TUSK has given EU guideline on ‘How to Brexit’. European Council President said that UK needs to agree on 3 million EU citizens’ rights in UK, accepting its financial contributions to EU, reassurances for businesses about common standards after Brexit and soft border between Irish Republic and Northern Ireland to protect peace as first step towards trade talks between EU and Britain. He said that trade talks could start within six months. This policy has challenged May’s plans of initiating parallel negotiations with EU member states. Tusk said that EU will act as a bloc and policy of divide and rule will not be allowed to be used against the EU.
By autumn, the 27 EU members will assess the progress of the first phase to go to next phase. To avoid any confusion, he said that the EU will veto the Brexit deal if UK signs bilateral deals with the EU member states. It is not going to be easy to uphold this policy because many countries may act in national interest. The unity of Union is under pressure. Sturgeon, has demanded second independence vote in letter to May.
In her letter she formally demanded the Scottish government be granted power to hold fresh vote on Scotland breaking up the UK, Ms Sturgeon told the PM “the question is not if, but how” a second referendum is secured. On Tuesday, the Scottish Parliament backed the first Minister’s call for a second independence referendum less than three years after the 2014 majority ‘No’ vote. Ms Sturgeon wrote: “It is my firm view that mandate of the Scottish Parliament must be respected and progressed. She has hoped for constructive discussion in response to a question but warned that if that is not possible, she will set out to Scottish Parliament the steps she intends to take to ensure that progress is made towards a referendum. May has to come up with real answers to these challenges. Her party and the government is already being accused of being liars. Tusk has laid out the first phase of the EU policy. Ahead of the summit in April, Hollande has asked May to agree to Brexit terms first, then we’ll talk trade. The French president reiterated position of Merkel and Tusk. It is opined that the major EU powers will hold on to this position for now.
Britain has issued ‘Great Repel Bill’ to deal with the Brexit. The critics have sounded alarm bells over the purpose, powers and practicalities of the bill because it offers little detail and less security. May’s record as Home Secretary has undermined judiciary, justice system of the country. If she gets her way now, most of the laws will be passed without parliamentary approval which will further undermine due process of law and individual freedoms and rights. On the security front, the statement of Fallon, the UK defense secretary, that UK defense role lies with US not EU is going to play into the hands of the EU. He downplayed EU role in NATO ahead of meeting with US counterpart James Mattis. US doesn’t need UK as military power, if UK is one at the global level. So what role Fillion has in mind for UK with US? Is it the role that Blair played in taking UK to Iraq based on lies of WMD? Or carry US policy of perpetual war as oppressive burden on UK’s foreign policy. Fillon’s statement explains London’s anti-Russia stance and May’s pressure on Trump to change its anti-NATO policy.
If UK is going to pursue its own foreign policy on Russia, US and NATO, then it will allow EU to have clear stand on international issues. This will give make China and Russia stronger in the UN and weaken UK’s position at the global level because it will be taken as an ally that will mirror of the US policy. It will weaken UK’s position in the Middle East and Asia which previously used to look to Britain for political and moral support on issues like Palestine, Kashmir and human rights. A lot is going to unfold in weeks and months to come. But what is clear is that average British did not have all this in mind when they voted for Brexit.
—The writer is senior political analyst based in Islamabad.