John Bercow, who stepped down as “Speaker” of the House of Commons in the United Kingdom (UK) Parliament on 31 October 2019, catapulted the otherwise obscure role into the public eye on an international level. This is due to the controversy over the Brexit parliamentary debates, his forthright manner, distinctive cry of “Or-derr!” whenever proceedings became rowdy – but I argue here that it is also due to his understanding of the role of speaker as mediator. In this blog post, I explore this understanding, and highlight what speakers of parliaments as well as mediators can learn from it.
The EU27 are holding together throughout the twists and turns of Brexit. This is simply because it is in their interest to do so
Last month’s Brexit drama was such a compelling view that it even drew Germany football fans away from the Bayern Munich match against Liverpool – to the match playing out in the House of Commons. “Order!” they roared, like the speaker, John Bercow. “Oóórder!!”
This is Brexit for many Europeans: entertainment. It can be much more exciting than football, soap operas, or talk shows.
As like-minded partners, sharing many policy traditions, norms and standards the EU and UK have every strategic interest in working together on a values-based foreign policy post-Brexit.
In the ongoing white noise of the Brexit negotiations, we hear very little spoken about UK-EU relations on foreign policy and development assistance. Yet this is an area where the UK and the EU have every interest in working closely together, in a way which recognises the strong alignment of the UK and EU on norms, values and priorities. The UK can work with the EU post-Brexit to ensure its vision remains at the heart of a future relationship, and that the vision remains based on shared values, grounded in human rights, democracy and the rule of law. The UK should also recognise where in the past it has been able to capitalise on its membership to advance its normative vision and seek ways to recreate the relationships that emulate this.
EU members may not feel they can trust the Brits on defence. But the UK’s past reliability on this front suggests they should.
There is more joy in heaven (or so we are told, on the best available authority) over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine already-righteous folk. On that basis, fatted calves in the vicinity of Brussels should have been keeping a very low profile as the British, after long years decrying and obstructing European defence integration, have rediscovered an unconditional commitment to Europe’s security, and pressed for the closest possible post-Brexit partnership.
What expectations should the EU harbour with respect to Britain’s continued contribution to EU defence activities after Brexit and can the former member state expect special treatment?
With Brexit, the UK will become a ‘third state’ vis-à-vis the European Union. In the defence domain, this means that the UK will no longer take part in EU decision-making or operational (planning) bodies, will not command or be the framework nation of an EU-led force, and any British contribution to an EU operation will be subject to the rules that apply to third countries.