By Gabriela Cañas
Madrid/Brussels, Dec 17 (efe-epa).- High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs Josep Borrell is optimistic about the chances of an imminent deal on the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the bloc.
With 34 years of experience in European affairs, he says that deals always arrive at the last minute and that the price of a no-deal Brexit would be too high.
In an interview with Efe, conducted via videoconference, the EU’s top diplomat said that there would be no Brexit had it not been for the fake news surrounding the bloc in the UK.
He adds, however, that the UK never wanted to be part of a political Europe and that the country decided to make for the exit when it noticed the bloc was heading in a direction it did not like.
Although sticking points like the common fisheries policy and a mechanism for resolving trade disputes are yet to be ironed out, Borrell, who previously served as the Spanish foreign minister, believes a Brexit deal could be close.
“The challenges of leaving without a deal are so big that I believe the need for an agreement will prevail. We will see it in the coming hours,” Borrell tells Efe from his office in Brussels, which is adorned with a large map of Europe.
Borrell recalls the narrative from the pro-Brexit camp on the lead up to the 2016 referendum. One of its major claims was that the money the UK spent on its EU membership was enough to pay for a new hospital each week.
“The day after that false narrative, they were already admitting that they had miscalculated,” Borrell says.
He said the technique had similarities with that of the Catalan independence movement in Spain, in that the UK claimed that it was paying too much for its EU membership just as the pro-independence camp said remaining a part of Spain was financially disadvantageous.
“We have to make an effort to counter disinformation and that way we can open our eyes, given that we live in a world governed by a battle of narratives,” he says.
COMMON STRATEGIC CULTURE
In this world of narratives, Borrell emphasizes his commitment to creating a “common strategic culture,” a goal that is complicated in the ambit of foreign policy by the need for unanimity.
He believes the EU can act as a great power, but acknowledges that there are challenges when it comes to trying to find consensus on certain issues in the space of a year — his first at the forefront of EU diplomacy. This year has been further complicated by the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Every day I see problems that appear impossible to resolve, and the majority of the time that’s the case,” he jokes. “This role gives you sleepless nights, and it has been more complicated than I had expected. We are lacking a common strategic culture, which, simply put, means that we do not view the world in the same way.”
“Finding an agreement among the 27 (EU member states) all at the same time sometimes leads to nothing,” he adds.
Borrell says a particularly challenging moment for him this year was when the United States announced its peace plan for the Middle East.
Other pressing issues include relations with Turkey, the worsening security situation and the fight against terrorism in the Sahel.
Some of the successes balancing the scales for Borrell was the EU’s Operation IRINI to monitor the United Nations arms embargo on Libya and the legal framework put in place to tackle human rights abuses.
The next stage of his career will be marked by the EU’s Next Generation recovery funds and a changeover in the White House.