As a slew of other big-ticket items starts to fill the EU agenda, gearing up for elections in mid-2019 is the European Union, which has veto power over any Brexit agreement. Making it politically easier for the assembly to approve any deal on the terms of Brexit, shifting the spotlight from the U.K.’s withdrawal and giving lawmakers campaign talking points are these initiatives, meant to show the bloc’s vigor.
“Even before the European elections, an important road map with key decisions is underway,” Maria Joao Rodrigues, a Portuguese vice-chair of the 28-nation Parliament’s Socialist group, said in an interview in her office at the assembly’s headquarters in Strasbourg, France. “While the Brexit negotiations are taking place, the EU is moving ahead with its road map and these two things will go in parallel. This means we’ll have a big-bang moment in 2019.”
Ensuring the U.K.’s scheduled departure can be viewed in a broader, more positive context for the bloc rather than as an unprecedented wound is the EU’s work program which puts a common thread through a wide variety of policy initiatives and creates a counterpoint to Brexit.
Including the multi-billion-euro bill, the rights of EU citizens in Britain and the future border between Northern Ireland and Ireland, that could be crucial when the time comes for the 751-seat Parliament to give its verdict on any accord between Brussels and London on the divorce settlement.
“There’s an indirect link between any Brexit agreement and the upcoming EU Parliament elections,” said Janis Emmanouilidis, director of studies at the European Policy Centre in Brussels. “People will be looking at the atmosphere in 2019 to see whether the bloc of 27 member countries is progressing. If so, that would play into the hands of pro-European forces and mean any Brexit deal wouldn’t be viewed in isolation.”
Raising the prospect of an agreement with messy compromises being gunned down and of the U.K. crashing out of the bloc, the assembly has so far set a hard line for the Brexit negotiators.
“We can only convince people in an election campaign for our pro-European approach if we have an idea for the future,” Manfred Weber, German leader of the assembly’s Christian Democrats, said in an interview in Strasbourg. “We need a visionary aspect.”
Attempts to prevent centrifugal forces of the kind that fueled Brexit from putting the bloc’s very existence into question, inflows of Middle Eastern refugees from breaking apart the continent’s passport-free travel zone and national indebtedness from shattering the euro area is something t that the EU is emerging from after years of fire-fighting.
And pushing for progress toward European free-trade accords with Latin American and Pacific countries, a breakthrough in talks over a revamp of common asylum rules and deeper defense-policy cooperation is what the EU.
This whole agenda “will create a new momentum for European integration,” Rodrigues said. “Our main concern is not about Brexit. Our main concern is to make sure the European Union, as a big undertaking in world history, moves to the next stage to cope with the new challenges.”
(Adapted from Bloomberg)