Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Mrs May's EU Divorce Letter: Let's Be Friends; Established 1827

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Mrs May's EU Divorce Letter: Let's Be Friends; Established 1827

Article excerpt

THE Prime Minister's letter, triggering Article 50, took effect only when Britain's EU ambassador handed it over to European Council president Donald Tusk. But its intended readership is wider: we the public, the EU leaders with whom a deal must be struck, and Mrs May's Cabinet colleagues, who will be seeking signals that their particular priorities have been addressed.

The tone is obviously important. Britain has left the EU; it has not left Europe, nor could we. Further, we wish the EU well. As the PM says to MPs, "I want us to be a truly Global Britain the best friend and neighbour to our European partners, but a country that reaches beyond the borders of Europe too. A country that goes out into the world to build relationships with old friends and new allies alike." So, best friend status, with scope to go further a friends with benefits relationship.

Whatever can be done by way of co-operation that does not entail compromise on the fundamentals of Brexit control over immigration but also an end to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice will be done. The most obvious point of agreement, as the letter makes clear, is security co-operation. It did not take the attacks by an Islamist fanatic at Westminster a week ago to establish that we share a common threat from IS-inspired terrorism. That is as true for London as for Paris or Berlin or Brussels, and in our mutual self-interest we have to ensure that joint security co-operation and intelligence sharing is not affected by Brexit.

Beyond that, the priority for any negotiation must be to establish beyond doubt the secure status of EU nationals living and working here, and that of British nationals living in the EU. Helpfully, Michel Barnier, the chief Brexit negotiator for the EU, has said he is "ready to discuss this issue from day one". Indeed, it should be possible to agree that EU and British nationals should enjoy security living and working across the EU and Britain. …

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