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.
Post-Brexit: What Could a Transformative, Values-based EU and UK Partnership in Foreign Policy Look Like?
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.
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.
French President Emmanuel Macron and British Prime Minister Theresa May will discuss their defense relationship, among other things, at a bilateral summit on January 18. Franco-British collaboration is vital for European defense. This is not only because they are the two leading European military powers at NATO, but also because they have the most ambitious bilateral military relationship of any European countries, based on the 2010 Lancaster House treaties.
Germany and the UK are likely to remain dependent on U.S. defense, because the alternatives are currently too daunting for Berlin and London.
It is obvious that the European members of NATO depend on the United States for their defense. And why wouldn’t they want that dependence to continue? Only Russia currently poses a direct military threat to Europe. However, for all its meddling—both military and nonmilitary—in European NATO members, Russia would hardly want to risk a shooting war with the United States, the world’s only military superpower. Plus, American protection allows Europeans to spend relatively less on defense and more on other things.
Yet, because of U.S. President Donald Trump’s vacillating rhetorical commitment to NATO’s mutual defense, it is becoming fashionable for some European politicians to argue that Europeans will increasingly have to look after themselves. Explaining the rationale behind the need for the EU to expand its military role, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told an audience in Prague on June 9 that the United States was “no longer interested in guaranteeing Europe’s security in our place.”