Former UK MEP says Britain has "always blown hot and cold” in EU relations

With Brexit still casting a long shadow over EU/UK relations, the former senior UK MEP Andrew Duff has made a thinly-veiled attack on Britain's commitment to Europe, saying it has “always blown hot and cold” in its relationship with Brussels.

The respected former Liberal Democrat member, who lost  his seat at the last European elections, was speaking in parliament in a discussion on “federal solutions” to Europe’s difficulties.

The meeting heard that these multiple challenges range from Brexit and the eurozone economy to migration and the challenge posed by the rise of populism and right-wing extremism in Europe.

The event, which also coincided with the launch Duff's latest book, comes amid the ongoing debate about the future of Europe and also the continuing Brexit negotiations.

Duff, a renowned constitutional expert who has remained a close EU watcher since losing his MEP seat, told the audience of MEPs and parliamentarian staff that “historians of the EU will find it dramatically clear how pervasive the influence of the British has been over the years — for good and bad.”

He added, “The UK has always blown hot and cold over its continental engagement — and presumably always will."

He was dismissive of what have called the UK's "semi detached" approach to the EU, adding, “The first 20 years of the European commission were plagued by the British problem: whether to let them in and on what terms.

“Paul Henri Spaak (one of the EU’s founding fathers) was torn between advancing a federal Europe, which could only be done without the British, or securing a strong transatlantic alliance, which could only be done with the British.

“From a diametrically opposed position, Charles de Gaulle faced the same dilemma: had he lived, he would have been gratified to discover how the British became robust defenders of his Luxembourg Compromise that has so blunted the federalist advance.”

Duff, who is now a visiting fellow of the Brussels based European Policy Centre, asked, “Now Mrs May (the UK PM) is returning British European policy to that of Anthony Eden, is it too much to hope that a federal core of the EU, led by Emmanuel Macron, will move to complete the federal union?”

On this, Duff, also president of the influential Spinelli Group, which strives to reinvigorate the strives for federalism in Europe, went on, “This requires a more teleological approach, defining and entrenching the mission of “ever closer union”.

Meanwhile, as the March 2019 deadline for the UK’s departure from the European Union draws ever closer and with the UK government continuing to struggle to formulate an exit deal with the EU, a report by EU expert Paul Taylor sets out the “stark policy choices” he says British and EU leaders will have to make to “optimise Britain’s defence and security role in Europe to mutual advantage despite the rupture of Brexit.”

The study, compiled for Brussels think tank Friends of Europe report draws on extensive interviews with senior NATO officials, UK and EU politicians and security experts as well as a specially commissioned survey of 300 security and defence stakeholders in the UK, the EU and beyond.

The report highlights what it calls the “risks of a breakdown in practical cooperation on crime-fighting and counter-terrorism on the day after Brexit, and of serious longer-term damage to British and European defence industries.”

The report, recently published, says, “British and European Union negotiators have only a few months left to prevent a train wreck in European security when the UK leaves the European Union and they’ve barely even begun discussing the challenge.”

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Martin Banks

Martin Banks

Martin Banks is a highly qualified journalist with many years experience of working within the EU institutions. He is an occasional, and highly valued, contributor to EU today, writing on a wide variety of issues.

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