The Parliament Magazine Issue 452 | 03 April 2017
So, following nine months of cross-channel posturing, we finally had formal notification of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. It made for a rather surreal day, starting with a vaguely embarrassed social media flurry as images of Britain’s EU ambassador Tim Barrow hopping into his his official low rider, with Theresa May’s article 50 letter tucked into the inside pocket of his suit, began trending on Twitter.
An OJ Simpson car-chase it was not, as even the notorious Brussels traffic could not halt his momentum. A few minutes and a few hundred metres later, he rolled up to the entrance to the Justus Lipsius. This was not ideal, as he had several hours to kill before he could formally present his ’Dear Don’ letter to the EU Council chief. Not since the days of Elvis has anyone received so much attention for exiting a building.
Eventually, the forlorn hack pack trundled over to its namesake bar, the Old Hack, sitting in the shadow of the Berlaymont. However, watching Ukip MEPs drinking and toasting Britannia lacked star quality in the absence of swiller-in-chief, Nigel Farage, who was sat outside a pub in Westminster being harangued by an angry remain campaigner.
Still, as with many of these “historic” moments, it was over before we knew it. As Barrow handed the letter over (remarkably insignificant and ironically written on European-sized A4 paper) to a seemingly emotional Tusk, images of the Polish Council President looking crestfallen flew around the world.
The UK press could barely contain its excitement, “Jubilation as article 50 is finally served” proclaimed the Telegraph, while the Sun said “Dover and Out”. Then there was Tusk’s comment. “We already miss you”, he said. Poignant or ironic we’ll probably never know.
However, although Tusk seemed genuinely sorry to see Britain go, he also views it as a potential opportunity to push ahead on integration without interventions from the curmudgeonly uncle.
Less than 24 hours later, Tusk said in a speech, “Paradoxically, there is also something positive in Brexit. Brexit has made us, the community of 27, more determined and more united than before.”
Wouldn’t it be extraordinary if, in the long run, Brexit strengthened the EU and helped it return to its roots.