April 21, 2019
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European Union

British MEPs work surrounded by removal boxes amid Brexit limbo

By Lara Malvesí

Brusells, Apr. 7 (efe-epa).- Amid Brexit uncertainty and rising levels of anxiety, British members of the European parliament live in a sort of limbo, the labor party leader in Europe told EFE Sunday.

Richard Corbett's, office has been taken over by cardboard boxes as he has started to pack away his files in preparation for the United Kingdom's departure from the European Union.

"Sure there's a lot of uncertainty, you can see where we've packed our boxes because a week before we were leaving and now it may be next week or maybe not," Corbett told EFE.

"We don't know but while we are still here most of us are fighting to remain," the Labour MEP continued.

"When you became a European civil servant you left your nationality at the door," Corbett added.

Richard Ashworth, a conservative politician told EFE that he was sad about Brexit, but that above all he lamented the humiliating way in which Westminster and Downing Street had dealt with the crisis.

Just days before the March 29 deadline, the date that would have seen the UK leave the bloc had Parliament approved the prime minister's withdrawal agreement, 73 UK MEPs were given 15 cardboard boxes to start packing up their belongings.

But like Brexit, the move was delayed, at least until Apr. 12 which is when the UK is due to leave the EU.

Amid the Westminster-Brussels back and forth, UK MEPs have much more quotidian concerns such as: what to do in the coming years? Or whether rental contracts for their Brussels homes should be canceled?

There has also been a considerable brain-drain from the UK headquarters in the European de-facto capital.

Many personnel, including some parliamentarians and several advisors, have left and sought other jobs amid the uncertainty of it all.

"Almost every day the prediction from the previous day seems to change, so perhaps by the time we finish this interview the situation will have changed," Corbett joked.

The Labour politician has spent the last 20 years in Europe and he sees many positives to the freedom of movement and trade across the bloc.

"50 years ago very few people drank wine in Britain it was always beer. Now everybody drinks wine with their meals or afterward," Corbett said.

"Just that example shows that the greater variety of choices you have with the pluralism of cultures in Europe and the exchanges we have, that's been very beneficial for everybody," the politician added.

The experience has been a learning curve for Corbett who adds that in the EP disagreements are rarely based on nationality, but on political ideology and philosophy.

If anything, he adds, his long stint in European institutions has served as a reminder that Europeans have much in common.

Both Ashworth and Corbett said that if Article 50 were to be revoked, resulting in a cancellation of Brexit, or a long extension to the divorce granted, they would both stand for EU elections which are set to take place between May 23-26.

On his part, Ashworth said he could never have imagined that when he started his mandate in Europe in 2014 that it could be his last.

"Of course I feel European," he said. "And above all I am English. What is the conflict?" he asked.

When asked what his next steps would be should the UK leave, Corbett jokingly answered.

"I'm saving up to buy a horse to ride away into the sunset." EFE-epa


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