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Cross-Channel Correspondence

Published on 23rd January 2019 BY SARA HØYRUP

On January 14, letters were sent back and forth between London and the continent. First, the British Prime Minister Theresa May wrote to the European Union that the United Kingdom is in the process of leaving, in an orderly or abrupt fashion; or perhaps not at all, as British Remainers keep campaigning for. At noon, the Union had its answer ready.

In a tone balancing on a knife’s edge between admonishing the unruly and ungrateful member and continued pedagogical attempts at reaching consensus, the two European presidents –of the Council and the Commission, respectivly– Donald Tusk and Jean-Claude Juncker once more explain the UK that the UK cannot get any more concessions. The long-sought for soft solution to the British exit from the tightknit European cooperation was recently killed off by May’s own hinterland, and the EU has just about had enough.

The haughtiness so characteristic of the powerful and enormous institutions is just veneer on the Realpolitik: the European Union simply cannot afford to give in to the British dreams of having it both ways. Other member states would demand special treatment in a heartbeat, and the Union would falter.

That pragmatic analysis lies behind the letter’s insistence on the socalled ”backstop”: the Northern Ireland protocol that would turn the Irish sea into a de facto border –to UK’s chagrin– in order to avoid an outer European border across the Irish isle, with the obvious risk that this would imply of disrupting peace and awaken the Troubles once again.///