Where could there be any need for further clarification? It’s crystal clear.”

A third issue is the so-called “benefit debate”. “If freedom of movement creates practical problems on the ground, these must be addressed,” said Schulz. “But solutions cannot come at the price of discriminating against EU citizens. And it is of course up to Member States to decide how they want to structure their benefits schemes and social security systems through national law.

“The European Parliament stands ready to accompany these discussions in good faith,” added Schulz. “We will support any proposal which will make the EU more democratic and more transparent. We want the EU to make the lives of people better. Therefore, we ask you tonight and tomorrow to agree on reforms which make the EU stronger. And one thing has to be clear: what we are doing here now is addressing the concerns of one specific Member State, namely the United Kingdom. This should not turn into an opportunity for other Member States to start rolling out lists of backdoor Treaty changes. If such a Pandora’s box were to be opened, and we caution against this, then we are in Treaty change mode and the European Parliament would see fit to convene a Convention.”

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