Brexit & Rule of Law: Is Losing Britain or Keeping Hungary & Poland Worse for Europe?

Written by | Saturday, December 12th, 2020

„Some have argued that Brexit may actually help the EU because, liberated from the Anglo-Saxon awkward customer, the other member states can smoothly move ahead to further integration. This is an illusion,“ writes Timothy Garton Ash, a historian, political writer and columnist, in his latest opinion. Now, Ash argues, „the immediate threat to the EU is not that Hungary and Poland will follow Britain out of the door, but that they will remain full members of the club while continuing to violate its most important rules. It is hard to say which is now the greater danger to the future of the EU: a democratic Britain that has left, or an undemocratic Hungary that remains.“
In fact, the EU is now faced with the ‚war on two fronts‘ when it tries to hammer out a last minute Brexit deal with the UK and also find an agreement on the European budget with Poland and Hungary. „Very large gaps“ remain between British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen after their “lively and frank” three-hour summit on Wednesday (9 December) that set the stage for a dramatic final act of the negotiations. They have agreed that a Brexit deal must be sealed by Sunday (13 December) – with pressure on both sides to find time for parliamentary ratification – or there will be no deal. The two leaders agreed their teams should meet for further talks beginning on Thursday (10 December) to try to bridge their differences in three major policy areas: European fishing rights in British waters, fairness in competition rules, and the enforcement of a trade agreement.
Meanwhile, EU leaders have finally sealed an agreement on a massive long-term budget and coronavirus recovery package, after they overcame objections from Poland and Hungary about a move to condition the access to EU funds to upholding the rule of law. The 1.82 trillion-euro seven-year budget and recovery package is considered vital for many EU member states whose economies have been devastated by the coronavirus pandemic. Poland and Hungary had agreed to the deal in July but later vetoed it, fearing the new mechanism could target them for breaches of Europe’s democratic standards. “Now we can start with the implementation and build back our economies. Our landmark recovery package will drive forward our green and digital transitions,” President of the European Council Charles Michel said in a tweet during the EU summit. The solution to the impass would reportedly take the form of a declaration clarifying that the rule of law mechanism would not be used against any country without a ruling from the EU’s top court, the European Court of Justice, first.

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