Herman Van Rompuy said "the UK has always been a special case.”
(Photo : Laurent Antonelli / Blitz)
At the Deloitte Horizon conference on Thursday, former president of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, shared his views on the future of the European Union after Brexit. saying that the EU has never been more united since the vote and that the UK has made an enormous mistake.
“Brexit is the biggest mistake the UK has made in 100 years,” said Herman Van Rompuy, former president of the European Council. Speaking at the Deloitte Horizon conference on 3 May, he added, “but then, the UK has always been a special case.”
He argued that the UK has never really been fully in the European Union. “It didn’t join until 1973 and negotiated many op-out clauses. It was a member of the single market, but not the euro-zone or the Schengen agreement.”
There is no doubt in Van Rompuy’s mind that the UK will be much worse off out of the union than in, regardless of what terms are negotiated. He predicts a long transition period, a lot longer than anticipated because, “we will not be ready with free trade agreements at the end of this period.”
One of the biggest Brexit sticking points that has still to be properly addressed, and yet is hugely important is passporting (as reported in Delano here). “The UK will no longer have passporting rights and the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, is strongly against making bespoke arrangements,” Van Rompuy said. “Equivalence measures have been mooted as a solution, but these only cover a fraction of financial services and can be withdrawn at any moment.”
“If you look up a dictionary definition of the word dilemma,” Van Rompuy said, “you will find it means having to make a choice between two equally unattractive options.” He wasn’t conducting a spontaneous English lesson for the international audience at the conference, but making his introduction to the Irish border question.
“This is nothing but a lose/lose situation and yet Brexit cannot move forward until it is resolved. We are not just talking about trade deals here, we are talking about peace. Don’t forget the more than 3,500 people who were killed during the troubles.” His fear is that a wrong move could reignite the situation.
Although he is certain the UK is making a mistake, Van Rompuy is optimistic for the future of the EU. “The union has never been so united as after the vote and there is no reason that Brexit should stop EU enlargement.”
Brexit will be the subject of Delano’s June print edition, as well as our next Delano Live event on 7 June. Join us for further opinion and analysis on how Brexit will impact UK and EU citizens, both businesses and individuals.