Brexit and new challenges:


Following our series of articles and review around Brexit, here we analyse latest developments, a study of the Bertelsmann Foundation on the impact of Brexit on Europe’s countries and regions, some opinions in different media and the role that Brexit plays in EU Summits, such as the 8th Summit of Regions and Cities in Bucharest.

The announced exit of the UK from the Union has dominated European political agenda in the last months. And this happens in an atmosphere of growing signs from society, thanks to the social media, which certainly cross national boundaries (they play a minimal role here), but also affect particularly (cross-)border regions. It is not possible to venture how Brexit will look like. We have seen how last April a million Londoners demonstrated in front of the Houses of Parliament asking honourable Members for more “Order!”, as a massive John Bercow, the famous Speaker of the House of Commons. Three more voting failed to make Brexit plans progress, Prime Minister Theresa May has just announced her resignation and, when preparing this text, we are waiting for the results of the European Election 2019 and all prognosis point at a victory of the Brexit Party in the UK (!). Looking at this uncertainty, we have open a reflection within AEBR about the role of border regions to give some recommendations based on a better “cross-border” perspective.

According to a recent study of the Bertelsmann Foundation on the impact of Brexit on Europe’s countries and regions, trade in goods and services would become more expensive and uncertainty will increase. This puts pressure on competition, consumption and investment —especially in the absence of a withdrawal agreement. EU citizens (excluding the UK) would have to bear income losses of 40 billion euros per year in the case of a hard Brexit. The British themselves would be hit hardest by a 'No-Deal-Brexit'. UK citizens would suffer income losses of 57 billion euros per year and around 900 euros per person. Germans would have to be prepared for income losses of around ten billion euros per year and around 115 euros per person. In absolute terms, France and Italy would also see significant income losses. Small and open economies like Ireland and the Netherlands will be strongly affected in per capita terms.

Link to the German version:

And, worrying points come not only from the UK, driving us into a very uncomfortable situation. For instance, latest EU calls have begun to include the following paragraph at their very beginning:

For British Applicants: please be aware that the project has to comply with the eligibility criteria for the entire duration of the grant agreement. If the United Kingdom withdraws from the EU during the grant period without concluding an agreement with the EU, ensuring in particular that British applicants continue to be eligible, British beneficiaries will cease to receive EU funding (while continuing, where possible, to participate) or be required to leave the project on the basis of Article II.7.2.1(a) for mono-beneficiary and Article II.17.3.1(a) for multi-beneficiary Grant Agreements.

This looks a bit unnecessary, isn’t it? It is evident that if the UK leaves the EU without agreement, rules for non EU members would apply, but it is also true that the Commission and the Parliament have already asked repeatedly to keep the implementation of territorial cooperation and other programmes where UK territories are involved under the same conditions. In the worst case, a phasing-out period should be established, independently from an agreement or not. Peripheral territories cannot pay again the bill of decisions made in the capitals. We have discussed various scenarios and perspectives with stakeholders on both sides of the Irish borders, and some of the results of this exchange can be found in Looking Beyond Our Borders Report, prepared with ICBAN (Irish Central Border Area Network) with the support of the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade’s Reconciliation Fund, already announced in the previous issue of AEBR Newsletter. In this study, we have examined cross-border strategies, models and solutions applicable to the Central Border Region of Ireland / Northern Ireland. The report can be downloaded here. And here you can find the news in ICBAN website.

At this point we would like to share with you a recent analysis of Mariam Martínez Bascuñán, political scientist and op-ed director in El País (Madrid): “History is full of continuities and discontinuities, but after the show recently offered by British politicians, it seems that Brexit has a place in History books. It is an example of political experiment with an echo of old times of frictions and visions of the world in dispute, and the culmination of the systemic rise of demagogy in the world. (…) Brexit is not only about hoaxes and false promises, about obsolete models to think reality, such as the idea of sovereignty, and not a mere identity retrenchment behind the rise of absurd boundaries. Brexit is also the result of the erosion of a specific political order and its truths, the possible end of a banister made of our value systems, their legitimacy structures, thought to offer peace and stability. The reaction towards that erosion, the great movement of disconnection and withdrawal, is the first drastic result of an unavoidable breakdown of globalisation.

Additionally, you can watch an interesting Euractiv documentary on The Irish Border and Brexit.

Brexit as a wake-up call

During the 8th Summit of Regions and Cities in Bucharest, it was stressed that the focus on reconnecting with citizens was not by accident. The summit was intended to take place only a few weeks ahead of the European Council in Sibiu, before the UK’s departure from the EU.

The star-speaker was EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier who, in spite of the recent developments in London, decided to join the debate on the future of Europe after Brexit, stealing the show. As the House of Commons voted for an extension of the Article 50 negotiations, Barnier was still walking down the corridors of the Romanian Parliament. The EU’s chief negotiator took stock of a two-year negotiation, which has been technically but not politically concluded. He warned the British that “if the UK still wants to leave and wants to do it in an orderly manner” the withdrawal agreement, as it is, is the only option. “The consequences of Brexit are innumerable and were largely underestimated in the vote and even after,” Barnier said. The deal “provides legal assurances, certitude, there were Brexit has created uncredited.” The decision of the Commons on 12 March and afterwards to reject it “only prolongs and worsen this uncertainty,” he warned. “Brexit is a wake-up call for those who believe in the European Union and for those who believe they can live without it,” the president of the CoR added in front of the audience. “We will not live better outside Europe. In a globalized world, we are never stronger alone,” he warned, “let’s hope that the adventure does not end up in catastrophe,” Lambertz stressed.

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