Theresa May – the party crasher

The United Kingdom’s Prime Minister is coming to town this Thursday and Friday to meet with her peers and with the President of the Commission. After the political earthquake of 23 June, the UK is about to crash the party of the 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaty. She announced on the BBC that she intends to trigger the infamous article 50 for the UK’s exit from the European Union before the end of March 2017. And when is the 60th anniversary of the Rome Treaty? 25 March. What a coincidence, and a potential source of trouble.

The timing is far from ideal. At a time when all the other 27 Heads of State and Government will conclude their Bratislava roadmap and gather to adopt their new agenda for the EU with the hope to reinvigorate the European project, the UK will come to discuss its impending departure. It would be like receiving a text message from your ex wanting to negotiate your divorce on the same day that you are celebrating your birthday with your best friends. It kills the moment a bit.

It also diverts preparation and attention away from the celebration. From now on, all Heads of State and Government will focus on two fronts with different feelings and objectives. On the one hand, they will discuss how to live together as a group of 27, and on the other hand they will have to confront what will happen when the UK separates. Discussing renewal of marriage vows and divorce at the same time is not the healthiest thing to do. I fear that the Brexit negotiations will instil a feeling of dejection among the remaining 27 Member States. Some might think that the deal that the UK could get would be good for their own country, and therefore the idea of staying on the boat together might not be as appealing. There might be some puzzled faces on 25 March in Rome and the ‘hurrahs!’ might be voiced without strong conviction.

As I said before, we are working on our own agenda for the future of Europe to be presented to both the leaders of the EU and the people living in this common territory. Separation and marriage are two entirely different things, and they should remain that way. So don’t let Prime Minister May crash the party! We can celebrate 25 March with a passionate agenda for Europe and negotiate with courtesy and respect alongside the country leaving. That we can do.

Let’s engage!

Pierre Baussand, Director