Last month saw European Union leaders listen politely to British PM Theresa May before the EU summit in Salzburg. They may have discussed her call for them to improve their Brexit offer, before moving on to other matters.
It may appear that they are unready to compromise, and certainly have other issues to consider – such as the likelihood that the Italian economy is to go the way of Greece. But what does the EU really think of Brexit?
The answers might help explain the problems Mrs May is having thrashing out a deal.
Some don’t want us to go
Overall, around 60% of people in the other 27 countries would like the UK to remain, according to a survey by pollster and former conservative peer Lord Ashcroft back in 2016. But the sentiments are not consistent across countries. Some newer EU members seem keenest for the UK to stay in. It might seem that this is simply enthusiasm for the EU dream and sharing the benefits of membership with a powerful economy, but there are actually sound economic reasons behind this position. Romania and Poland are among the liveliest proponents for both UK and EU membership. Both countries benefit from markets and employment in the UK.
Some don’t care
Slovenia, despite being a newer EU member, trades little with Britain and only a minority support keeping the UK in the EU.
Support for the EU has waned in Greece, where the conditions demanded by EU partners as part of a third eurozone bailout in 2015 have made life uncomfortable for many. This lack of fervour towards the EU project tallies with lukewarm enthusiasm for keeping Britain in the EU.
Some might like to see us gone
Overall, the southern European countries seem keener on the UK remaining than those of the North. German citizens seem relaxed about the divorce. French citizens were found to be the most likely to want Brexit, with only 41% saying they would prefer Britain to stay a member of the EU. But traditional animosities that go back to before the Napoleonic wars only serve to hide what is really going on.
The fact is, whatever the mood of the various nations that make up the EU, the attitude of its leaders is based on tactical thinking rather than emotion. They may have appeared unconcerned at Salzburg, but the departure of the world’s fifth largest economy could be a problem for the EU.
The problem would not simply be the immediate economic disruption, although this could be serious; the EU has a €120 billion annual trade surplus with Britain and around three times as many EU workers are resident in Britain than British workers are resident in the EU. The real issue is political.
If Britain was to leave and enjoy the economic boom predicted by Chancellor Philip Hammond at the conservative party conference, it would send a signal to the rest of the EU. Greece is only one of the countries where enthusiasm for the union has faded. A successful Brexit could signal the start of the disintegration of the bloc.
There is more to Brexit than money
During the pre-Brexit vote campaign, several outers pointed out that we Brits had voted to join what was then the Common Market for sound economic reasons, but that it had somehow become the European Union. Our European partners were – and still are – keen on a political federation. The reluctance to negotiate is based on a commitment to this European ideal, rather than economics.
If Brexit, hard, soft or non-existent might affect your financial plans, it might be time to talk to the Continuum team.
The value of investments can fall as well as rise and you may get back less than you invested.
theguardian.com – So what does Europe really think about the Brexit debate? – Sunday 18th October 2015
thejournal.ie – Poll: Do you think a final Brexit deal will be struck? – 22nd September 2018
ukandeu.ac.uk – Understanding non-British views of Brexit – 5th December 2016
thespectator.co.uk – Brexit: A view from Germany – 15th July 2017