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A European Response to US Withdrawal from the INF Treaty

MD Staff

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Ahead of the meeting of President Putin and President Trump in Paris on November 11th 2018, 79 European political, diplomatic and military leadership figures are appealing to both Russia and the US not to take unilateral action that would jeopardise the future of the INF without further efforts, such a move would likely trigger an arms race and damage the global nuclear non-proliferation regime.

The full statement is reproduced below.

ELN statement November 2018

President Trump’s declared intention to withdraw the United States from the 1987 US-Russia Intermediate Nuclear Forces Treaty (INF) calls into question not only the fate of this pivotal accord but also the future of nuclear arms control, with potentially grave consequences for European security.

The INF treaty may indeed have been violated. And it may be anachronistic. But it is symbolic of great power cooperation on nuclear risks and it has been a stabilising force in Europe’s security over the past three decades.  Europe is the sandpit in which US-Russia confrontation over INF will be played out.  Europe is entitled to a say in what happens next.

US intentions have been poorly communicated in Europe. This leaves America’s European Allies supporting Washington’s judgment about Russian non-compliance, but not necessarily Washington’s response.  Divergent European and American approaches to the INF crisis would be highly damaging.

Even more troubling would be the likely consequences of the Treaty’s demise.

The New START Agreement, which limits US and Russian strategic nuclear warheads and delivery vehicles, expires in 2021 and the INF crisis increases the risk that it will not be extended or replaced.  Collapse of INF would spur the development of new nuclear and strategic conventional weapon systems, including INF-class missiles. These systems claim to strengthen deterrence but are more likely to fuel an arms race. The costs to international nuclear stability, European security, and taxpayers in all countries concerned could be high. And unless INF is maintained or replaced, its loss will deepen international cynicism about gradual nuclear disarmament, with consequent damage to the nuclear non-proliferation regime.

Strong voices in the US share these views.

The INF crisis has focused the attention of European decision-makers on arms control. They should now move beyond statements of concern towards action on the following recommendations:

The INF’s collapse is still preventable. If the two sides work in good faith on the non-compliance issues instead of just trading allegations, solutions can be found. Non-governmental experts and organisations, including the ELN, have developed proposals that address all the issues raised by each side, including the new Russian cruise missile and the configuration of US missile defence installations in Europe. We urge Washington and Moscow to use the coming months to explore these proposals seriously and halt the INF’s breakdown. Neither side should unilaterally withdraw without further effort.

Moscow – which has always protested that it has not deployed non-compliant missiles – should pledge that it will not deploy such missiles against Europe, provided that NATO and the United States do not deploy them. We welcome NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg’s recent statement that any such NATO deployment is improbable.

European governments, especially members of NATO, should make clear that if Russia can verifiably demonstrate that it is INF-compliant, they will support the transparent verification of NATO’s land-based ballistic missile defence installations by Russia.

As Washington is genuinely concerned about Chinese intermediate range missiles remaining outside any arms control mechanism, it should construct a joint US-Russian approach towards Beijing and should be able to count on support from European and Asian partners. These efforts might be unsuccessful but would demonstrate a continuing US commitment to nuclear arms control.

Europeans should urge the US and Russia to immediately resume talks on strategic stability.  To create some measure of stability and mutual confidence, the two sides should agree the extension of the New START Treaty as a priority. At the 11 November 2018 Trump-Putin meeting, the leaders should also agree a statement of reassurance to the international community that nuclear war cannot be won and should never be fought.

While Ukraine will remain the primary joint agenda item in the NATO-Russia Council, Europeans should advance proposals for wider, more up-to-date arms control designed to increase decision time and predictability for both NATO and Russian leaders.

As part of a broader response, Europeans should press the case for the security benefits of restraint and collaborative arms control, vigorously countering the pernicious belief that arms control could be ineffective, or even detrimental, to national security.

If implemented, these steps would prevent the INF crisis further worsening the West-Russia confrontation. It could turn a crisis into an opportunity for fresh, innovative arms control that is fit for the 21st century.

Signatories

Austria

  • Wolfgang Petritsch, Former EU Special Envoy for Kosovo & Former High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bulgaria

  • Solomon Passy, President Atlantic Club Bulgaria; Former Chairman of the UN Security Council
  • Professor Todor Tagarev, Former Defence Minister; Former Director of the Defence Institute

Croatia

  • Budimir Loncar, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of former Yugoslavia; Former Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General to the Non-Aligned Movement
  • Professor Ivo Slaus, Honorary President, World Academy of Art and Science

Czech Republic

  • Jan Kavan, Former Deputy Prime Minister, Foreign Minister and former President of the UN General Assembly

Denmark

  • Uffe Ellemann-Jensen, Former Minister for Foreign Affairs
  • Mogens Lykketoft, Former Foreign Minister; Former President of the UN General Assembly

Finland

  • Dr Tarja Cronberg, Member of the European Parliament, Chair of the European Parliament’s delegation for relations with Iran
  • Elisabeth Rehn, Former Minister of Defence
  • Admiral Juhani Kaskeala, Former Chief of Defence
  • Professor Raimo Väyrynen, Former President of the Academy of Finland; Former Director of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs

France

  • General (Ret.) Bernard Norlain, Former General Officer, Air Defence Commander and Air Combat Commander of the French Air Force
  • Paul Quilès, Former Minister of Defence

Georgia

  • Ambassador Tedo Japaridze, Former Foreign Policy Adviser to the Prime Minister; Former Minister of Foreign Affairs; Vice-Chairman, International Relations, Anakila Development Consortium

Germany

  • Angela Kane, Former UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs & Under-Secretary-General
  • Volker Rühe, Former Defence Minister
  • Rudolf Scharping, Former Defence Minister
  • Karsten Voigt, Former German-American coordinator in the Federal Foreign Office, Former President of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly
  • Brigadier General (ret.) Dr Klaus Wittmann, Former Bundeswehr General

Hungary

  • János Martonyi, Former Foreign Affairs Minister

Italy

  • Giancarlo Aragona, Former Secretary General of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)
  • Hon. Margherita Boniver, Former Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs
  • Professor Francesco Calogero, Former Secretary-General of Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs
  • General (rt.) Vincenzo Camporini, Former Chief of the Joint Defence Staff, Former Chief of Staff of the Air Force
  • Giorgio La Malfa, Former Minister for European Affairs
  • Admiral Giampaolo di Paolo, Former Minister of Defence; Former Chairman of NATO Military Committee
  • Arturo Parisi, Former Defence Minister
  • Professor Carlo Schaerf, Co-founder, International School on Disarmament and Research on Conflicts (ISODARCO).
  • Stefano Silvestri, Former Under Secretary of State for Defence, Former President of the Italian International Affairs Institute
  • Ambassador Stefano Stefanini, Former Permanent Representative to NATO, Former Diplomatic Advisor to the President of Italy
  • Carlo Trezza, Former Ambassador for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, Former Chairman of the Missile Technology Control Regime

Netherlands

  • Laurens Jan Brinkhorst, Former Deputy Prime Minister, Former Minister of Economic Affairs
  • Bert Koenders, Former Foreign Minister
  • Marietje Schaake, Member of the European Parliament
  • Klaas de Vries, Former Minister for Interior Affairs and Kingdom Relations

Norway

  1. Gro Harlem Brundtland, Former Prime Minister of Norway, Former Director-General of the World Health Organisation (WHO)
  2. Espen Barth Eide, Former Foreign Minister, Former Minister of Defence

Poland

  • Janusz Onyszkiewicz, Former Defence Minister and Chair, Executive Council, Euro-Atlantic Association

Portugal

  • Ricardo Baptista Leite MP, MD, Member of Parliament

Russia

  • Ambassador Anatoly Adamishin, Former Deputy Foreign Minister and Ambassador to the UK
  • Dr Alexey Arbatov, Former Deputy Chairman of the Duma Defence Committee; Head of the Center for International Security, Institute of World Economy and International Relations
  • General Vladimir Dvorkin, Lead scientist at the Center of the International Safety of the Institute of Economic and International Relations, Russian Academy of Sciences
  • Ambassador Boris Pankin, Former Foreign Minister of the former USSR
  • Dr Dmitry Polikanov, Chairman of the Trialogue Club and member of the Expert Council of the Russian Government
  • Igor Yurgens, Chairman of the Management Board of the Institute for Contemporary Development

Serbia

  • Goran Svilanović, Secretary-General, Regional Cooperation Council

Sweden

  • Dr Hans Blix, Former Foreign Minister and former IAEA Director General
  • Ingvar Carlsson, Former Prime Minister
  • Rolf Ekeus, Former Ambassador to the United States, former High Commissioner on national minorities in Europe
  • Gunnar Hökmark, MEP
  • Henrik Salander, Former Ambassador to the Conference on Disarmament, Secretary-General of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Commission

Turkey

  • Professor Mustafa Aydin, President, International Relations Council of Turkey
  • Hikmet Çetin, Former Foreign Minister
  • Ambassador Ünal Çeviköz, Former Ambassador to the United Kingdom
  • Vahit Erdem, Former Head of the Turkish Delegation to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly
  • Osman Faruk Loğoğlu, Former Turkish Ambassador to the United States and former Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Özdem Sanberk, Former Ambassador to the United Kingdom; Former Under Secretary to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs

United Kingdom

  • Rt. Hon Margaret Beckett, Former Foreign Secretary
  • Sir Tony Brenton, Former UK Ambassador to Russia
  • Lord Des Browne, Former Minister of Defence; Member of the House of Lords
  • Lord Menzies Campbell of Pittenweem, Former Leader of the Liberal Democrats
  • Rt. Hon. Charles Clarke, Former Home Secretary
  • Stephen Gethins, MP
  • Lord David Hannay of Chiswick, Former Ambassador of the UK to the EEC, Former Ambassador of the UK to the UN
  • Sir Nick Harvey, former Member of Parliament and former Minister of State for the Armed Forces
  • Rt. Hon. Lord John Kerr of Kinochard, Former British Ambassador to the United States and the EU
  • Rt. Hon. Lord Tom King of Bridgwater, Former Defence Secretary
  • Gen. Sir John McColl, Former Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe (Deputy SACEUR)
  • Gen. Lord David Ramsbotham, Retired General Army, Former Adjutant General; Former ADC General to HM the Queen
  • Lord David Richards of Herstmonceux, Former Chief of the Defence Staff
  • Rt. Hon. Sir Malcolm Rifkind, Former Foreign Secretary, Former Defence Secretary
  • Rt. Hon. Sir John Stanley, Former Chairman of the Committees on Arms Export Controls; Former Minister for the Armed Forces
  • Baroness Elizabeth Symnons of Vernham Dean, Former Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Ministry of Defence Minister
  • Sir Adam Thomson, Former UK Perm Rep to NATO; Director, European Leadership Network
  • Lord David Triesman, Former Foreign Office Minister and Chairman of the Football Association
  • Lord William Wallace of Saltaire, Member of the House of Lords
  • Rt. Hon the Admiral Lord Alan West of Spithead, First Sea Lord and Commander in Chief of the Royal Navy
  • Rt. Hon. Baroness Shirley Williams, Former Leader of the Liberal Democrats in the House of Lords, Former Adviser on Nuclear Proliferation to the Prime Minister
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Europe

West return to 2007: Europe’s anger over incompetent politicians

Mohammad Ghaderi

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The anger and discontent of European citizens over European politicians is increasing day by day. While more than ten years have passed since the economic crisis in Europe, we are still witnessing austerity plans in this block.

France’s recent round of demonstrations isn’t limited to this country anymore, and we’re now witnessing demonstrations in countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands.

Many European citizens spent the years between 2007 and 2012 with the hope that the austerity policies would affect the devastated economy of United Europe and the Eurozone. That’s why they tried to cooperate with their own governments (which were mainly the far-right and social-democratic administrations). However, after 2012, we witnessed the end of European citizens’ patience towards politicians like Merkel.

Part of this dissatisfaction revealed itself in cases such as the European Parliamentary Elections in 2014, where more than 100 right extremists managed to enter the European Parliament. Now, in 2018, we are witnessing the continuation of the economic crisis in Europe in the security, social and political spheres.

It’s not without a reason that the number of nationalist groups’ supporters has increased in the mentioned areas. The security crisis is strongly felt in today’s Europe. Common policies which were adopted by European authorities couldn’t improve the security crisis within the Schengen borders and other European borders.

During 2015 and 2016 (and somehow in 2017), the Immigration and security crises in Europe caused other issues such as the economic crisis to become marginalized. But now it’s shadowed over the whole of Europe. Under such circumstances, the main question of European citizens is that what was the impact of austerity policies adopted for ten years inside the EU borders?

They can clearly see that the adoption of such policies has had no effects on improving their economic conditions. The existing economic crisis continues to be felt in everyday life of European citizens. The rise of the signs of the financial crisis in Europe, and the decline in credit ratings, and the growth of unemployment in countries that continue to be affected by the financial crisis have created many social crises in Europe.

The protests that are taking place today in France and other European countries are not merely an objection to rising fuel prices or tax increases for low-income groups. It is a protest against the unstable economic structure of the European Union and the Eurozone.

Emmanuel Macron, the young French president, as an economist, promised to redefine the existing economic structure in the Eurozone, with regard to the current economic crisis. However, Macron himself has now become the symbol of crisis in Europe!

The economic crisis in European countries doesn’t limit to austerity policies! The external debt crisis in the European countries should also be added to the economic and credit crises in the West. The crisis is heavily extended in countries like Italy, causing a lot of trouble for other member states of the Eurozone. The economic cohesion of the Eurozone member states has fueled this trend.

In any case, it seems that the patience of European citizens has come to an end. As noted, according to the predictions, these crises were to be resolved before 2012, and economic growth symbols was to be replaced by austerity symbols. But at the moment, there is little indication of economic growth in European countries, and austerity policies remain strong.

Finally, it should be concluded that the European countries, especially the EU member states, have no choice but to “self-destruct” their economic foundations and replace them with new patterns. If European officials continue to insist on existing methods and economic models, they will be doomed to failure in the near future. In this case, nationalist groups and far-right extremists will dominate Europe’s political, economic, social and security equations, and this would definitely be a terrible nightmare for those like Merkel and Macron.

First published in our partner MNA

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EU steps up action against disinformation

MD Staff

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To protect its democratic systems and public debates and in view of the 2019 European elections as well as a number of national and local elections that will be held in Member States by 2020, the EU is presenting today an Action Plan to step up efforts to counter disinformation in Europe and beyond.

Taking stock of the progress made so far and following up on the call made by European leaders in June 2018 to protect the Union’s democratic systems, the European Commission and the High Representative are setting out concrete measures to tackle disinformation, including the creation of a Rapid Alert System and close monitoring of the implementation of the Code of Practice signed by the online platforms. The Action Plan also foresees an increase of resources devoted to the issue.

High Representative/Vice President Federica Mogherini said: “Healthy democracy relies on open, free and fair public debate. It’s our duty to protect this space and not allow anybody to spread disinformation that fuels hatred, division, and mistrust in democracy. As the European Union, we’ve decided to act together and reinforce our response, to promote our principles, to support the resilience of our societies, within our borders and in the neighbourhood. It’s the European way to respond to one of the main challenges of our times.” 

Andrus Ansip, Vice-President responsible for the Digital Single Market, said: “We need to be united and join our forces to protect our democracies against disinformation. We have seen attempts to interfere in elections and referenda, with evidence pointing to Russia as a primary source of these campaigns. To address these threats, we propose to improve coordination with Member States through a Rapid Alert System, reinforce our teams exposing disinformation, increase support for media and researchers, and ask online platforms to deliver on their commitments. Fighting disinformation requires a collective effort.”

Stepping up detection, response and awareness

The Action Plan – prepared in close cooperation also with Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Věra Jourová; Commissioner for Security Union Julian King and Commissioner for Digital Economy and Society Mariya Gabriel – focuses on four areas key to effectively build up the EU’s capabilities and strengthen cooperation between Member States and the EU:

Improved detection: Strategic Communication Task Forces and the EU Hybrid Fusion Cell in the European External Action Service (EEAS), as well as the EU delegations in the neighbourhood countries will be reinforced with significant additional specialised staff and data analysis tools. The EEAS’ strategic communication budget to address disinformation and raise awareness about its adverse impact is expected to more than double, from €1.9 million in 2018 to €5 million in 2019. EU Member States should complement these measures by reinforcing their own means to deal with disinformation.  

Coordinated response: A dedicated Rapid Alert System will be set up among the EU institutions and Member States to facilitate the sharing of data and assessments of disinformation campaigns and to provide alerts on disinformation threats in real time. The EU institutions and Member States will also focus on proactive and objective communication on Union values and policies.

Online platforms and industry:The signatories of the Code of Practice should swiftly and effectively implement the commitments made under the Code of Practice, focusing on actions that are urgent for the European elections in 2019. This includes in particular ensuring transparency of political advertising, stepping up efforts to close active fake accounts, labelling non-human interactions (messages spread automatically by ‘bots’) and cooperating with fact-checkers and academic researchers to detect disinformation campaigns and make fact-checked content more visible and widespread. The Commission, with the help of the European group of regulators in charge of audio-visual media services, will ensure a close and continuous monitoring of the implementation of the commitments.

Raising awareness and empowering citizens: In addition to targeted awareness campaigns, the EU institutions and Member States will promote media literacy through dedicated programmes. Support will be provided to national multidisciplinary teams of independent fact-checkers and researchers to detect and expose disinformation campaigns across social networks.

Finally, the Commission is today also reporting on the progress made in tackling online disinformation since the presentation of its Communication in April 2018.

Next steps

The European Commission and the High Representative will develop and implement the measures set out in the Action Plan, in close cooperation with Member States and the European Parliament.

With a view to the European elections, the Rapid Alert System will be set up by March 2019. This will be complemented by further strengthening relevant resources.

The signatories of the Code of Practice will have to provide the first implementation update to the Commission by the end of 2018, which the Commission will then publish in January 2019. Between January and May, the online platforms will have to report to the Commission on a monthly basis. The Commission will also carry out a comprehensive assessment of the implementation of the Code of Practice in its first 12 months. Should the implementation and the impact of the Code of Practice prove unsatisfactory, the Commission may propose further measures, including of a regulatory nature.

Background

The European Union has been actively tackling disinformation since 2015. Followinga decision of the European Council in March 2015, in order to “challenge Russia’s ongoing disinformation campaigns“, the East StratCom Task Forcein the European External Action Service (EEAS) was set up. The Task Force, together with the relevant Commission services, focuses on effectively communicating the EU’s policies towards its eastern neighbourhood; strengthening the overall media environment in the eastern neighbourhood, including providing support for media freedom and strengthening independent media; and improving the EU’s capacity to forecast, address and raise awareness of pro-Kremlin disinformation activities.

In 2016, the Joint Framework on countering hybrid threats was adopted, followed by the Joint Communication on increasing resilience and bolstering capabilities to address hybrid threats in 2018.

In April 2018, the Commission outlined a European approach and self-regulatory tools to tackle disinformation online, including an EU-wide Code of Practice against Disinformation, support for an independent network of fact-checkers, and tools to stimulate quality journal­ism. On 16 October, the Code of Practice was signed by Facebook, Google, Twitter and Mozilla as well as the trade association representing online platforms and trade associations representing the advertising industry and advertisers.

In his 2018 State of the Union Address, President Juncker also put forward a set of concrete measures to make sure that next year’s European Parliament elections are organised in a free, fair and secure manner. The measures include greater transparency in online political advertisements and the possibility to impose sanctions for the illegal use of personal data in order to deliberately influence the outcome of the European elections.

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Leave not stay? EU approves UK exit

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On November 25, leaders of the EU member states approved an agreement on the withdrawal of Great Britain from the Union. The last objections, voiced by Spain, were lifted after Madrid received “assurances from the British government concerning Gibraltar.” Now the British Prime Minister Theresa May will have to secure the approval of the country’s parliament. This may prove to be more difficult than reaching agreement on Brexit with member of the European Union. According to commentators, few, if any in the UK, endorse the agreement in its present version. If backed by the British Parliament, the deal will then have to be favored by a simple majority of the European Parliament. Afterwards, the EU Council will hold a vote, in which the support of at least 20 member countries is required, representing at least 65% of the Union’s population. No endorsement by national parliaments is required. Should the decision receive the approval of all parties involved, the exit procedure will start on March 29, 2019. The transition period will last at least 18 months.

Last week, the text of the Brexit agreement, which is nearly six hundred pages long, was finally approved. Next, British Prime Minister Teresa May eventually succeeded in winning the support of most Cabinet members. At the same time, a number of ministers, including Dominic Raab, who is in charge of exiting the EU, resigned in protest against the final version. Now, the British Parliament is to vote on the bill to achieve agreement with the EU on the terms of the exit in early December. In addition to the text of the Agreement, a Political Declaration has been drafted which briefly describes the main principles of further relations between the UK and the EU, including the positions of the two parties in future negotiations on a trade agreement.

The 17-month negotiations marathon was extremely difficult. Triggered largely by discontent about the so-called “uncontrolled” influx of migrants, Britain’s exit from the EU quickly turned from a “technical” issue into one of the main challenges to the future of the Union. The EU’s position of late has been to “minimize the damage from Brexit”. In early September, when the third round of negotiations between London and Brussels came to a close, most observers said, it fell through. It was only by mid-November that the parties had harmonized their positions on the financial conditions of the exit, the protection of the rights of EU citizens in the United Kingdom and the British in Europe, as well as on the “consistency of talks about the future”.

At present, the outcome for the EU looks fairly beneficial. According to The Economist, the British authorities have failed to achieve more than half of their original goals. London’s independence from the EU in matters of trade and customs regulation has been postponed at least until 2021. Until then, the UK will remain within the regulatory procedures of the EU Customs Union and will continue to live by the standards of the EU’s common market and their interpretation by the European Court of Justice. The UK will pay the EU about £ 39 billion in a one-off payment and there might be additional payments in the future. Instead of signing a comprehensive free trade agreement by March 2019, which London had sought to secure so much, a Political Declaration was approved which states the parties’ intention to conclude such an agreement “in the future.”

What can be seen as success for the UK is the cessation of the free movement of people between the UK and the EU. However, the approved version of the Brexit agreement envisages visa-free travel for both Europeans and the British “for tourist or business purposes.” Finally, London managed to secure the preservation of the “transparent” land border between Northern Ireland and Ireland. At the same time, it had to be paid for with the de facto retention of Northern Ireland within the EU’s jurisdiction, pending “further arrangements” to be reached during the transition period – that is, until December 2020 at the earliest.

The two leading EU countries – Germany and France – have managed to demonstrate the Union’s strong unity in the face of outgoing Britain. The Brexit Agreement was clinched on Brussels’ terms, which imply de facto payment, in the literal and figurative sense of the word, of a sort of indemnities. Meanwhile, it may turn out that the tough stance of Paris and Berlin on Great Britain will not bring any special political dividends either to Macron, whose reformist ideas are garnering less and less support in the EU, or to Merkel, who announced her intention to resign as chancellor by 2021. Finally, the mounting friction between Brussels and Warsaw, Budapest, Vienna, and now, Rome, shows that the deep-seated causes that underlie Britain’s choice of two years ago to vote for leaving the EU, are still there. And the position of Britain’s opponents who are trying, in the name of deepening EU integration, to turn a blind eye to problems for which there can be no politically correct solutions, is triggering ever more irritation on the part of European voters. Meanwhile, there is only 6 months to go before elections to the European Parliament are due to take place.

In turn, Theresa May is convinced that she has succeeded in achieving “the best deal possible.” Finance minister Philip Hammond has described the deal with the EU as “the best option for the British economy.” Meanwhile, this agreement has cost May a lot politically. In addition to resignations among Cabinet members, a number of parliamentarians from the Conservative Party persist in their attempts to raise the issue of confidence in the prime minister. The final document is subject to serious criticism, both by opponents and supporters of Brexit, including a considerable number of outspoken representatives of the Conservative Party. For example, Boris Johnson, one of the trailblazers of Brexit, a former foreign minister, and a favorite in the so far unofficial campaign for the post of prime minister, has voted the version of the Agreement signed with the EU as “a huge mistake.” According to Johnson, by approving the current text of the agreement “Britain will become a satellite state.” In this regard, experts anticipate serious difficulties, up to the rejection of the Agreement, or, at least, a significant delay in terms of passing the text through the British Parliament. A negative result will require the government to submit a new action plan within three weeks, but no later than January 21 of next year.

Teresa May’s major problem is that for success she needs more than the votes of her party. A small majority in parliament is provided by the Northern Irish Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). However, many DUP members are extremely dissatisfied with the de facto preservation of EU regulation in Northern Ireland, which is enshrined in the Brexit Agreement. In their opinion, such a “compromise” “undermines the unity of Britain.” In addition, a week ago, not only the majority of opposition MPs, but also several dozen Conservatives came out against the May plan. According to critics, the deal agreed by May forces the UK to continue to follow EU regulations for an unspecified period of time. While doing so, London will not be able to influence decisions taken in Brussels, nor will it be able to withdraw from the Agreement unilaterally. Thus, the likelihood  of a negative vote in the House of Commons is estimated as fairly high. Besides, the mounting contradictions within the ruling circles of Great Britain may provoke a vote of no confidence in Prime Minister May before the agreement is submitted to parliament. The loss of confidence in the prime minister would lead either to the arrival at Downing Street of a supporter of a tougher course on the EU, or to early elections. In both cases, the chances of Britain exiting the EU without any agreement will increase significantly.

According to the Times, members of the House of Commons will have to choose between a “bad deal” and two alternatives, which are likely to be even worse. If parliamentarians vote against the May plan, Britain will either leave the EU without any agreement at all – “tough Brexit”, or will hold a second referendum, in the hope that this time the people will vote to maintain membership in the European Union. Both options are extremely risky. ‘Tough Brexit’ can trigger a massive political and socio-economic crisis. “Another referendum will further divide the already divided country, make the population angry over the need for another voting, will further complicate relations with Brussels, and on top of that, it does not guarantee that the result will be different”.

It cannot be ruled out that there are quite a few in Europe who, deep in their hearts, hope for such a development of events. Brexit without an agreement would mean that Britain would have to build legal relations with continental Europe almost from scratch, that is, in such a way which will demonstrate to all potentially “hesitant” members of the EU that attempts to undermine the Union will bring them only huge losses and damages. And another referendum as such would deal a substantial blow to euro-skeptics and “populists” of every description. An even greater effect would be London’s rejection of Brexit. This would seriously strengthen the position of supporters of European integration in the context of their struggle for the posts in the EU executive and legislative branches in 2019.

Thus, chances are still high that London, with or without a “deal”, will have to pay the highest possible price for independence. Against this background, the incumbent Prime Minister Theresa May is rapidly losing popularity, both among voters and within her own party. As the voices of supporters of the “re-referendum” on EU membership are getting louder, the question that arises is whether the success, albeit a compromise, which Downing Street has achieved so far, will be just another Pyrrhic victory, of which the British history has seen so many. Or will Brexit give a new impetus to the development of the United Kingdom? No one can predict now.

First published in our partner International Affairs

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