Tusk urges Europe’s leaders to heed Brexit lessons
European Council President Donald Tusk urged EU leaders Tuesday to take a “coolheaded” approach and to “stick to the Treaty” in upcoming negotiations with Britain over its exit from the EU.
In a letter to European heads of state and government ahead of Friday’s summit in Bratislava, a copy of which was obtained by POLITICO, Tusk offered a bleak, if realistic, assessment of the EU’s perception in the public mindset amid the migrant crisis, fears of terrorism and paltry economic growth.
In considering the future talks with the U.K., Tusk wrote: “The Treaty provisions drawn up in case of an EU exit protect the interests of the Union. Our objective in the future negotiations should be, on the one hand, to establish the best possible relations with the U.K.; on the other hand, however, we should stick to the Treaty and be coolheaded, consistent, and fully united as well as firm in insisting on a balance of rights and obligations. If we do so, there will be no room for doubt that it is a good thing to be a member of the Union.”
Tusk also warned the leaders against viewing Brexit as an aberration.
“It would be a fatal error to assume that the negative result in the U.K. referendum represents a specifically British issue,” he wrote. “It is true that the Leave campaign was full of false arguments and unacceptable generalizations. But it is also true that the Brexit vote is a desperate attempt to answer the questions that millions of Europeans ask themselves daily, questions about the very essence of politics. Questions about the guarantees of security of the citizens and their territory, questions about the protection of their interests, cultural heritage and way of life. These are questions we would have to face even if the U.K. had voted to remain.”
In the letter, Tusk sought to rally leaders behind the main agenda points he has laid out for the summit meetings: addressing the migrant crisis, enhancing security cooperation to combat terrorism and blunting some of the effects of globalization that have created a sense of economic insecurity.
Brexit, he said, must represent a turning point.
“Following Brexit, business as usual is not an option,” Tusk wrote. “We can either come out of this crisis weaker and conflicted, or stronger and more united. There is no fatalism hanging over our future, everything is still in our hands, hearts and minds. The economic and cultural potential of our twenty-seven countries, the talent and education of our citizens, is more than enough to believe in Europe.