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In 1946, Winston Churchill said at the University of Zurich: “The first step in the recreation of the European family must be a partnership between France and Germany.” Then in 1953, when Churchill met Konrad Adenauer, the chancellor of West Germany, he outlined his vision for the future relationship between the US, UK and Europe: three circles, interwoven with each other yet independent, with Britain remaining on the periphery.
Churchill saw this plan as the prerequisite for lasting peace on the continent. Forty years later, when eastern European countries joined the EU, securing that freedom required further integration. The single market based on free movement of goods, people, capital and services is the manifestation of these core Churchillian values. They form an indivisible whole.
The UK’s decision to leave the EU is particularly incomprehensible as it had previously been granted a wide package of exemptions and rebates, setting it apart from the other 27 member states.
After last year’s referendum, the UK is facing the draining task of negotiating a divorce at a time when a united European voice is particularly important. Just as with a long marriage, to dissolve Britain’s relationship with the EU means untangling a myriad of complex connections. It could prove to be a painful and ugly separation. Only a clean and quick break of the current UK-EU relationship will suffice. Here is how it could be done.
First, both parties must provide mutual assurance that EU citizens who were resident in the UK and other EU states on June 23 2016, the day of the British referendum, have an irrevocable right to remain.
Second, there should be a common approach for defining regulations for work permits that takes into account that people on both sides of the English Channel view themselves as citizens of Europe.
Third, students and those seeking education should have visa exemptions so they can enjoy continued freedom of access to their preferred place of study — be it on the continent or in the UK. Both sides should agree on common regulations to promote scientific projects and co-operation.
On trade, access to each other’s markets should follow World Trade Organisation rules and an agreement should be in place as soon as possible. All passporting rights should cease to exist too. The approach of slicing and dicing the single market into sectors for the purpose of defining individual access arrangements is not worth the effort.
British, European and non-European businesses should feel confident enough that they can look forward and adapt to new economic realities. The UK and the EU should be free to concentrate on domestic as well as international challenges, such as the negotiation of new free-trade deals.
A permanent committee should be put in place for developing co-operation at governmental level, formalising the new relationship between the UK and EU. Finally, a joint committee made up of members of the House of Commons and the European Parliament should be formed to add an additional forum for UK-EU dialogue.
At its heart, the EU has always been a political project with peace and freedom for its citizens at its core, respected worldwide thanks to the economic power of the single market. Britain must find another path so only a clean Brexit or no Brexit will do.
The writer is a European national working in finance and based in London
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