Antonio Tajani: “London needs Europe for a healthy economy”

The Madrid-based magazine Consejeros will soon be publishing an interview with Antonio Tajani, vice president of the European Commission and Commissioner for Industry. Tajani has just returned from a tour in Latin America. During his visit to Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay –accompanied by various European businessmen, some of them Spanish–, he signed a number of agreements so that Europe avoids wasting precious time in this crisis and missing the opportunities that the emerging markets have to offer and that others will know how to take advantage of. The following is an excerpt from the interview.

It was the first time that a European business delegation went, together, to Brazil. Yet, Europe recently filled newspapers with headlines all over the world about its internal division: the UK’s ‘no’ to the new Treaty. Does this image of Europe, at times like in the present crisis, of internal crisis interfere with tours like yours? Well, two very important British companies came with us to Brazil: Rolls Royce and Shell. The UK is not a problem at this level. When it comes to politics, things are completely different. Although, personally, I don’t believe we can speak of a division because 26 countries chose one strategy and the United Kingdom simply did not agree. However, Nick Klegg, the number two in the government, is in favour of joining the negotiation. So, it seems to me that we will be able to work together during the next few months in order to reach an agreement with the UK.

Cameron’s position was quite clear. Why are you so convinced? Because without Europe it’s very difficult for London to maintain a healthy economy. The internal market is very important and it cannot develop without the joint participation of London and Europe. I think it’s possible to work with London again in the medium term respecting the principle of subsidiarity. I don’t believe London wishes to work without us.

But there seems to be the impression that there was some mutual weariness on both sides of the channel, and that some sort of catharsis took place. I don’t know if this is how it was experienced by the institutions. I believe London had a very long history. The Commonwealth… it’s not easy to change something like this but I believe Europe needs London and London needs Europe. It’s not easy to explain to the British why they need Europe but I believe that Great Britain without Europe cannot work well for the economic development of the isles and for its growth.

In just over a year’s time it will be necessary to reach an agreement regarding the financial sector and the new EU budget. And London is going to request again the so-called ‘British check’. Do you think that this is not going affect matters? London is interested in European money flows. Let’s look at it this way: what is certain is that the United Kingdom signed the Lisbon Treaty and is part of the EU. We always work on the basis that we can reach an agreement. I’m Mediterranean, I’m Italian and I believe that by keeping the communication lines open one can always find the solution to any problem. But, of course, this is going to need a lot of talking.

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