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Anjum Shabbir
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8th January 2020
External Relations & Trade Institutional law

‘A tough and emotional day’: von der Leyen

President of the Commission Ursula von der Leyen is in London.

She gave a speech today at the London School of Economics, professing her love for the UK, reminiscing over her time as a student at LSE, and said the UK’s last day as a Member State would be ‘a tough and emotional day’. She gave a message that emphasised she wishes for a continued relationship, stating common problems for which a partnership was necessary:

‘We will still share the same challenges, from climate change to security. We will still be allies and like-minded partners in NATO, the United Nations and other international organisations. We will still share the same values and the belief that democracy, freedom and the rule of law must be the foundation of our societies. We still share the same history and geography. And whatever happens, our continent will still share the same destiny, too. So as one door will unfortunately close, another one will open.’

But the truth is that our partnership cannot and will not be the same as before. And it cannot and will not be as close as before – because with every choice comes a consequence. With every decision comes a trade-off. Without the free movement of people, you cannot have the free movement of capital, goods and services. Without a level playing field on environment, labour, taxation and state aid, you cannot have the highest quality access to the world’s largest single market.

The more divergence there is, the more distant the partnership has to be. And without an extension of the transition period beyond 2020, you cannot expect to agree on every single aspect of our new partnership. We will have to prioritise. The European Union’s objectives in the negotiation are clear. We will work for solutions that uphold the integrity of the EU, its single market and its Customs Union. There can be no compromise on this.

But we are ready to design a new partnership with zero tariffs, zero quotas, zero dumping. A partnership that goes well beyond trade and is unprecedented in scope. Everything from climate action to data protection, fisheries to energy, transport to space, financial services to security. And we are ready to work day and night to get as much of this done within the timeframe we have.

Her point was clear: ‘The more divergence there is, the more distant the partnership has to be’, but overall, her message was one of looking forward, moving on, and the EU still being a close partner of a Member State that has rejected membership of the Union that she serves.

The full speech can be accessed here.

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