As “tragic”, “sad” and a “failure” the European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker described Brexit in an interview to BBC. He talked to the media at the dawn of the celebration of the 60th birthday of the Union which this year will be overshadowed by the upcoming triggering of Article 50 on March 29.
Mr Juncker gave his reassurance that the Commission will be “friendly” and fair during the negotiations and will not “punish” the UK for leaving the Union, but made sure that the EU institutions are not “naïve” about the process. He said that the withdrawal will cost approximately £50 billion. The sum is more than 15 times bigger than Theresa May’s ministers have indicated that “the divorce” should cost. According to Mr Juncker, £50 billion is still a prediction because “we have to calculate scientifically what the British commitments were and then the bill has to be paid, but is “around that”. He added that the UK have already have some liabilities towards different projects and have to honor them despite it won’t be able to use the benefits. Mr Juncker mentioned also pensions of the British Eurocrats – administrators that have been working in different EU structures. They will become their sole national responsibility after the separation. “You cannot pretend you were never a member of the union,” the EC chief told BBC’s Katya Adler.
He explained the firm approach of the EU representatives as necessary to defend the Union. “I don’t want others to take the same avenue as the UK because let’s suppose for one second that others would leave. Two, three, four, five: that would be the end,” Mr Juncker emphasised.
No bargaining, respecting human dignity
One of the main points that Mr Juncker’s interview underlined, was his concern about the future of the nearly three million EU nationals currently living in the UK and one million Britons spread in different member states. He expressed his strong commitment to protect their status saying: “This is not about bargaining, this is about respecting human dignity”.
The 5 scenarios
Earlier this month, the EC president announced the so called White paper. This is a 32-page proposal that includes five scenarios of the future of the Union. They will be discussed during the EU Summit starting tomorrow in Rome, Italy.
The first scenario suggests that the EU will “carry on” on its course with minor alterations including deepening the EU’s single market, combining some military capabilities, and speaking “with one voice on foreign affairs,” but still leaving the key responsibilities of border control to the national governments. This scenario is officially called “the Bratislava scenario” as it refers to the summit of September 2016 in the Slovakian capital which remained in EU history as synonymous to lack of ambition. On the plus side, this first scenario will cost the least problems in the Union but leaves unclear many issues as change of management and measures for border control improvement.
The second scenario focuses on the single market and it’s the least favourite option for the EC. According to that plan, the EU will return to its most original existence as economical union and it will revolve its functions around “the single market”. The hard side of the scenario includes the return of more border checks, harder trade and defense cooperation. “This may widen the gap between expectations and delivery at all levels,” the authors point.
A “coalition of the willing” is described as the third scenario. It also became known as “multi-speed Europe” and “those who want more – do more” and it’s quite an optimistic version for the future of EU27. It counts on strengthening the connection between the members on topics like security, justice measures and social policy. The downside of the scenario is the uncertain policy over the transparency and accountability on the decision-making process.
Scenario number four suggests “doing less more efficiently”, meaning the future of the EU lies in focusing attention, narrowing the priorities and working more efficiently in specific areas, but leaves to the 27 leaders to determinate which those areas should be.
The last scenario explores the idea of “doing much more together”. It is also known as “Verhofstadt scenario,” named after the MEP and former Belgium prime minister Guy Verhofstadt. He is one of the biggest supporters of the future of the EU as a more federal entity. This scenario is focused on sharing power and resources and suggests increasing the EU’s own resources by acquiring income through taxation. It claims also deeper cooperation between the member countries as it was laid in the Five Presidents’ report issued in 2015. The aim is to speak of the EU as single unit on trade and foreign policy and adopt stronger position to face climate change and humanitarian issues.
It is quite unclear towards which of the scenarios the EU leaders will incline as none of them favours the others. However according to a survey done by the leading political journal “Politico” – “doing much more together” is the favourite scenario among the Europeans with nearly half of the votes. Scenarios two, three and four have support between 10% and 24%. Scenario one gains only 1% of the votes which clearly indicates that the European citizens are not satisfied with the current situation in the Union and are demanding changes from their leaders.