It is time for Britain to leave the European Union – with or without a deal. Hardly a day goes by without leaders or ministers pleading with the British government to spell out if it wants to leave (or indeed stay) and now, after the British Parliament opposed a “no-deal Brexit,” Prime Minister Theresa May wants to go back to Brussels to renegotiate the original deal that she signed onto over the status of the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
The truth is that EU diplomats and leaders are now thoroughly fed up with the staggering incompetence of the British government, the opposition and the Brexit and Remainer camps. They want the whole Brexit saga to end, knowing that Brexit has been a distraction at a time when Europe is trying to deal with its changing geopolitical position toward the United States and China.
The divides between Brexiteers and Remainers are so deep that any British EU delegation would be paralyzed. The United Kingdom’s hapless diplomats, whose foreign ministry back in London has been drained of talent because of inept leadership, would be constantly looking over their shoulders. They would fear making any statement about further reform of the European institutions. They would block any attempts to give Europe’s defense, security and foreign policy real teeth.
The other uncertainty is NATO. More member states are slowly coming around to the idea that the US commitment to NATO is waning. They know the Europeans will have to spend more on their own defense, to take the security of their continent seriously and to reassure the United States that they are not piggybacking on their big ally. Yet, it was Britain that blocked the EU from establishing a common military headquarters when Barack Obama was proclaiming his “pivot” to Asia. It was Britain, egged on by the anti-EU British tabloids, that accused the European Commission of wanting a more integrated defense policy, even a European army — something that is highly unlikely to come about within the foreseeable future.
A Europe without Britain, however, would find it much easier to set up coalitions of the willing on specific issues while bypassing the EU, something that France wants because EU defense is going nowhere. This suits Britain, as it could join such coalitions. As for Germany, it has used Britain’s opposition to more defense integration as an alibi for inaction. Brexit could therefore help the EU to clarify what it wants to become.
The Irish rightly dread a no-deal Brexit. It could lead to the introduction of border controls between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Such controls disappeared thanks to the Good Friday Agreement that ended decades of sectarian violence in the province. Without a doubt, there’s going to more than resentment in Ireland if Britain leaves. A peace process is at stake. It’s time for the Commission and the member states to bring Brexit to its logical conclusion, as being freed from British ambivalence, would force European leaders to decide their own destiny. No more excuses.
‘Europe Needs to Show Britain the Door’ – Commentary by Judy Dempsey – Carnegie Europe.