Diplomats warn over heady vision of future UK-EU relationship
Britain could become a competitor on bloc’s doorstep, rather than the close partner it once was
As he attended the UK’s last Brussels council meeting this week, Britain’s Europe minister Christopher Pincher offered a heady vision of his country’s future partnership with the EU after Brexit, declaring they would stand shoulder-to-shoulder as “sovereign equals”. The reality, warn diplomats and officials, will be quite different. They say Brexit will herald a crushing reversal in Britain’s influence across broad realms of European policymaking, after decades in which the UK managed to wield exceptional clout despite its often-ambivalent attitude towards Brussels. With UK prime minister Boris Johnson vowing to deviate from EU regulation even as he seeks a trade deal with the bloc, some European politicians predict the two are on course to become hard-bitten economic competitors, rather than close partners.
“A geopolitical and geoeconomic rivalry is about to start — even if they couch the relationship using nice, friendly, diplomatic language,” said Pascal Lamy, the EU’s former trade commissioner and subsequent chief of the World Trade Organization. “This will put both sides under pressure.”
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