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Support for Ukraine will remain the same even with the new British prime minister, says the ambassador in London

I assume that you visited Britain before you took up the position of ambassador. Is it a different Britain now than it was before Brexit?

I can’t compare that, because it’s one thing when you come there as a tourist for a few days and walk around the sights, and another thing when you stay in the country for a longer time. And I’ve only ever been in Britain for very short periods of time before, so I can’t really judge the difference.

Is it already known what impact the outflow of EU workers has on the British market?

Separating what caused Brexit and what caused covid is difficult. A study by the Center for European Reform has been published which claims that UK GDP is 5.2 percent lower than if Britain had not left the Union, but it is only a model.

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Economy

In any case, the real numbers of the statistical office say that after Brexit it is possible to observe a decline in British foreign trade, especially with the European Union.

UK exports of goods overall are down 10.5 per cent on the last stable period in 2018, with UK exports to EU countries down 12.4 per cent and imports down 16.9 per cent in 2021.

In general, the mood in the country is quite gloomy, but this is due to rising energy prices and the overall cost of living. So there is discontent in society, but again it is hard to say what role Brexit, covid, Russian aggression in Ukraine … all of this has an impact on the UK, of course.

But to your question. Those who met the given criteria could apply for homestead status, which was also granted to 69,000 Czech citizens. However, it is estimated that about 500,000 workers from European Union countries have left Great Britain, most of whom will not return there.

Labor shortages are particularly visible in services. There is a shortage in agriculture, in the health sector, in the hospitality industry, there is a shortage of truck drivers, which was seen during last year’s fuel shortage.

And even so, the supporters of leaving the Union still stand up for themselves?

I’ll answer with numbers. I recently saw two independent polls that state that 52 and 53 percent of the British are not satisfied with Brexit.

It is true that the costs have increased anyway, because students need a student visa, insurance, and at the same time they can no longer afford student loans. And that cannot be changed by any negotiation. We are now simply a third country for Britain, just like all EU states or, for example, Asian or African states.

If we consider that 51.9 percent of people voted for leaving the EU in the referendum, the percentages changed slightly, but not fundamentally.

In general, the mood in the country is quite gloomy, but this is due to rising energy prices and the overall cost of living. So there is discontent in society, but again it is hard to say what role Brexit, covid, Russian aggression in Ukraine … all of this has an impact on the UK, of course.

I would like to stop at one more specific area and that is education. The United Kingdom has some of the best universities in the world, and studying at them has now become a much more complicated and expensive matter for Czech students. Can’t something be done at the EU level, or at least bilaterally?

So far, there is only a shift at the regional level. The Welsh Government has adopted a program for the period 2022 to 2026, which allows exchange stays similar to the Erasmus principle.

Some Welsh universities have decided on their own to even waive tuition fees for international students, or to be at the same level as domestic students. I know they are also considering this in Scotland and I want to ask about it there during my visit in mid-September.

It is true that the costs have increased anyway, because students need a student visa, insurance, and at the same time they can no longer afford student loans. And that cannot be changed by any negotiation. We are now simply a third country for Britain, just like all EU states or, for example, Asian or African states.

You mentioned Scotland, where calls for a new independence referendum are growing. Now the only question is whether they have to ask the British Parliament for permission, or whether the Scots can write it themselves. A similar debate is taking place in Northern Ireland, which after Brexit found itself in a special zone between the single market and outside it. Do you expect a referendum to take place there in the near future?

On a purely technical and legal basis, UK government approval is required in both cases. There will probably be those tendencies in Scotland, because the majority of Scots feel that the situation has changed with Brexit – that it is something different than when they voted to leave the kingdom in 2014. Let us recall that 62 percent of Scots voted to remain in the European Union.

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Europe

At the same time, according to polls, the majority of Scots do not want a referendum next year. Support for holding a referendum increases in the longer term, in five to ten years.

I am convinced that the support for Ukraine will remain exactly the same.

However, the idea lives on and will certainly live on. (Scotland’s First Minister) Nicola Sturgeon will seek a referendum. She turned to the Supreme Court, which is scheduled to hold an oral hearing on this topic in mid-October.

The question was whether the Scottish Parliament could pass the independence referendum bill on its own. If it is rejected and the new British prime minister does not agree to the referendum in the same way that Boris Johnson did not agree to it, then it is not excluded that Sturgeon would combine the referendum question with the choice of her party in the next general election, thereby increasing the pressure on the central government in London.

Another concern for London is the Northern Ireland Protocol, which was supposed to regulate the rules for customs control of goods traveling between Northern Ireland and the rest of Great Britain, and which basically does not work. Are these negotiations finally leading to a solution?

Negotiations are ongoing between the European Commission and the British government. Maroš Ševčovič for the European Commission, Foreign Minister Liz Trussová for the British government, and it is true that there has not been much progress at the moment.

As part of the valid Northern Ireland protocol, the European Commission came up with proposals to reduce the administrative burden by at least 50 percent, and it turned out that a solution could be found, for example, in the area of ​​medicines. In Britain, the election of a new prime minister is now in full swing, the result will be known on September 5th, then we will see.

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Foreign

At the same time, the controversial bill on the Northern Ireland Protocol passed the House of Commons in its third reading, and will now go to the House of Lords in September. It can be expected that it will have a lot of amendments, so then there will be a ping-pong back and forth between the two houses of parliament.

If it is not accepted by October 28, it will probably be necessary to call a new election in Northern Ireland, because the Democratic Unionist Party (the second strongest party in the parliament, note ed.) he refuses to go into government and refuses to function in the Northern Ireland Assembly, precisely because of the Northern Ireland Protocol and the adoption, that is, the implementation of the provisions of the controversial Northern Ireland Protocol Act. Therefore, the entire political situation in Northern Ireland has been blocked since the elections in May.

In 10 Downing Street after Boris Johnson, either Foreign Secretary Liz Truss or former Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak will sit down. Can we say who would be a closer partner for us and for Europe?

I do not think. The difference is a little in the rhetoric, in the British press Liz Truss is now presented as a hard pro-Brexit core (in 2016 it voted to remain in the Union, then turned around, note ed.). However, I believe that both candidates would do the same on the issue of the Northern Ireland Protocol Bill, that is, that they would not withdraw it.

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Foreign

What about support for Ukraine? When Boris Johnson announced his resignation, the first wave of reactions was like: “So now the Ukrainians have lost their main ally.”

I am convinced that the support for Ukraine will remain exactly the same. Liz Truss was and is very involved in this, no doubt about it. She also recently published an article in which she talks about unequivocal support for Ukraine if she becomes prime minister. The relief money went through Rishi Sunak as finance minister, so I expect him to behave exactly the same.

Liz Truss profiles herself as loyal to Boris Johnson, wanting the continuity of his policies on basically every point of his government’s agenda except one, and that is immediate tax cuts.

The article is in Czech

Tags: Support Ukraine remain British prime minister ambassador London

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