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Respekt: Prague must set Czech priorities in relation to Britain

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Prague, Jan 23 (CTK) – The Czech Republic has to decide what is its interest in relation to Britain, Katerina Safarikova writes in weekly Respekt out yesterday in relation to the speech British Prime Minister Theresa May made last week, announcing a “hard Brexit” including departure from the European single market.
May declared that the United Kingdom wants to have no partial membership status and that it will quit the single market and control immigration.
Safarikova writes that the Brexit negotiations will start in April and end in March 2019, when the two-year deadline expires, or even later. Until early 2019, nothing will change for Czechs working in Britain, Britons living in the Czech Republic and firms trading between the two countries, she says.
Both extreme views that appeared on the Czech political scene in reaction to May’s speech, namely that the Czechs have no influence on their relations with Britain and that the country can finally arrange its relations with Britain according to its own wishes, are mistaken, Safarikova writes.
She says the EU member states handed the power to negotiate trade treaties with third countries to Brussels, which means that negotiators of the European Commission and other EU institutions will also represent Czech interests. This is good news since the Czech interests will be represented by the whole EU, she adds.
However, the Czech government must first define the priority interests of the country, Safarikova says.
This will be a challenge for Czechs in 2017 when the campaign before the general and presidential elections will be held, she writes.
Do Czechs want first of all the trade in cars and other products to be as free as possible, or do they want to agree on a quota for Czechs who will be allowed to come to Britain to study and work every year? Or do they want to promote an increase in the EU budget in order to compensate the departure of the rich Britain that contributed 11 billion euros to the EU budget? Safarikova writes.
Which of this is the Czech priority? Or will the government try to push through all this at once? she says.
Following Germany and Slovakia, Britain is the third biggest export market for Czech firms and cars and car parts represent two fifths of the Czech exports to Britain, Safarikova writes.
Approximately 30,000 Czechs are currently legally staying and working in the UK and further thousands of Czechs seem to be waiting for this opportunity because Britain is an attractive country to live in, even if for just a couple of years, she writes.
Due to Britain’s leave, the EU will become poorer. As a result, EU funds will support poorer countries than now and the Czech Republic is unlikely to be among the recipients anymore, Safarikova writes.
After 2020, the country will not receive billions of euros from Brussels anymore, unless the Czech government manages to ally with other EU countries and negotiate a change in the present system, she writes.

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