Analysis

The United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union (EU) has strengthened solidarity among the bloc’s other twenty-seven member states, David O’Sullivan, the EU’s ambassador to the United States, said at the Atlantic Council on March 29.

“The debate around Brexit has strengthened support for the European Union elsewhere around Europe,” according to O’Sullivan. “If anything, it has joined the rest of us more closely together.”

On March 29, British Prime Minister Theresa May officially triggered Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty beginning the process of taking the United Kingdom (UK) out of the EU.

O’Sullivan said that the prospects of Brexit, the UK’s departure from the EU, triggering a domino effect among other European nations is “most unlikely.” While populist forces in other countries with upcoming elections—such as France and Germany—seek to capitalize on the challenges facing the Union and introduce division, O’Sullivan asserted, “I remain remarkably optimistic about the future of Europe, the future of the European Union.”
With the United Kingdom formally starting the process of leaving the European Union on March 29, the Atlantic Council is launching a series of blog posts that will track the course of the Brexit negotiations and the many challenges they pose for the future of US-UK relations. 

By formally notifying the European Union that it plans to leave, London has effectively handed over control of its exit negotiations to those on the other side of the table—the EU institutions and the remaining twenty-seven member states. In diplomatic terms, the United Kingdom has become the demandeur, the one asking for favors.

Since the referendum last June that endorsed the country’s departure from the EU, the UK has been engaged in an often-angry debate over how far it should actually disentangle itself from EU regulations and the key components of the Union, notably its single market and its customs union. 

Many Britons have seemed to think they can themselves define their new relationship with their former partners, without fully understanding that the other EU countries will largely dictate the outcome, and that the UK will have to make major concessions to achieve its aims.

‘Transatlantic bond remains as important as ever,’ said Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano

Unprecedented migration, instability in the Middle East, and the growing threat of terrorism necessitate a joint US-European approach to common security challenges that stem from the Mediterranean region, Italian Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano said at the Atlantic Council on March 21.

“In the past, common security threats came from the east,” said Alfano, adding, “today, they are coming from the southern shores of the Mediterranean.” Describing the Mediterranean region as a strategically significant location that ties the European Union (EU) to NATO and then to the United States, Alfano insisted that “a common effort in the Mediterranean is a keystone to our security,” and should be a priority in NATO strategy.  

“Europe and the United States face common challenges in the Mediterranean,” he said. “For this reason, I am convinced that our transatlantic bond remains as important as ever.”
Greek and Turkish Cypriot leaders, as well as the leadership in Athens and Ankara, are committed to ensuring the success of a protracted process aimed at the reunification of Cyprus, a top United Nations (UN) official said at the Atlantic Council on March 8.

“I am more and more convinced that all parties would like this to be solved now,” said Espen Barth Eide, the special adviser to UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Cyprus.

“On the strategic outlook map of each of these players, a solution in Cyprus is factored as a positive thing. What we have to do is align their positions sufficiently that they can agree on something that they can all live with. I think that is possible,” he added.

With the Mediterranean island seemingly on the brink of peace, the Atlantic Council hosted a conference—“Strategic & Sustainable Development for a Unified Cyprus”—in partnership with Concordia and One Cyprus Now on March 8.
Of all American alliances around the globe, the transatlantic relationship is the crown jewel. Despite disagreements and quarrels, the United States and Europe have together built and defended the liberal order for more than seventy years.

March 8, International Women’s Day, is an official UN commemoration day and as such, part of that liberal order. Symptomatically for the current state of the transatlantic link, many thousands of pink-knitted “pussy hats”—a symbol of protest against US President Donald J. Trump—are expected to be seen on the streets in the United States and Europe on March 8. Over a month ago, on January 21, the Women’s March on Washington echoed all over the globe as one of the world’s bigger protests against the newly inaugurated US president.
An idea, once unthinkable, is gaining attention in European policy circles: a European Union nuclear weapons program.
Given the level of effort that the United States has put into reinvigorating its involvement in European security, it is understandable that the president and the American people expect our allies to meet their treaty requirements.
My forty years in the Foreign Service—and the careers of many of my friends—became associated with the fall of the Soviet Empire and the putting in order of what came after:  the building of a Europe whole, free and at peace.  It is hard to recall today how improbable victory in the Cold War appeared.  For two generations, up through the mid-1980s, many thought we were losing the Cold War.  Even in early 1989, few believed that Poland’s Solidarity movement could win, that the Iron Curtain would come down, that the Baltic States could be free, that the second of the 20th Century’s great evils—Communism—could be vanquished without war.  But it happened, and the West’s great institutions—NATO and the European Union—grew to embrace 100 million liberated Europeans.  It was my honor to have done what I could to help.  I learned never to underestimate the possibility of change, that values have power, and that time and patience can pay off, especially if you’re serious about your objectives. Nothing can be taken for granted, and this great achievement is now under assault by Russia, but what we did in my time is no less honorable. It is for the present generation to defend and, when the time comes again, extend freedom in Europe. 

European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said all sides must abide by terms of the agreement

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, said on February 10 that Brussels is committed to the full implementation of the nuclear deal with Iran, and that she came away reassured from her meetings with US officials that Washington shares that commitment.

Speaking at the Atlantic Council, Mogherini said she found “common ground” with the Trump administration on the deal that seeks to cut off Iran’s pathways to building a nuclear bomb. Mogherini said: “I heard from my interlocutors the intention to make sure that the deal is 100 percent implemented.”

“It is a clear European shared interest to preserve the agreement,” she added.

The EU, she said, will monitor in a “very strict manner” the implementation of the deal “in its entirety, from all sides.” The nuclear deal was struck between Iran and the so-called P5+1 countries—the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, China, France, and Germany in 2015. The United Nations’ nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), has found Iran to be complying with the terms of the agreement. Mogherini’s statement was a clear message to the United States to also stick to its commitments.

Interview with Sir Peter Westmacott, distinguished ambassadorial fellow at the Atlantic Council

US President Donald Trump will meet British Prime Minister Theresa May—his first meeting with a head of state or government since his inauguration on January 20—at the White House on January 27.

Sir Peter Westmacott, distinguished ambassadorial fellow at the Atlantic Council who served as the United Kingdom’s ambassador to the United States from 2012-2016, discussed what to expect from the meeting, the future of the US-UK “special relationship,” and the challenges in the transatlantic relationship and those posed by the UK’s decision to leave the European Union.

Sir Peter Westmacott spoke in a phone interview with the New Atlanticist’s Ashish Kumar Sen. Here are excerpts from our interview.


    

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