Opinion

Britain is leaving the EU, not Europe

Nothing has quite been the same in British politics since the countrys 2016 vote to leave the European Union. Our political leadership is tearing itself apart over how to implement Brexit, and were facing unprecedented levels of uncertainty about our countrys future.

One thing, however, hasnt changed — and its something that offers us a blueprint for how to keep engaging with Europe.

Britain is, and will remain, a European power. Our geopolitical interests havent shifted with our decision to leave the EU, and we must urgently turn our attention to how we continue to do diplomacy with our European neighbors after Brexit.

For centuries, Britain has stood shoulder to shoulder with other European governments resisting repeated attempts to change the balance of power in Europe. Whether the aggressor was Louis XIV, Napoleon, the Kaiser or Adolf Hitler, we resisted their pleas to remain neutral in our island sanctuary and led the armed resistance that, ultimately, defeated them. During the Cold War, the U.K. was one of the staunchest supporters of European and Western solidarity against the Soviet Union.

More recently, foreign policy cooperation has been one of the few areas where the U.K. has not been the awkward customer in Brussels. Britain, Germany and France have, more often than not, found it not too difficult to reach agreement in a way that has enabled Europe to speak to Washington and the wider world with a single voice.

Britain, despite its looming exit from the European project, is well-placed to keep Europe from becoming irrelevant.

Today, the need for Europe to take a common stance on strategic issues is more important than ever.

The Continents power and influence is fragmenting, just as the China, Russia and India join the U.S. as powerful players on the world stage. For the first time since the 17th century, Europe is at risk of becoming peripheral and marginalized on key issues.

Britain, despite its looming exit from the European project, is well-placed to keep Europe from becoming irrelevant.

Even during depressingly unsuccessful Brexit negotiations — when Britain and the rest of Europe appeared to agree on little else — the two sides have worked closely on foreign policy issues.

NATO will remain Britains closest partnership | Petras Malukas/AFP via Getty Images

London has sided with Berlin and Paris — and not with the White House — on the Iran nuclear deal, climate change, free trade and in opposing the relocation of Western embassies to Jerusalem. London also backs its European partners position that governments should not be more polite to dictators than to democratic Western allies.

France and Germany know that for Europe to implement effective policies with maximum impact regarding Russia, China and other regions, the bloc will have to work closely with the U.K. — even after it is no longer part of the EUs Foreign Affairs Council and loses its power to veto EU initiatives.

The best way to work together on these crucial strategic issues will be to establish an EU+1 format that allows Britain, France and Germany to meet and, if possible, come up with common negotiating positions on major foreign policy issues. Where we can find a common approach, well be stronger for it. When we cant, we will each be free to go our own way.

There are good precedents for this type of set up: A P5+1 group — the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany — was formed to conRead More – Source