“I suspect that no one in London really knows what is going to happen next,” said the Vice-President of the European People’s Party (EPP), David McAllister, in an interview with EURACTIV Germany.
David McAllister (CDU) is vice-president of the EPP and is a former minister president of Lower Saxony. The son of a Glaswegian father and a German mother, McAllister also holds UK citizenship.
McAllister spoke with euractiv.de’s Nicole Sagener.
Even before official talks with the British officially start, there are clear differences of opinion between the other 27 countries about what the future should hold for the outgoing member state. French Minister of Economy Emmanuel Macron has even proposed an EU-wide referendum on the future of the EU and the Visegrad countries have called for power to be returned by Brussels to the national capitals. Is this an opportunity or a threat?
Now is not the time for such upheaval, a revision of the treaties or reconstructing the EU’s architecture. Rather we must use what we already have to improve European policies and win back the trust of the people. It’s about growth and competitiveness, deepening the internal market and more cooperation on foreign and security policy, as well as in managing the migration crisis. We also need to make progress on the Juncker Commission’s blue-ribbon projects, like the Single Digital Market and the Energy Union.
Given the historical nature of the Brexit vote, it has to be asked: Doesn’t it warrant more emotion and urgency from Germany?
I believe that the outcome of the referendum is a major setback for European integration. It’s a really painful break, that will have far-reaching consequences. Nevertheless, this is a historical moment, but not one for hysteria. So it is right to act calm and collected, firmly and resolutely. That means that we must accept the UK’s majority decision, even if we infinitely regret it and believe it to be completely wrong.
While EU leaders like Jean-Claude Juncker and Martin Schulz put pressure on Westminster to activate Article 50, a spokesperson for Angela Merkel said that if the government “needs a reasonable amount of time to do that, we respect that”.
We cannot afford to wait too long on this. In my opinion, London should activate Article 50 sooner rather than later. But undue haste isn’t going to help either. The reaction in the Leave camp clearly shows that they did not expect to win the referendum. So London is going to need time. And the decision to activate Article 50 is one that can only be taken by a member state. Until the process is started, there can be no formal or informal talks with the UK. This merely emphasises the fact that the British government has to position itself as best possible as soon as possible.
You also have Scottish roots. What are your thoughts on Juncker’s meeting with the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, and the position the Commission is taking on Scotland?
The debate on the future of the United Kingdom and of Scotland is one for them and them alone. The other 27 member states and the Commission will not want to get involved with it. Nicola Sturgeon outlined the Scottish point of view at her meeting in Brussels on Wednesday (29 June). She made it perfectly clear that the mood following the result of the vote is not one shared across the UK. It is only fair that the arguments of Wales, Northern Ireland and Gibraltar be heard in Brussels too.
Can Scotland prevent the UK from leaving the EU?
This question is highly contested from a political and legal standpoint. It will have to be clarified.
“In is in and out is out,” said German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble about Brexit. Is this reasonable?
Leave means leave. The UK will probably leave the EU. It was striking that the Leave camp were relatively quiet before the referendum on an actual detailed alternative to EU membership. Whether the Norwegian model, individual contracts with Switzerland, a customs union with Turkey, free trade agreement or a WTO-based trade agreement; these are markedly different options.
One thing is clear, the pro-Brexit camp advocates restricting the movement of EU workers, while preserving comprehensive access to the single market. Access to the internal market can only be an option when all four freedoms are applied. There can be no cherry picking on this. The rules are quite clear.
Do you dare to predict what will happen to the UK?
The country has seldom experienced political turmoil of the type it is going through now. The Tories are on the hunt for a new leader and a new prime minister, while the Labour opposition is significantly weakened. British society is divided along generational and geographical terms. The pro-EU camp warned their compatriots before this jump into the unknown was made. But now it’s here. I suspect that no one in London knows what’s going to happen now.