European Union 'empire should be disbanded' says expert
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Many people in the EU’s four largest countries think that since Brexit, relations between EU and UK politicians have become less cordial. Several also think the EU is still determined to punish the UK for leaving. The findings in an exclusive survey for Euronews by Redfield and Wilton Strategies reflect the strained relations between the two sides – despite a Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement struck last December.
People in France, Germany, Italy and Spain were asked whether they thought the behaviour of British politicians towards the EU and its members had become more or less cordial, or had not changed after Brexit.
Across the four nations, more people replied “less cordial” than those who gave another answer: 51 percent in Spain, 43 percent in Italy, 39 percent in Germany and 37 percent in France.
The Euronews survey also found many people agreed with the statement: “The European Union wants to punish the United Kingdom for leaving”.
In three nations, more people (in Italy 35 percent, Spain 34 percent, France 33 percent) thought this was the case than those who disagreed.
In an exclusive interview with Express.co.uk, Italian MEP Antonio Maria Rinaldi agreed with the statement.
He also went a step further, accusing Brussels of still considering Britain as “one of its provinces”.
He said: “The EU knows perfectly well that if the UK’s withdrawal was easy, all the other member states would have followed suit in a heartbeat.
“They are trying to make every single thing complicated so that other countries understand that they should never take this path.
“I want to be even more precise: the EU is wrongly interfering with the sovereignties of countries.
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“The UK is a proud and sovereign country so interference is not tolerable.”
He added: “The UK is no longer part of the EU but they don’t understand it.
“They still consider it under their rule, they see it as a province under their empire.
“It is not. And the EU is not an empire.”
Mr Rinaldi’s comments come as the bloc continues to refuse British accession to the Lugano Convention.
After Britain officially left the transition period in January, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has had to ask the EU for permission to rejoin an international treaty, or risk devastating a multi-billion-pound legal services industry.
The agreement is called the Lugano Convention and its effects are materially the same as the 2001 Brussels Regulation.
It governs issues of jurisdiction and enforcement of judgments between the EU member states and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries other than Liechtenstein (namely Iceland, Switzerland and Norway).
London is regarded as the global capital for international dispute resolution, due to the country’s world-class legal system and courts.
A long-term failure to rejoin the Lugano Convention could do real damage to the UK’s world-beating legal services sector, as well as creating difficulties for large companies.
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The UK dropped out of the treaty as a consequence of Brexit and applied to rejoin in April 2020.
Such accession requires the unanimous agreement of all the other contracting parties to the Convention and the European Commission has now recommended that the EU deny this request.
It said that the European bloc was “not in a position” to give its consent to UK accession.
The EU’s position is not shared by EFTA countries, though, who have proven to be much more welcoming.
In March 2021, the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs published a letter confirming that Switzerland had consented to the UK being invited to deposit its instrument of accession to the Lugano Convention.
The letter reads: “Switzerland welcomes the intent of the United Kingdom (UK) to accede to the Convention on jurisdiction and the recognition and enforcement of judgments in civil and commercial matters (the ‘Lugano Convention 2007’) and will support a request for accession from the UK.”
Rachael Kelsey, president of the European chapter of the International Academy of Family Lawyers, urged the EU to reconsider its position for the sake of millions of EU and UK citizens with family relationships that straddle the English Channel.
She told the Financial Times: “A year ago, we could say with total confidence and clarity ‘this court has jurisdiction, this is how long a case will take, and this is the cost ballpark’ — but now that is no longer the case.
“We need to put politics aside and recognise that there are millions of EU and UK citizens who are going to be prejudiced if we don’t end up with a better set of harmonised rules.”
Moreover, Josep Gálvez, a former Spanish judge and commercial arbitration expert now at London-based Del Canto Chambers, told the publication the Commission’s advice to block UK membership appeared to be designed to weaken the attraction of the British capital as a centre for dispute resolution.
He said: “It is a way to punish the UK for leaving the EU, but also a very good opportunity for some EU jurisdictions to attract international litigation to their courts.”
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