EU-UK relationship: We have to get better at telling the story of Europe

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

Remain campaigners during the 'Battle of the Thames'. [Garry Knight/Flickr]

Europe fought hard to achieve the prosperity it enjoys today. As the dust settles on Brexit and negotiations get under way, neither the UK nor the EU should take these achievements for granted, writes Susan Danger.

Susan Danger is the CEO of the American Chamber of Commerce to the EU (AmCham EU), which speaks for American business committed to Europe on trade, investment and competitiveness issues.

A few months after the UK referendum, the dust has not fully settled yet. But one thing is for sure: it has sparked an unprecedented wave of uncertainty across Europe. Many companies are now trying to make sense of what the future EU-UK relationship will mean for their operations in the region. As representatives of American business committed to Europe, we support a strong EU, a strong UK, and a strong EU-UK trade and investment relationship that can deliver much-needed jobs and growth.

Limit disruption

While it may take some time for the EU and the UK to redefine their relationship, both partners need to ensure stability. Businesses of all sizes need predictability and trust to operate and invest; they need to be able to anticipate changes and plan accordingly. An early commitment to transitional arrangements would limit disruption and ensure that the rules of the game do not change from one day to another.

Protect the Single Market

As the EU and the UK negotiate an ambitious deal, they should work together to safeguard the benefits of the Single Market. Enabling businesses to operate across European borders is one of the greatest achievements of the last 25 years. Unnecessary barriers to the free flow of goods, services, people and capital would place a heavy burden on companies and consumers alike. They would also seriously jeopardise further foreign investment in the EU and the UK.

A lesson to draw?

The Brexit vote also has to be a wake-up call for all of us. The achievements of European integration are unprecedented – just take a second to think about where we were 60 years ago and where we stand today: peace, economic prosperity, protection of rights and freedoms and the ability to travel freely. Yet, we seem to take for granted many of these hard-won values.

Collectively, we have to get better at telling the story of Europe – politicians, business leaders, civil society organisations and citizens. The EU does not need a new narrative, but we need to engage, get out of our collective comfort zones and speak up. We should not be afraid to stand up for what Europe has achieved and how much further we can go.

To be sure, the story of Europe is still evolving. It has faced many challenges along the way and the road ahead is uncertain. The current rise of populism across the continent reminds us of the need for Europe to deliver more for its citizens. As we begin to better articulate the benefits, we also need to keep building a Union that ultimately contributes to better jobs, higher standards of living and more inclusive societies.

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