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30 January, 2018
Vassal State? U.K. Brexit Wish Was Granted by EU, Bulgaria Says
- Bulgarian foreign minister dismisses British lawmakers’ worry
- Not good for transition period to last forever, says Zaharieva
Bulgaria dismissed the notion that the European Union imposed second-class membership status on Britain by seeking a 21-month post-Brexit transition period for the country, saying that instead it was an act of generosity.
“This is goodwill from the European part because we accepted this transition period,” Foreign Minister Ekaterina Zaharieva said in an interview on Tuesday in Brussels. “We didn’t ask for a transition period, it was not our idea, that’s why it’s not correct when they say ‘You make us a vassal state.’ Because they asked for it.”
Euroskeptics in Prime Minister Theresa May’s Conservative Party, such as potential leadership candidate Jacob Rees-Mogg, coined the phrase “vassal state” to describe the transition period offered by the EU. If the U.K. accepts the EU’s offer on the arrangement, the country would leave the bloc in March 2019, maintaining broadly the same relationship as it does now, but without voting rights. Some British lawmakers fear that could mean the EU would pass laws that harm the U.K.
Britain shouldn’t worry, said Zaharieva, whose country, the poorest in the EU, this month took over the bloc’s half-year rotating presidency. The U.K. will be allowed to attend some decision-making meetings during the transition period but won’t be allowed a say because “we don’t even invite Norway and Switzerland,” which have ties to the single market, she said.
Negotiations between the U.K. and the rest of the EU on the transition period will begin in the next few days after the bloc approved its negotiating position on Monday. It is slated to run until the end of 2020, by which time the U.K. and the EU want to have reached a deal on a future relationship, although some countries would support the idea of the interim arrangement being extended.
“If something happened and we need more time, we can open this again,” Zaharieva said. “But now we are just in the beginning, so we should not think about different dates because it’s much better for the two sides not to have a transition period forever.”