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What UK should be saying at EU’s 60th birthday party

by Hugo Dixon | 25.03.2017

Theresa May’s empty chair at the EU’s 60th birthday party today is a tragic symbol of the UK’s waning influence in Europe. Failing to attend this party was a diplomatic blunder that will not help get our Brexit negotiations off to a good start.

I have not given up hope that the British people will change their minds about staying in the EU when they see what Brexit actually means. Even after the prime minister starts the formal divorce talks next Wednesday, it will still not be too late to think again. But pro-European Brits clearly face an uphill struggle.

If we weren’t absenting ourselves from today’s party and planning to quit Europe’s top table for good, this is the speech our prime minister should give:

“Europe has a huge amount to celebrate today. After the carnage of the First and Second World Wars, we now have peace and prosperity across most of our continent. After the nightmares of communism and fascism, most eastern and southern European countries have been brought into the family of democratic nations.

“But as we celebrate, we must realise that we have many problems. Everywhere we look beyond our frontiers, there is trouble: authoritarian regimes in Russia and Turkey; war in Ukraine, Syria, Iraq and Libya; oppression in Palestine; turmoil in most of north Africa. And now, in the White House, we have a president more keen to suck up to the Kremlin than shake hands with Europe.

“We are an oasis, but a threatened one. We know what mischief Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan can cause. We know how millions of people are on the move in the Middle East, Africa and Asia as a result of war, famine or just because they are seeking better lives – and how Europe is a magnet for them. We know how terrorists can penetrate our defences – in Paris, Brussels, Nice and most recently our House of Parliament this week.

“We also know that globalisation and advances in technology are creating losers as well as winners. Entire communities are blighted by unemployment or left behind by progress elsewhere. It’s hardly surprising there’s a populist backlash.

“The solution is not to dismantle the EU but to make it work better. In some cases, this means Brussels doing less. More Europe is not the answer to every problem.

“But in other cases, we need to work more closely together. We must extend the single market to the newest and liveliest industries so we generate good jobs for younger generations. We need to crack down on multinational tax cheats. We must track down jihadis. We need a joined up political and economic plan to stabilise north Africa and the Middle East. We must fight global warming. And we need a strong European front to stand up against Putin.

“Britain has a lot to bring to the party. We have one of Europe’s strongest economies, best intelligence agencies and powerful military forces. As Europe faces the challenges and opportunities of the next 60 years, we will be there standing shoulder to shoulder with the rest of you.”

If only…

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Edited by Luke Lythgoe

4 Responses to “What UK should be saying at EU’s 60th birthday party”

  • So very very sad and unnecessary. It makes me both depressed and extremely angry that a small cabal of extremely unpleasant right-wing politicians, who do not have the interests of the majority at heart, have been allowed to take control.

    • It’s not a small cabal of politicians it’s 17m Brits who decided this had all gone too far. It was the politicians of the 80’s, 90’s and early 00’s that convey to pass all the treaty legislation without reference to the people. If the Single Act, Maastricht or the Lisbon Treaty had been subject to referendum as in many other EU countries it is highly likely that we would not have needed the 23 June 2016 referendum. But no the politicos know best and now they have to answer to the people, and the people spoke and we need to get used to it.

  • I think the biggest loss in the UK’s departure, is our influence as one of the large established democracies in what is “our continent”. Europe is a zone of relative calm and stability in a troubled World, and that is not least due to the influence of the EU.

    Knowing alot of Germans and following the German media, I know they feel let down by us. They realise that the peace and stability over the last 70 years should not be taken for granted, and that the best way of doing that is by building bridges and common understanding. So now, much of the responsinbility for maintaining Europe’s stability will rest with the French and the Germans, as we are in the act of excluding ourselves. The irony though, as anyone who has learned anything from history will know, is that whatever happens in Europe always has a profound impact on us, whether we want to have a say or not.

    • Dear Alex, I am Swedish and have always felt so much sympathy, admiration and love for the Brittish and the Brittish culture and history. Now those warm feelings have if not gone cold at least become a lot cooler. I cannot still believe that the Brittish wants to leave the one organiization that finally have been able to move us Europeans closer without bloodshed.