« Grand débat de l’ULB »

Sir Michael Leigh, Former Director General of the European Commission and Senior Adjunct Professor at Johns Hopkins University; Marianne Dony, Professor at the ULB and Member of the Royal Academy in Belgium, and Jean de Ruyt, honorary ambassador, former permanent representative of Belgium to the European Union and Member of the Royal Academy of Belgium analysed the subject last 7th of May. Olivier le Bussy, journalist at the International Service and European Affairs of La Libre Belgique moderated the debate.


Some key points from the discussion:

Marianne Dony : Article 50 was inserted into the Treaty of Lisbon for one simple and good reason. At the time when Euroscepticism had started to gain popularity (in the early 2000s), the EU did not want to give the impression of being a prison for its members states. Originally, article 50 was a political instrument that wasn’t designed to be used. This explains its formulation, which has been often criticized for its formulation, too concise, incomplete even.

Sir Michael Leigh: Many British men and women have played an extremely important part in the European integration. To Sir Leigh, the perspective of Brexit is saddening; for him it wasn’t inevitable. David Cameron, former prime minister; Theresa May, current prime minister, and Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the opposition, share a large part of the responsibility in regard to this. They failed to speak to the British people in the way that populist leaders such as Nigel Farage or Boris Johnson have been succeeding and continue to succeed, in both the past and present.

Jean De Ruyt : Brexit caused an enormous amount of sadness among civil officials at the institutions of the European Union. This sadness was particularly striking during the European Council on November 25, 2018, where the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union was recorded. Jean De Ruyt was pleasantly surprised by the unity of the other 27 member states when faced with the problematic of Brexit. Wanting to quickly rid the European Union of this thorn in the foot, the 27 held a common stance with the action of the Commission, that has executed all the work of negotiating in the name of the member states.