The Brief: The Great British Wake-Up

The Brief is EURACTIV's evening newsletter.

Whisper it quietly but there is a wave of realisation sweeping the United Kingdom, as the hard truths of Brexit gradually take hold.

More British voters now think the UK was wrong to vote to leave the EU. It’s the first time polling has shown the ‘will of the people’ turning against Brexit and its soggy bottom since the vote.

It’s not difficult to see why Brits are slowly waking up to the Herculean task that now needs to be completed in less than two years.

Take Wales for example. It is supposed to benefit from €2bn between 2014 and 2020. Take a drive through its struggling valleys and former centres of industry and you’ll see discreet plaques showing how this motorway was built with EU funds or how that business park started with money from Brussels.

But the Welsh voted to leave. It was largely seen as a protest vote against former PM David Cameron. First Minister Carwyn Jones, who backed Remain, said on the morning after the vote that Brexit should not cost Wales “a single penny”.

Jones has now said that promises about funding continuing after Brexit have turned to mere “suggestions” and that money will now “stick to the fingers” of Britain’s central government.

Add to the mix Theresa May’s disastrous meeting with Jean-Claude Juncker, the complex issue of the Irish border and the legal mess about the status of the European Court of Justice and citizen rights, and the sounds of pennies dropping across the Channel are nearly deafening.

It’s also not difficult to see why Brits only now realise what they have collectively voted for. Before arriving in Brussels as a fresh-faced intern, I had little idea what the European Commission was, let alone the finer points of EU trade policy, cohesion funds or comitology. (The latter is still a mystery).

Only once I was immersed in the Brussels bubble did I realise what the EU actually is, how it is run and what it can actually achieve. So expecting British voters to know what they were voting on, as has been pointed out before, was asking for the moon.

But Brexit is big news now. The EU regularly makes the front pages of the British tabloids and broadsheets. Even if the information is skewed or ill-informed, it is at least out there.

Professor A. C. Grayling told EURACTIV’s Samuel White in an interview that this trend of realisation will only continue and that pragmatism and reality will kick in.

Whether it is politically feasible to stop this particular rolling stone is a huge bone of contention though. Not to mention whether it is legally possible.

Brexit still means Brexit of course. Even though this generation-defining decision will continue to weigh heavier and heavier on all those involved, there is no chance of the UK turning the ship around.

Like any smug, stubborn domestic cat, we’ll have to let it out so it can come back in again.

The Roundup

Never mind Brexit, the British would vote to leave the Eurovision song contest if given the chance. This YouGov poll was also divided along Remain/Leave lines.

An anonymously-posted USB drive full of details about offshore companies in Malta has led a German finance minister to brand the island the “Panama of Europe”.

A scandal involving one of Malta’s former European Commissioners, US retirees and the bloc’s anti-corruption agency also continues to drag on.

ALDE hopes Emmanuel Macron’s République En Marche! will join its ranks. The president-elect’s movement has been nominated for the inaugural Innovation in Politics Award, along with around a hundred other French projects.

Jean-Claude Juncker was in Romania yesterday, where he insisted the country should join Schengen before it takes over the EU presidency in 2019. He also teased the prospect of the EU lifting its decade-long justice monitoring.

German finance chief Wolfgang Schäuble said Greece could secure a new bailout deal at the end of this month. Greece’s main opposition party rebuked the Commission for praising Alexis Tsipras’ government and G7 ministers will try and figure out what Donald Trump will do next (good luck).

Ahead of a big summit it’s hosting this Sunday, China has signed a ten-point trade deal with the US. The European Youth Forum has lodged a complaint about the number of unpaid internships offered in Belgium.

Belgium’s high mobile phone prices are because of the high quality of its network, Proximus’ CEO told Frédéric Simon. Check out our latest Tweets of the Week video.

Good news for bees finally, the UK Labour Party pledged to ban all neonicotinoid pesticides if elected.

Look out for…

It’s Eurovision this Sunday. Will Ukraine retain the title? Could France ride the Macron-effect to glory? Will the UK manage a single vote? It’s all about the music, after all…

Views are the author’s.

Follow: @eaTheBrief and @SamJamesMorgan

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