Brexit was not mentioned once in the sole German Chancellor debate Wikipedia

Hardly a day seems to pass in the United Kingdom without a minister either giving a speech on Britain’s withdrawal from the European Union or being sacked. Rebellious Tory MPs are constantly stirring up anxiety for the government while many are still wondering what Labour will do. But on the continent, little has changed. Most countries have moved on, and only occasionally scratch their heads at the shenanigans occurring across the Channel.

This might be indicative of the solipsism that the United Kingdom, or indeed any major country, suffers from. The idea that German automobile producers, Italian wine merchants, and French cheese makers are raging at their respective leaders for an immediate settlement to the question of Brexit is nothing more than a fantasy. Rather, the continental media is more focused on the economy (which is growing across the Union) or developments in the United States. The fact that Boris Johnson disagrees with American hostility to the Iran nuclear deal is at best a footnote. The fact that Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the Palestinians, has asked the EU, and not the United States, to mediate the Israeli-Palestinian negotiations is front page news.

“Brexit has metamorphosed from an urgent matter into more of a nuisance”

Lack of interest on the part of most Europeans is not a recent development. Other issues have overshadowed Brexit, primarily the election of Donald Trump. Back in September, during the only German chancellor debate, Brexit was not mentioned once. In Jean-Claude Juncker’s annual ‘State of the Union’ address, Brexit was only mentioned briefly at the end, as if it were a throwaway line that had to be ticked off the checklist. This clear shift in attention by the UK’s negotiating partners has not been fully recognised by the general populace, although Britain’s newfound willingness to accommodate EU demands does indicate that some in the government have caught on. Look, for example, at the capitulation on the so-called Brexit Bill in the form of tens of billions of euros, and on a transitional deal whereby EU regulations would still apply but the UK would be unable to vote on them.

I am not suggesting that the EU has forgotten Brexit. Rather, it has metamorphosed from an urgent matter into more of a nuisance. This is reflected by the surprising degree of uniformity and solidarity on the issue of Brexit by the EU 27 member states. While the European Commission is taking action towards Poland and suing the Czech Republic and Hungary for non-compliance with refugee quotas, all have fallen in line when it comes to the British withdrawal from the European Union. Non-Eurozone countries, traditionally aligned with the UK on fiscal matters, seem largely unbothered by the whole affair, even if they are losing a strategic partner within the bloc.


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Brexit may prove to be an opportunity for the European Union in its hope for greater integration and enlargement. While Downing Street is unsure where it stands on future immigration figures (let alone current EU migrants already residing in the UK), the European Commission is already looking ahead with the aim of giving six Western Balkan states EU membership by 2025. Last year, Sir Richard Dearlove, former head of MI6 and former master at Pembroke College, said on BBC Newsnight that Britain’s withdrawal could serve as ‘an opportunity for continental Europe’ and that Britain, whose membership was only ‘skin deep,’ can benefit from a more united Europe. Whether this latter scenario will occur is anyone’s guess but it has become more likely due to the exit of a hesitant member.

Will visas be required for British tourists to visit Europe? Probably not, but more importantly, it is of little interest. The low level of attention ought to be a worry for Britons since the continent will not lose much sleep over whether the final deal is a ‘soft’ or ‘hard Brexit,’ a ‘good’ or a ‘no deal.’ With the burden still lying heavily on the shoulders of the United Kingdom, do not hold your breath to see Brexit as front page news in Le Monde or Der Spiegel

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