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For EU, Johnson exit won’t change much; damage already done

For EU, Johnson exit won’t change much; damage already done

BRUSSELS (AP) — From his days stoking anti-European Union sentiment with exaggerated newspaper tales, to his populist marketing campaign main Britain out of the bloc and reneging on the post-Brexit commerce deal he signed, outgoing U.Okay. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been the bane of Brussels for all so a few years.

Such was his affect on breaking the bonds between Britain and the EU that after Johnson was pressured to announce Thursday that he would step down, the information introduced little public jubilation in EU circles. As an alternative, there was simply the numb acceptance of the inevitable and resignation that issues won’t ever be the identical.

“I cannot miss him,” French finance minister Bruno Le Maire mentioned, highlighting an open disdain unseen for the reason that Europeans welcomed the U.S. election lack of Donald Trump in 2020. And whereas trans-Atlantic relations picked up shortly for the reason that arrival of President Joe Biden, do not count on something related with a brand new British chief, politicians and consultants mentioned.

“Even with a brand new prime minister, I imagine there’ll seemingly be few adjustments within the British authorities’s place” on the primary Brexit points inflicting present divisions, mentioned David McAllister, the main EU legislator coping with the UK.

Man Verhofstadt, who was the highest EU parliamentarian throughout the entire Brexit divorce proceedings, mentioned Johnson’s affect was such there may be little to no probability one other Conservative prime minister might steer a basically completely different course.

“Nobody is underneath any phantasm that Johnson’s departure from Downing Road solves any of the underlying issues within the U.Okay.-EU relationship,” Verhofstadt wrote in an opinion piece for The Guardian. “The injury finished by the outgoing prime minister, by means of the challenge that he instrumentalized to realize energy, lives on.”

The UK was all the time a halfhearted EU member since becoming a member of the bloc in 1973. When Johnson joined the Brussels press corps some three a long time in the past, he usually enthralled his residence readership with tales that had two elementary parts: they put the EU within the darkest of lights, and so they had little connection to actuality.

As a Conservative politician, he threw his weight within the 2016 referendum on the U.Okay.’s EU membership behind arguments to go away the bloc. Johnson used his breezy method and jokey model to promote the advantages of withdrawing from the EU, generally disregarding the information. He was key to the Brexit marketing campaign’s victory within the cliff-edge 2016 Brexit referendum vote.

But disdain by no means ran deeper than earlier this yr when he began strikes towards unilaterally rewriting components of the post-Brexit deal he signed with the 27-nation bloc. The settlement arrange a particular system in Northern Eire, which is a part of the U.Okay., so commerce with the Republic of Eire — an EU member — might go on with out establishing a bodily border.

“I used to be there head to head with him. Line for line, comma for comma, and he would not wish to respect it,” EU chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier reminisced Friday, nonetheless exhibiting bafflement at Johnson’s techniques.

“The reputational injury has been big to a rustic and society which has lengthy been happy with its deep tradition of ‘My phrase is my bond’ with out even a written contract, not to mention a world treaty,” mentioned Michael Emerson of the Heart for European Coverage Research.

The invoice to unilaterally break the settlement on commerce in Northern Eire remains to be within the Home of Commons, and a few lingering hope is left that London may step again from the brink.

“They’ve this legislation within the Parliament, so they’re doing steps in that path. However they haven’t crossed the road,” mentioned Jan Lipavský, the overseas minister of Czechia, which holds the EU presidency and is extra broadly know in English because the Czech Republic.

But a fast look on the seemingly contenders to take over would not encourage hope for any elementary change because it consists of a number of Conservatives who’ve spent years steeping in Johnson’s confrontational Brexit methods.

“When you take a look at doable successors, there isn’t any one who will basically break with the Brexit line,” mentioned Rem Korteweg of the Clingendael Institute in The Hague, Netherlands. “The Conservative Social gathering has a dominant Brexit core that you’ll have to persuade to grow to be prime minister.”

Though the primary years of Brexit have yielded something however the bounty Johnson promised, any doable quest to return the U.Okay. to the EU can be pretty much as good as out of the query, with the primary opposition Labour Social gathering now centering to make the very best of the Brexit state of affairs as an alternative.

Not that the EU would even wish to welcome again the nation with open arms.

With Ukraine, inflation-spurred financial points and migration issues, “their plate is full,” Korteweg mentioned. “They’re actually not ready for talks with the British, who can be searching for exceptions and exemptions anyway,” he mentioned.

Barnier, who led the EU in Brexit talks for years, would not see it taking place both.

“It isn’t a problem at hand,” Barnier mentioned on Sud Radio. “Very frankly, what we want is a mind-set the place the British authorities respects the treaties it negotiated.”


Samuel Petrequin reported from Prague. Jill Lawless in London, and Frank Jordans in Berlin, contributed to this report.


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