The European View: How is Brexit seen by those we are leaving behind?

PUBLISHED: 13:30 31 January 2020 | UPDATED: 09:57 02 February 2020

Heads of state and government attend a summit of EU leaders at the European Council headquarter in Brussels, 2018. Picture: Getty Images

Heads of state and government attend a summit of EU leaders at the European Council headquarter in Brussels, 2018. Picture: Getty Images

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Commentators, journalists, politicians and business figures from EU nations give their thoughts and predictions for post-Brexit Europe.

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Reports suggest Boris Johnson could significantly shake-up the BBC. Photograph: Rick Findler/PA.Reports suggest Boris Johnson could significantly shake-up the BBC. Photograph: Rick Findler/PA.

Miriam González Durántez, Spanish international trade lawyer

Will your country be sad to see Britain go?

Really sad. Many Spanish people, myself included, are real Anglophiles.

Does the EU need to reform? How?

Yes, give absolute priority to growing the size and seamlessness of the single market.

Will Britain return? When?

Hope so, but certainly not within this decade.

What will the future trade deal look like?

European Union flags in front of the Berlaymont Building in Brussels, Belgium. Picture: Getty ImagesEuropean Union flags in front of the Berlaymont Building in Brussels, Belgium. Picture: Getty Images

A bare-bones agreement with possible sectoral deals to be negotiated one by one at a later stage.

What do your country's people think of Boris Johnson?

A mini-Trump.

What do you think was the main reason Britain left?

The dereliction of responsibility from those who gave an absolute majority to Cameron, despite his arrogance, in 2015; a simple majority to Theresa May, despite her incompetence, in 2017; and an absolute majority to Boris Johnson, despite his lies, in 2019.

Why is the EU still so important?

It is the most successful peace and international cooperation project in history

Is a low-tax, free trade Britain a threat to the EU economy?

Members of the European Parliament take part in voting during a plenary session in Strasbourg. Picture: Getty ImagesMembers of the European Parliament take part in voting during a plenary session in Strasbourg. Picture: Getty Images

Of course not, the EU is seven times the size of the UK.

What will be the next countries to ask their people is they want to leave the EU?

None. Brexit has made Europeanism cool.

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- Marijn Kruk, historian, journalist and correspondent-at-large for Dutch weekly De Groene Amsterdammer

Will your country be sad to see Britain go?

Michel Barnier, who served as the EU's chief negotiator with the UK over Brexit, looks on as former Brexit secretary David Davis speaks in 2017. Picture: PA ImagesMichel Barnier, who served as the EU's chief negotiator with the UK over Brexit, looks on as former Brexit secretary David Davis speaks in 2017. Picture: PA Images

Yes, we love the Brits! But were they ever really in?

Does the EU need to reform?

It must organise itself as to gain more effective power to act on the world stage (what Macron called: "European sovereignty").

Will Britain return?

After it has become the 51st state of the US of A (Oops, too late then.)

What will the future trade deal look like?

On the continent you can't have your cake and eat it.

Why is the EU still so important?

European flags in front of the Berlaymont building, headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium. Picture: Getty ImagesEuropean flags in front of the Berlaymont building, headquarters of the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium. Picture: Getty Images

Because the world has become an increasingly mean place. It is better to stay united.

Is a low-tax, free trade Britain a threat to the EU economy?

That's difficult to see. A low-tax Britain will be a threat to itself.

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- Pavel Fischer, Czech diplomat and politician and former adviser to president Vaclav Havel

Does the EU need to reform?

Commentators, journalists, politicians and business figures from EU nations have been giving their thoughts on Brexit. Picture: Getty ImagesCommentators, journalists, politicians and business figures from EU nations have been giving their thoughts on Brexit. Picture: Getty Images

Yes, soon. EU populations are not only consumers, but citizens. And they need to see that the EU cares. For instance, the free market should not any more be accessible to big external operators who disregard fundamentals of the EU: in terms of state subsidies or rights of workers (China), or the environment (Russia) or of their own citizens (corrupted failing states whose leaders send their own people as migrants abroad).

Will Britain return?

When the EU becomes more appealing to ordinary voter.

What will the future trade deal look like?

It will pay more attention to financial operators and multinationals, and less to ordinary consumers who have right to vote.

What do your country's people think of Boris Johnson?

No idea about my country. Personally, I observe a rather gifted public actor who reassured his constituency.

What do you think was the main reason Britain left?

The gap between the Brussels mindset and common sense became blatant and it was misused for domestic consumption by some political actors in London.

Why is the EU still so important?

Since only together can we have a voice when calling Beijing or Moscow in order to tackle global agenda or security and defence of our countries.

Is a low-tax, free trade Britain a threat to the EU economy?

UK is size XXL. It will never wear the T-shirt of a country like Singapore which is maybe M or XS. And this should be reflected by negotiators on behalf of the EU.

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- Gunnar Lund, former Swedish minister and diplomat

Will your country be sad to see Britain go?

Most Swedes yes. Me, not necessarily.

Does the EU need to reform?

Yes, it needs to deepen integration which it is now better placed to do.

Will Britain return?

Possibly, but won't be allowed to slow down integration again.

What do you think was the main reason Britain left?

English exceptionalism plus poisonous media.

Why is the EU still so important?

It is the only effective way for Europe to throw its weight around in today's increasingly authoritarian world.

What will be the next countries to ask their people is they want to leave?

None. The folly of Brexit is obvious to everyone.

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- Marion Van Renterghem, French journalist and writer

Will your country be sad to see Britain go?

Most don't care. Some will think "good riddance". Some (like me) will be sad.

Does the EU need to reform?

Yes. What/who doesn't? We are all a work in progress. The EU needs to settle different levels of integration. To increase majority voting, to decrease unanimity voting.

Will Britain return?

It might. When it will have slept on it. Not before the EU reforms and settles different levels of integration.

What will the future trade deal look like?

More likely, a Brino (Brexit in name only): a partial free-trade agreement.

What do your country's people think of Boris Johnson?

He's a new-style populist. I see the populist, most see the new-style. I'm frightened, they are amused.

What do you think was the main reason Britain left?

Sense of superiority. Daily Mail. Immigration.

Why is the EU still so important?

Not important: vital. Squeezed between China, India and the United States, lone nations can nothing but be swallowed.

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- Sandro Veronesi, Italian author, whose last novel is Il Colibrì, to be published in 2021 as The Hummingbird

What do your country's people think of Boris Johnson?

I don't know what my country thinks. I think he's a clown.

What do you think was the main reason Britain left?

Ignorance (about the subject). And convenience (for foreign powers).

Why is the EU still so important?

The EU is an irreversible mutation. It is necessary because there's no alternative.

Is a low-tax, free trade Britain a threat to the EU economy?

Yes. But it is a threat also for British middle and lower classes.

What will be the next countries to ask their people is they want to leave the EU?

Hungary. And I will materially help them to go away. Tell me what can I do.

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- Christoph Scheuermann, deputy foreign editor of Der Spiegel

Will your country be sad to see Britain go?

Yes. We'll miss the free-market pragmatism and the wit, but not the tenacious debates in Brussels.

Does the EU need to reform?

The bloc has to understand its own limits in governing a fragmented continent.

Will Britain return?

Unlikely, but I think it will seek a more favourable FTA within the next decade.

What will the future trade deal look like?

Messy... the EU will allow import of British goods and services at a high cost to the UK.

What do your country's people think of Boris Johnson?

That he's a buffoon and a mediocre clown.

What do you think was the main reason Britain left?

Nostalgia and the illusion that the whole world has been waiting to sign FTAs with Britain.

Is a low-tax, free trade Britain a threat to the EU economy?

Yes, but only if the UK government manages to convince its own people over a long period of time that this economic model is beneficial to the country as a whole which I doubt it can.

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- Nick Van Praag, Austrian director of an NGO

Will your country be sad to see Britain go?

Most Austrians tired of the Brexit saga long ago. But their inner Metternich leaves them worried about how changing power dynamics in the EU will affect smaller member states.

Does the EU need to reform?

The vitality of Europe requires constant questioning and adjusting. It's about being responsive to change. There's no blueprint

Will Britain return?

That is my hope. Sadly, I don't think it will happen in my lifetime.

What will the future trade deal look like?

Minimal and hubristic.

What do your country's people think of Boris Johnson?

He is a wake up call in a country drawn to 'charismatic' politicians with simplistic solutions. He's not yet been rumbled for the charlatan he is. But if things turn sour (economy-wise, and in relation to UK's standing in the world), things could go negative fast. He owns Brexit, come what may...

What do you think was the main reason Britain left?

A mendacious campaign that played on people's prejudices and fears.

Why is the EU still so important?

Its the glue that holds the European ideal together in an increasingly ideal-free world.

Is a low-tax, free trade Britain a threat to the EU economy?

I can't see how it would work if the UK economy is cut off from its main market, which is the EU.

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- @BorderIrish, satirical Irish Twitter account which has chronicled the Brexit process

Will your country be sad to see Britain go?

Yes, though we have found they're quite difficult to shake off even when they say they're leaving.

Does the EU need to reform?

Any chance of spreading the climate and cuisine around a bit more evenly?

Will Britain return?

No, it'll stand outside freezing saying "I'm fine, no really, I'm fine" forever.

What will the future trade deal look like?

A duck with a hat on.

What do your country's people think of Boris Johnson?

He's an **** ******** ******, so he is.

What do you think was the main reason Britain left?

They're embarrassed about themselves.

Why is the EU still so important?

Peace, multilingualism, openness. And gelato.

Is a low-tax, free trade Britain a threat to the EU economy?

Haha no.

What will be the next countries to ask their people is they want to leave the EU?

I imagine Russia will be asking lots of countries if they'd like to leave the EU.

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- Filippo Sensi, Italian MP for the Democratic Party; former spokesman for the Italian government

Will your country be sad to see Britain go?

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We are literally crying because you're out.

Will Britain return?

It's a yes, definitely. After Boris.

What will the future trade deal look like?

Bitter for UK, sad for EU.

What do your country's people think of Boris Johnson?

We respect him as your prime minister, as we do Trump as president of the United States.

Why is the EU still so important?

Size matters. And future is on the EU's side.

Is a low-tax, free trade Britain a threat to the EU economy?

In the UK's wild dreams maybe, yes. But it's wishful thinking.

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- Monique Toussaint, bookseller and leading Belgian literary figure

Will your country be sad to see Britain go?

Some people think bon débarras ('good riddance').

Does the EU need to reform?

Certainly, it needs to be less technocratic.

Will Britain return?

I hope not.

What will the future trade deal look like?

I have no idea. But I am not the only one.

What do your country's people think of Boris Johnson?

He is funny, eccentric, clever and dangerous.

What do you think was the main reason Britain left?

It thinks it is still an empire.

Why is the EU still so important?

Peace.

Is a low-tax, free trade Britain a threat to the EU economy?

It could be.

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- Paola Peduzzi, foreign editor of Italian newspaper Il Foglio

Will your country be sad to see Britain go?

As with any divorce I think we haven't realised yet what Brexit actually means. Maybe the British neither.

Does the EU need to reform?

It is already reforming, trying to be closer to its people and more united to compete with other superpowers. Brexit taught us that EU is our insurance for the future.

What will the future trade deal look like?

My only hope is that it will be simple and based on common good: we are experiencing too many trade wars today, we don't need another one.

What do you think was the main reason Britain left?

That we didn't know what Brexit meant and I think we still don't.

Why is the EU still so important?

Because the European project is an unique soft power project that guarantees peace, wellbeing and progress to more than 500 million people.

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- Ana Muhar Blanquart, Croatian journalist

Will your country be sad to see Britain go?

Sad is a strong word. But as the newest member of the EU it certainly doesn't make us feel good to see one of its most important members leave.

Does the EU need to reform?

The EU needs to clarify its work, objectives and achievements. The political system of the EU looks secretive, bureaucratic and a bit boring. In reality, it may not be so, but the public has to be shown. Maybe all the EU needs is a good PR campaign.

Will Britain return?

Not as a full member. There is too much pride on both sides.

What will the future trade deal look like?

I am a great believer in British pragmatism (and talents) and although I wouldn't dare predict what the trade deal would look like I believe it will be one that will enable both sides to make money.

What do you think was the main reason Britain left?

A sense of nostalgia that led them to believe that the EU is somehow responsible for taking away the Britain of their childhood.

Why is the EU still so important?

I was starting school when a terrible war in my homeland broke out, a war it took many years for the nation to fully recover from. That is why for me, personally, the biggest achievement of the EU is the unity of its members. When Croatia entered the EU I secretly thought: Good, there won't be any wars here again.

What will be the next countries to ask their people is they want to leave the EU?

The Brexit saga might have discouraged other countries to give their people the option. If Britain, with its outstanding institutions, struggled to make it happen, what would it look like for a less organised country?

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- Enrico Mentana, Italian broadcaster and editor of La 7 News

Will your country be sad to see Britain go?

I think there is too much Brexit drama. The UK history in the European Union (and its ancestors) is very short: when Mary Quant was revolutionary for all of us, UK was not in the European institutions. When the Beatles weren't a band anymore, UK was not in the European institutions. But London, Liverpool, Manchester and Edinburgh were, are and will be very close to us, even out of the EU - because the British influence and inspiration are bigger then the strict relationships between UK and EU.

- Sofia Ribeiro, publisher from Portugal

Does the EU need to reform?

Yes. Let me count the ways...

What do your country's people think of Boris Johnson?

He's pretty much seen as a populist, dodgy kind of figure.

What do you think was the main reason Britain left?

Immigration.

Why is the EU still so important?

I think many of us fear what Europe might look like if we are not in one Union.

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- Luca Sofri, editor of Italian news website Il Post

Does the EU need to reform?

It must convince people it is good and useful.

What do you think was the main reason Britain left?

People like to leave, it makes them feel they decide things and don't need other people.

Why is the EU still so important?

Because everything is falling apart and anything that unites could help.

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- Miltos Hatzopoulos, Greek historian

Will your country be sad to see Britain go?

I don't think so. Since the 1950s, its government has been hostile to Greek interests. Also, it was clear enough that it wanted to have its cake and eat it, in regards to its relationship with the EU.

Does the EU need to reform?

Greeks are very sensitive to the lack of democracy in the functioning of the Union. They have seen crucial decisions for their lives taken by bodies beyond any democratic control. Basically, they want a democratic and united Europe.

What will the future trade deal look like?

It will likely mimic the agreement between Norway and the Union.

What do you think was the main reason Britain left?

The reluctance to have decisions imposed on them by European authorities without democratic legitimacy and the justified resentment of the victims of neo-liberalism.

Why is the EU still so important?

Because there is no other solution. It would be very complicated to return to national sovereignty.

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- Giuseppe De Bellis, editor of Italian network Sky TG24

Will Britain return?

Brexit will be irreversible. It's not possible to come back and at this point, it's better. The European reaction will be the opposite of what many are saying: this enormous chance to change will be wasted. The EU will resist any reform and will end up more bureaucratic then now. That said, for the 27, Europe is still essential, more because of its inability to evolve than for an actual idea of Union.

For Italy, Brexit will be a social tragedy, not a political one. For me, it is the end of a true idea of Atlanticism. It will push Europe away from the United States and this is the worst failure for all of us.

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- Heidi Hautala, MEP and former leader of the Finnish Green Party

Will your country be sad to see Britain go?

In Finland most people do not understand why Brexit needs to happen at all. For most of us, the EU means strengthening our independence in an interdependent world. I'm very obviously weeping to say farewell to my British colleagues. I cannot imagine the European Parliament without them.

Will Britain return?

We must work for it, the door back to the EU will remain open.

What will the future trade deal look like?

There will not be enough time for the UK and EU to reach a comprehensive trade agreement in a few months. The aim of the EU is to reach a deal which features zero quotas, zero tariffs, and zero product dumping. But I do believe that we could produce a unique agreement because we do share the same values. For me, the stumbling block will be a situation in which the UK would rather follow the US model of trade and allow a race to the bottom of social and environmental standards. But, I trust that the EU will not accept it. At best we could create a model trade agreement also with the view to other countries. It should contain the most advanced chapter for sustainable development.

What do your country's people think of Boris Johnson?

Many think he is a kind of European version of Trump.

What do you think was the main reason Britain left?

The British people were given false promises and misled by anti-EU propaganda for years. Behind it was the desire of the Tory party to solve its internal problems with the referendum. Things can and they did get out of control, under the slogan: Let us take control back…

Why is the EU still so important?

When the European Union gets its act together, its influence reaches far beyond its own borders. Protection of privacy and leadership in the protection of the climate demonstrate this.

Is a low-tax, free trade Britain a threat to the EU economy?

A level playing field is a must if the UK wants to reach an ambitious new trade agreement with the EU.

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- Franc Bogovič, MEP from the Slovenian People's Party

Will your country be sad to see Britain go?

Yes, Slovenians are interested in a strong EU, which is able to confront Europe's adversaries around the world; both economically and financially, but also militarily. Britain leaving constitutes a weaker EU in these areas.

It was not planned on the drawing board. It is a project in flux and we are building the ship while already at sea. Many reforms are needed. Especially in the areas of finance, immigration/migration, security and defence and European voting rights. Cohesion policy is the other large issue. The gap between Western and Eastern Europe needs to be closed even faster.

Will Britain return?

I hope so. But this is first of all for the British people to decide, after they succeeded to heal their inner divide.

What will the future trade deal look like?

It certainly will not be as good as the one UK had before Brexit.

What do your country's people think of Boris Johnson?

It depends on who you ask. Some see him as a 'British Trump', others think he's a very successful politician, who was able to unite the pro-Brexit voters and successfully defeat the Labour Party on their home turf.

What do you think was the main reason Britain left?

More than 30 years of fake news and anti-EU propaganda in British - mostly English - media, as well as very reserved position towards the EU within the established political parties. Plus a habit of British politicians that we know from all EU member states and that needs to change everywhere - what is wrong is blamed on the EU and the EU's successes are sold as national successes.

Why is the EU still so important?

It is a peace project and a financial success. It has guaranteed 70 years of peace on a continent that has known only war for thousands of years and it has succeeded to create a wealth and economic stability that is unparalleled in Europe's history. Just look at the impact the last financial and then banking crisis had on the EU and US in comparison. The EU withstood the shocks to the system fairly well and the euro remained stable all along, while the banking system in the US collapsed completely and many people lost their property and jobs.

Is a low-tax, free trade Britain a threat to the EU economy?

A low-tax and free trade Britain would certainly come at a cost, the majority of it would be paid by British citizens with lower social and labour rights as currently. The future EU-UK trade deal will make sure that does not happen.

What will be the next countries to ask their people is they want to leave the EU?

I believe that even the populists from other EU member states have learned something from the Brexit saga, so I don't expect any other countries to follow that route soon. All large populist parties around the continent have taken the request to leave the EU out of their party programmes fast. #Frexit is no longer a thing for example.

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- Dimitrios Papadimoulis, MEP for Greece's Coalition of the Radical Left and a former member of the Greek Parliament

Will your country be sad to see Britain go?

The UK is about to cease its 47-year membership of the EU. This is not something that we could be happy about.

Does the EU need to reform? How?

There is a constant need for change in order to meet people's need, to face our common challenges and to deepen the values of equality, solidarity, social justice and democracy.

What will the future trade deal look like?

Parliament's consent, following the completion of the UK's domestic procedures for ratifying the withdrawal agreement, will allow its entry into force on February 1, 2020. This will signal the beginning of an 11-month transition period to reach a comprehensive agreement in all areas, including the trade relationship with the EU. We will wait and see.

What do your country's people think of Boris Johnson?

He is a newly-elected prime minister with a clear mandate to get the Brexit done. We are awaiting to see how he will rise to the occasion.

What do you think was the main reason Britain left?

I believe that the decision to leave the EU reflects the Union's failure to address the growing concerns of British citizens as well as the failure of the British governments to deal with the strong British euroscepticism in a constructive and open manner. It was also the result of a misleading internal propaganda, guided by the Brexit camp.

Why is the EU still so important?

The idea of European unification was born from a desire for sustainable peace on the basis of respecting and promoting fundamental rights. This is what European unification is all about and why it will always be important.

Is a low-tax, free trade Britain a threat to the EU economy?

All changes involve risks. It is up to us whether we consider those risks as threats or not.

What will be the next countries to ask their people is they want to leave the EU?

I firmly believe that it is more constructive to focus on the challenge of the European integration and enlargement, rather than giving in to opposite thoughts.

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