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Raoul Ruparel looks at what messages the UK might have taken away from Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker's State of the European Union (SOTEU) speech this morning and which policies it will want to keep an eye on despite Brexit.
14 September 2016
Brexit was always going to be the elephant in the room during Juncker’s State of the European Union (SOTEU) speech this year. It was clear that he would say little on it directly, but that it would impact a huge number of areas which he touched upon – so it proved.
In terms of specifically addressing Brexit Juncker said that he “respected” but “regretted” the UK’s decision. He added that “unlimited access to the single market” requires adhering to the full four freedoms (goods, services, people and capital). While this is along the lines of what has been said before, the introduction of the word “unlimited” is interesting. As we have noted before, once you are no longer going for full single market membership (as we have explained is unlikely) the question will be to what extent the UK has to adhere to and gains access to the four freedoms. Looking at previous EU free trade agreements, the line is far from clear but it’s not a case of all four freedoms or no access at all. He then went on to reiterate this can’t be an “a la carte” approach – a statement which we’ve pointed out, similar to others, means little or nothing.
There was also a direct reference and warning over the recent murder of a Polish man in Harlow. Judging from the official text, this was the only scripted reference to the UK in the SOTEU, the rest (above) was ad-libbed by Juncker.
Beyond the specific references, the SOTEU as a whole was clearly targeted at member states and for them to put aside there divisions to present a cohesive front. It’s not hard to see how this links to the need for the EU to eventually reach a common approach to Brexit, though Juncker provided few ideas on how to overcome said divisions or that the Commission would back away from some of its hard-line stances which have exacerbated them. There were also a few points of content/policy that will be watched closely by the UK.