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Analysis

UK should help lead EU not leave it

by Luke Lythgoe | 29.05.2019

We still have some influence at Europe’s top table despite being saddled with a lame-duck prime minister just as the EU chooses its new presidents. How much more we’ll have if we stay.

EU leaders yesterday started negotiations over who will be the new heads of the EU’s institutions, in particular who will succeed Jean-Claude Juncker at the European Commission. Battle lines were drawn between Germany’s Angela Merkel and France’s Emmanuel Macron. Theresa May had little to say.

Despite this miserable state of affairs, we still have a voice by virtue of our 73 MEPs – and especially our Lib Dem and Green MEPs, who did well in last week’s election.

Unlike in 2014, the centre-right and centre-left factions did not win an outright majority between them, preventing them carving up the key posts. As a result, the liberal and green blocs have a chance to be kingmaker.

UK parties are a significant force within each: the 16 Lib Dem MEPs are second only to Macron’s party in the liberal bloc; and the combined tally of 11 Green, SNP and Plaid Cymru MEPs make Brits the second force behind the Germans in the green bloc. Of course, the influence of these British voices would be greater if they could guarantee they would be around for the whole five-year parliament – and if our prime minister could get any of the other heads of government to listen to her in the European Council.

There’s much to ponder for Labour too. Had Jeremy Corbyn unambiguously backed a People’s Vote, he might have built upon his 20 seats instead of losing half of them. Labour might then have emerged as the dominant force in the centre-left bloc, which could even become the largest if Hungary’s Viktor Orban leaves the centre-right faction. That kind of position might have allowed Corbyn to push the EU in a more left-wing direction, as pressure groups like Another Europe Is Possible and Love Socialism Hate Brexit have been urging him to do.

The good news is there’s time to reclaim our influence. The UK is on the sidelines but not off the pitch. Brexit can be stopped and our position in Europe rebuilt.

We have a large economy, and a wealth of both soft and hard power. In the past, under Margaret Thatcher, we were instrumental in creating the EU’s single market and expanding the EU to encompass most of the old Warsaw Pact countries. In the future, we can shape the EU’s financial and digital policies – and help push it to fight the climate change crisis.

Brexiters claim they are patriots. What they are actually doing is damaging our influence in the world. We must help lead the EU not leave it.

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Edited by Hugo Dixon

One Response to “UK should help lead EU not leave it”

  • The Brexit press claim we are bullied by the EU and have to follow their laws. But it is other countries that have to follow our laws, which we had a hand in framing, -that is nearer the truth. Important to counter the Leavers lies in this regard