Rajoy: “Britain cannot pick and choose the bits of the EU it wants to keep”

euro flagSpain’s acting president Mariano Rajoy (PP) has echoed the words of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and other European leaders – Britain ‘cannot cherry-pick’ when it comes to its relations with the EU.

“Nobody should hope to keep what interests them about Europe and get rid of what doesn’t,” Rajoy warned at Tuesday’s summit in Brussels.

“What we are all most concerned about now is when exactly David Cameron plans to invoke Article 50 and apply to leave the EU.

“Only then will negotiations start over the UK’s leaving conditions in order to decide the future relationship between the European community and Britain.”

Rajoy stressed that the deadline to leave, once Article 50 has been triggered by the UK government, is two years, so in the meantime, nothing will change as Britain will still be an EU country.

“During this time, the rights Spanish people have to live, work or continue trade relations in the UK will remain, and Spain will work to protect the rights of Spanish citizens and companies based in Britain whilst supporting greater European integration,” Rajoy concluded.

He did not mention anything about Spain working to protect the rights of British citizens living in the country, although many local council leaders have said their Brits are ‘important to us’ and that they wanted them to stay put.

Angela Merkel and other leaders in the EU have stressed the UK has to choose between a total divorce – in which its trading relations will be the same as any other non-EU country in the world, with the corresponding customs tariffs and paperwork – or to stay in the common market with ease of trade, which would also mean accepting freedom of movement of people as well as goods, services and capital.

“You can’t just take the benefits of Europe without the responsibilities,” she said, warning Cameron his government would not be allowed to ‘cherry-pick’.

And Cameron himself, who was given emotional farewells in his last-ever EU summit and admitted he had not intended this to happen, recognised that it would be nearly impossible for Britain to demand free movement of goods, services and capital unless it accepted that EU citizens should have the right to live and work in Britain.

UKIP leader Nigel Farage was booed and jeered at, and asked by Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, “why are you here?”

“You campaigned for a Brexit and got what you wanted, so I don’t understand why you’re here.”

This attracted applause from the rest of the room.

Farage’s farewell to the rest of the room was less convivial than that of the prime minister – or British Commissioner for Finance Jonathan Hill, who has just resigned as he ‘doesn’t have a job to do now’.

“When I first came here 17 years ago and said I was going to lead a campaign to get Britain out of Europe, you all laughed at me. Well, you’re not laughing now, are you?” Farage asked.

He signed off with, “none of you have ever done a proper job in your lives,” which caused a ripple of fury in the Hemicycle.

Published Think Spain 29 June 2016

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