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    Why the UK should never return to the EU

    MEPs in the European Parliament embrace their British former colleagues on 31 January 2020, the day that the UK officially left the EU. Credit: Belga

    BRUSSELS BEHIND THE SCENES
    Weekly analysis and untold stories
    With SAMUEL STOLTON

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    Why the UK should never return to the EU

    Blue lanyards roped around slender necks, their lips uncurl to pillows of Cappuccino foam. Their hands, as if conducting an insubordinate orchestra, gesticulate words emanating from their mouths, as if to emphasize the fact that their utterances are of the utmost importance.

    “It is such a bizarre week for them, the Brits,” one of the Commission fonctionnaires says. She is dressed in a pristine black business suit – sterile, almost clinical. Outside, the grey sky afflicts the Berlaymont building with what feels like an impending tragedy. Bullets of rain press themselves up against the café window.

    “Indeed,” another member of the company says, scratching his semi-bald head with the temple tip of his eyeglasses. “A transformative experience for them. Terrible shame all around.”


    Sent out every Friday afternoon, BRUSSELS BEHIND THE SCENES brings the untold stories about the characters driving the policies affecting our lives. Analysis not found anywhere else, The Brussels Times’ Samuel Stolton helps you make sense of what is happening in Brussels.

    If you want to receive Brussels behind the scenes straight to your inbox every Friday, subscribe to the newsletter here.


    Unanimity on this subject between the fonctionnaires is not difficult to achieve. A curtain of melancholic words veils their speech – ‘pity’, ‘unfortunate’, ‘tragic,’ as a means to address this monumental schism in political relations between the two parties.

    It has been a similar story for those members of the European Parliament this week who had supported the UK’s membership of the EU. In a somewhat theatrical affair, MEPs, syrupy globules balling down their pale and lugubrious faces, joined hands in vigil, tenderly squeezing out the lyrics to Auld Langs Syne, in between spasms of grief.

    Brexiteer MEPs, meanwhile, Union Jack flags in hand, turned their backs on the dramaturgy, only to scuttle off to their dank and murky crevices of the European Parliament.  They emerged once again on Friday morning, this time with a bagpipe player leading the crew – smothering the subdued atmosphere with notes intended to showcase a boisterous hubris, but only in fact exposing the frailty and falsity of this tragi-comic image of the United Kingdom and her profound crisis of identity.

    This motley crew of crusty old farts, leading Brexit Britain into bed with an impulsive and erratic mistress – President Trump – should be reason enough why the UK is no longer fit for membership of the EU. As they all waddled into their taxis outside the European Parliament, under clamorous ovations of “We’re Orrrff!” and “It is done!” – two particular phrases utterly lacking in substance (a leitmotif common to the Brexit Party school of rhetoric), one could only wonder why on earth Brussels would ever rue the absence of this merry band of oddballs.


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    In addition to the acrimonious and juvenile antics of Brexiteers in the Parliament, the UK’s record in the EU Council over the past 20-odd years in opposing EU policies on the EU budget, foreign policy efforts and foreign aid issues, has become a thorn in the side of the progression of the European project. Moreover, consecutive UK Conservative governments have plagiarised EU legislation they deem as worthy domestically as the workings of their own hands, while publicly condemning EU rules they judge to not have political currency in the cloak-and-dagger back-corridors of Westminster.

    The essential point is this: Pro-European Brits on both sides of the English Channel should realise that the UK’s departure from the bloc is necessary for the EU to chart a more ambitious future. In this vein, the UK is the sacrificial lamb to the future prosperity of the European Union.

    In fact, it’s a very selfish enterprise for UK Remainers to wish their country return to the Union. It would reopen the putrid and rancorous wounds that have surfaced on the body politic of Europe over the past three years. UK Remainers must therefore realise that it is their duty to respectfully depart the European house, in full knowledge that in so doing, they bestow a more wholesome future for citizens on the continent.

    Engaging in the festivities yesterday evening outside the European Parliament at Place Luxembourg, in between sips of thick, brown Belgian ale, a prominent Liberal Democrat remarked that my reading of why the UK should never return to the EU – for the sake of each of the parties involved – is a dialectical interpretation of history. And he was absolutely correct – the succession in the spirit of the European project that could bud forth as a result of the UK’s departure is something to be applauded as an opportunity, rather than dreaded as an impending failure.

    On Friday lunchtime, I caught the Eurostar back to London and was not surprised to come across one Brexit MEP who I had seen earlier in the day outside Parliament. Weary and hungover, enveloped in the aroma of a Belgian alehouse, her presence cut an apt parallel for how Brussels will observe the parting of an old friend, mutilated by successive years of rancorous anti-EU sentiment: with pity and sorrow, but in full awareness of her parting being a necessary condition for Europe’s future evolution.


    Sent out every Friday afternoon, BRUSSELS BEHIND THE SCENES brings the untold stories about the characters driving the policies affecting our lives. Analysis not found anywhere else, The Brussels Times’ Samuel Stolton helps you make sense of what is happening in Brussels.

    If you want to receive Brussels behind the scenes straight to your inbox every Friday, subscribe to the newsletter here.