“Article 50 was not designed to allow a state to leave the European Union for personal convenience”

LARGE EUROPEAN FORMAT / MAINTENANCE. As part of the European Grand Format of December 2020, The Taurillon went to meet Etienne Criqui, Professor of Political Science at the Nancy Faculty of Law and at the European University Center with the aim of discussing Brexit and its political consequences for the European Union.

Le Taurillon: One would have thought that the departure of the British would facilitate discussions within the European Council, but it helped to reveal more existing positions such as those of the frugal during the last budget negotiations, the United Kingdom was ultimately only the tree that hid the forest?

Étienne Criqui: In part, it is true that at the start of the process, after the referendum in 2016, some had said that the departure of the United Kingdom was detrimental to the European Union, in many ways, especially economic ones. However, some had said that politically, European integration would be easier as the United Kingdom had often been a brake on this political integration, even if generally they played the integration game. economic, a little less monetary. However, we see that even on this level, it is difficult to move forward: negotiations on the Covid-related package of 750 billion with part of loans and subsidies were difficult to prepare because of the opposition from a number of frugal states, notably the Netherlands and Austria. Perhaps the UK would have followed the same logic, but even without it it was complicated.

LT: Does it give more weight to the countries of Central Europe in the discussions?

EC: For countries like Poland or Hungary, the departure of the United Kingdom is a bad thing insofar as it could have supported them on the problem of “less integration”. Indeed, we can clearly see the philosophy, which is obviously to benefit from the CAP, the subsidies but not to go further in a politically integrated Europe. From this point of view they were on the same line as the United Kingdom but do not have the same weight. However, that does not solve all the problems.

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LT: Ultimately, will this departure allow us to go further on certain subjects? Conversely, will it be detrimental to certain advances?

EC: It is not certain that we will be able to move forward more easily on certain subjects with the departure of the United Kingdom. Indeed, when they pointed out their differences, which happened on several occasions, they were rarely alone. The opting outs they were able to obtain, Denmark also had them, Sweden is not in the single currency, etc. Rarely have there been any impossibilities related to the UK alone. From that point of view, it should not be a game-changer.

LT: Is Brexit not ultimately a vaccine against the virus that is Article 50 or on the contrary can we imagine a kind of hemorrhage after such a departure?

EC: Both scenarios are possible, the United Kingdom has left and we will see in a few days under what conditions exactly, but it shows that this article can effectively allow the exit of a Member State. It is therefore a process which can now be envisaged, whereas it was not originally designed to allow a State to leave the European Union for personal convenience. In the minds of the drafters of the treaty (Editor’s note: the Lisbon Treaty entered into force in 2009), it was supposed to make it possible to “bring out” a State which no longer had its place because, for example, the democratic regime would have been replaced by a real dictatorship. It had not been imagined that a state would ask for its exit on its own, even if the United Kingdom had already envisaged it with a referendum 40 years before (note: in 1975) when Harold Wilson had renegotiated the agreement signed by his predecessor and had envisaged that the Kingdom leave the Community if the “no” won.

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It can also serve as a foil because we realize that it is complicated, it can be damaging to the State which decides to leave, we see it with the United Kingdom which nevertheless remains a great State in Europe. This can therefore serve as a warning, it is hard to imagine Hungary or Poland activating Article 50, they would have even more to lose than the United Kingdom, especially since they are beneficiaries, it is vital for them. It therefore seems inconceivable, in the current state of the EU, that these countries will leave it.

LT: Is there a risk of a “loss of influence” for the European Union in world diplomatic exchanges with the departure of this country?

EC: This risk may exist even if on the diplomatic level the United Kingdom had always slowed down on this subject, the External Action Service moreover bears this name and not that of a Ministry of Foreign Affairs because the British had put their veto. From this point of view, therefore, their absence should not fundamentally change the situation.

Rather, it is the Union’s desire to have genuine diplomatic action that is at issue, which does not depend on the United Kingdom. Where this could be more damaging is in terms of defense, it is a major player in Europe with France very far ahead of the others. Given what is on the agenda today, that is to say advancing on the path of European defense, while remaining in NATO, and obviously the absence of the British is detrimental even if ‘they could be associated with it within a framework other than the European Union.

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LT: Brexit could have been the occasion for what some qualify as an institutional and political breakthrough with the establishment of a transnational list during the last European elections, is this a failure?

EC: Indeed, it is a bit of a sea serpent, since the first report on transnational lists dates from 2011, this was requested again very recently in a resolution calling for the establishment of transnational lists for the 2024 elections (note: the resolution was rejected following a vote on a suppressive amendment). The answer lies largely with the States, it does not seem that at present unanimity is reached for the adoption of such a modification. There are many hostilities, not just those that the British could have previously had, perhaps France could support this principle but this is not unanimous.

In 2018, the majority of the EPP had blocked such a development, but beyond the Parliament, it will require the agreement of the States, especially as the Parliament still defends the principle of Spitzenkandidaten, but here too there are oppositions .

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