The European Union mentioned the United Kingdom once and avoided the word Brexit in a key six-thousand-word speech.
redirecting all Brexit related issues to a team that only deals with Brexit has been the strategy of the European Commission – Europe’s leading Brexit negotiator, since the U.K. voted to leave the bloc.
The Commission would rather talk about all the other policies that it’s trying to push forward.
Dubbing Brexit as “a sad and tragic moment”, the European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker gave proof of this in his speech. He however added that without thinking about Brexit, the EU cannot draft its future.
“On 29 March 2019, the United Kingdom will leave the European Union. This will be a very sad and tragic moment. We will always regret it. But we have to respect the will of the British people,” Juncker told the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
“On 30 March 2019, we will be a Union of 27. I suggest that we prepare for this moment well, amongst the 27 and within the EU institutions,” he said.
Before the U.K. leaves in 2019, the 27 European countries were asked to integrate further on all fronts by Junker in his one-hour long speech.
“European Parliament elections will take place just a few weeks later, in May 2019. Europeans have a date with democracy. They need to go to the polls with a clear understanding of how the European Union will develop over the years to come,” Juncker noted during his speech.
Eurosceptic parties were given momentum and space in politics ion the last European Parliament elections which showed a divided Europe. how the U.K. agrees to leave in March 2019 – two months before Europeans go to the polls will influence whether or not Europe will manage to reverse the trend.
Karel Lannoo, chief executive officer at the Brussels-based Centre for European Policy Studies think tank, said: “This is the official line, not to speak too much about (Brexit), as if it is a side event. But it is not; it affects the EU fundamentally and it will require Treaty change.”
For EU policymakers, the Brexit vote has been a wakeup call. In order to ensure that the project that has guaranteed peace will not collapse, most have stated that it’s important to move forward with the economic and political union.
It is believed that for the purpose of furthering European reform, the upcoming election in Germany should also be positive, as has been the election of President Emmanuel Macron in France which has boosted that momentum. But if it goes hand in hand with the Brexit process, tut this can only work.
Carsten Brzeski, chief economist at ING in Germany, said that he wasn’t surprised with Juncker’s speech.
“Juncker’s stance was a clear signal that life goes on and that Brexit should mainly be a concern for the UK but not the EU,” he said.
“He also tried to create a sense for urgency, despite the current cyclical tailwind. Not an easy one, given that Europe does not have a good track record in pushing more reforms in good times. Normally, it always takes bad times for the EU to move on,” he noted.