The EU has more concerns than just Brexit

Labour Party

Theresa May has the dubious honour of being probably the worst British Prime Minister since the 1930s. Rather than list what has gone wrong, it would be easier to consider what has gone right, in general as well as for Brexit. The answer – a blank space, a big fat zero, absolutely nothing (except perhaps regaining blue passports).

To be fair to her, she wasn’t dealt the best of hands. Brexit was always an infinite black hole lying in wait for whoever drew the short straw. Yet May did not draw it, she positively chose the role, as do all Prime Ministers. Perhaps they are all masochists. Maybe Boris Johnson is even more of a masochist than Theresa May for so desperately wanting her job.

But her latest skirmish with Brussels does her, and especially the UK, no favours as we enter the next phase of negotiations. Her latest clash concerns her refusal to agree to continue with the “status quo” for the transition period which would see free movement and citizens rights for those who settle in the UK during that period.

While May muddles through with gritted teeth and “duty” written all over her features, the EU looks on with a mixture of bemusement and concern. However, from my perspective in the European Parliament, Brexit is not the only, and probably not even the main, concern. The UK would do well to understand that the world does not revolve around Britain, and certainly not round England.

To me, it often feels like two parallel universes: the EU looking outwards to the wider world, Britain caught up in a backwards facing introspection. What is more, there is really not a great deal of interest in Brexit in the European Parliament. True, we agreed that enough progress had been made to proceed to the second stage of the negotiations. Yet, on the few occasions Brexit had been discussed in meetings of my political group, the Socialists and Democrats, attendance has not been as high as usual and the speakers have been mainly the British members.

Brexit is floundering on its own self-absorption. Britain is not the country it was when I was elected to the European Parliament in 2000. This government and the coalition before it with their disastrous referendum on EU membership have greatly diminished the United Kingdom. This is not what people voted for on 23 June last year. Britain deserves another say.