BREXIT: “A good neighbour is worth more than a distant friend”

The ECR Group welcomes that, after 5 years of legal uncertainty for both companies and citizens, the long period of difficult negotiations with the United Kingdom comes to a fruitful end. For the ECR’s Member in the UK coordination group, Geert Bourgeois, the vote in the European Parliament is a crucial step to avoid a no-deal scenario.

The TCA is also a good starting point to look to the future together and start a new chapter: “For us, the departure of the British is not just an economic loss. We have the saying: A good neighbour is worth more than a distant friend. It is in both our interests to continue and even strengthen our cooperation. Not least in areas such as foreign policy, security, migration, border management, transport, the North Sea, research and development and education”, Mr Bourgeois said.

Speaking ahead of the final vote, Mr. Bourgeois also added:

“We need to build trust again for broad future cooperation. It is now important to implement the trade and cooperation agreement as pragmatically and flexibly as possible. Naturally, this will be with full respect for the Good Friday Agreement and the unity of the European internal market.”

Mr Bourgeois pointed out future priorities:

“First and foremost, all parties must secure the Good Friday Agreement. Tensions in Northern Ireland must be de-escalated as quickly as possible. In the short term, a joint, efficient solution must be found for the agreed customs controls, as provided for in the Withdrawal Agreement.”

He also warned that we could already see the negative effects of Brexit:

“There is already a significant drop in our exports. Perhaps this is also related to the pandemic, but Brexit is clearly having a negative effect on clearance costs, customs and phytosanitary controls, VAT, rules of origin, falling exchange rates of the pound. And then the rollout of British customs controls is yet to follow.”

Geert Bourgeois encouraged the European Commission and the British government to address these issues quickly. He sees several solutions to this end:

“We need extensive digitalization of customs controls, and we have to get a ‘trusted economic operators’ system working, in which only certain companies that export a lot and meet certain security standards have to deal with random checks.

“We also need a pre-clearance system with “Green lanes” that could cross-border transport easier.”

Geert Bourgeois added: “As the ECR’s member in the ‘UK Coordination Group’ in the European Parliament, I can and will ensure that the existing trade barriers are continuously monitored and eliminated as much as possible and that we tackle any new barriers as quickly as possible, especially for our SMEs.

“A good neighbour is worth more than a distant friend.”

Looking to the future and possibly continuing cooperation in many other areas, Bourgeois is particularly pleased with the establishment of the “EU-UK Parliamentary Assembly”, which he also proposed. This new consultative body between the European Parliament and the British House of Commons and House of Lords can lead to robust relations with the UK and ensure our neighbour becomes the EU’s closest partner based on sustainable and structural consultation.

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