Brexit and EU Foreign Policy: The View from Other Member States
Petr Kratochvíl, Ben Tonra, Stephen Keukeleire, Annegret Bendiek and Christian Lequesne spoke on 9 March 2016 at a roundtable focusing on the topic of "Brexit and EU Foreign Policy: The View from Other Member States" at the prestigious London School of Economics and Political Science.
Petr Kratochvíl, from the Institute for International Relations in the Czech Republic, started with three observations. Firstly, it is the reality of Europe today that it is composed of various blocs, based on economic, security and other interests. The notion that a country could extricate itself from these alliances through a referendum seems rather flawed. Secondly, Kratochvíl pointed out that some of Brexit discourse in the UK, with its focus on national interests, is very reminiscent of the position of illiberal parties in many other European countries. And lastly, one of the consequences of Brexit will be a significant weakening of the UK’s staunchest allies in the EU. Based on these three general points, Kratochvíl, also claimed that without the UK, the international clout of the EU will weaken. He added that Brexit will diminish the role of economically neoliberal countries in the EU. This will have repercussions on the character of the EU’s trading regime and market. This change will be also reflected in the position of the EU in bilateral trade agreement negotiations like TTIP. British exit from the EU will be bad news for countries which are not always enthusiastic about the policies promoted by the German-French tandem. Without the ‘British alternative’, these countries may become more alienated from the EU. When talking specifically about the Czech Republic, Kratochvíl said Brexit is not a highly debated issue in the Czech Republic. Only about 30,000 Czechs work in the UK, so potential closure of the UK labour market is not as salient topic for the Czech Republic as it is for instance in Poland. The uncertainty about the UK’s membership in the EU is, however, bringing from moribund to life the anti-EU voices which would like to see the Czech Republic leave the EU. There is a real concern about ‘exit contagion’. Following the UK precedent, more countries of the EU may contemplate leaving the EU. And the traditionally Eurosceptic Czechs may join this group.