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 Full text 
Wednesday, 29 January 2020 - Brussels Provisional edition

Withdrawal Agreement of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community (debate)

  Manfred Weber, on behalf of the PPE Group. – Mr President, dear colleagues, everybody in this room who feels to be a European knows the story how to achieve this feeling, how to get this feeling: which event, which book, which talk, which person gave us this idea of being a European.

For me it was a trip to Great Britain. I was in England as an 18-year-old boy with Interrail. I stood in a bar. I spoke with an old man, a Guinness in my hand, and we talked about history. He spoke about our fears towards the future, our values. And I understood that we as Europeans have similar fears, hopes; face the same global challenges and stand on the same ground: our European way of life.

Great Britain is now leaving. This week is a sad day for the European Union. Great Britain did so much for prosperity, for peace and democracy in Europe. They will leave us. We cannot change it, but – I have to be clear again – it is a huge mistake. I want to thank also, like my previous speakers, our British colleagues and all the staff members who served in this European Parliament. On Friday you will leave a unique institution and one of the greatest projects in European history: the place of European democracy. And I’ll tell you again: we will miss you. Now we have the Leave Treaty on the table: a good agreement which creates certainty. I also want to thank Jean-Claude Juncker, Donald Tusk, Guy Verhofstadt and especially Michel Barnier for their work. Especially our Irish friends got a good understanding of what it means to be part of a big family. The British-Irish history is not an easy one, but it was clear during the last three years: Dublin and Leo Varadkar were strong due to the membership in the European Union. Togetherness makes you stronger: that is the lesson which our Irish friends learned.

And we must keep known the unity. We will focus now on the partnership and friendship with the UK. But one thing is clear: the UK will be a third country. And that means the rules will change. I want to identify two main points on behalf of the EPP. It was the decision of the UK to limit the transition period. We have always shown understanding and flexibility, but we will not allow the EU to be put under pressure and reach a rushed final agreement. We are ready for intensive talks, but in the end, we want to have the best agreement, not the quickest one. And the second thing I want to remind us is: once you’re part of a union, you can enjoy the advantages; once you’re not part of a union, you’re losing the advantages. That has nothing to do with punishment; that is simply the outcome of the decision of the British voters. And let me say it in other words: there will be no cherry picking, no European Singapore next to our markets. We only will grant them access to our market if they respect the European rules. And I also want to add: we defend not only the rules on market base. We tell, for example, Norway and Switzerland that they can only have access to the single market if they respect also the freedom of movement. That’s the same for great Britain: we do not allow trucks to cross our borders without control and people to be stopped. That is not the idea of our European Union; there is not a dream you’re dreaming.

And dear colleagues, a final word on what also Guy Verhofstadt underlined about the lesson we have to learn out of the Brexit developments. To avoid another Brexit debate in one of our Member States, we need a European Union that is ready to act: results, outcomes, positive contributions to the daily life of our citizens is in the centre of our work, and that’s why, again, to the colleagues who will leave us – in my Group it was Julie Girling, it was Richard Ashworth, Richard Corbett, other friends here in the plenary – I tell you, I hope our work in the next years will make Europe so strong, so attractive, that your children and grandchildren will want to be part of the European Union once again. I hope one day they will vote again for this unique institution and will send European members from Britain to the European Parliament. Thank you so much. We will work hard on this.

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