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The Chairman of the European Union Affairs Committee Kalle Palling is sad that the United Kingdom is planning to leave the European Union as a result of the referendum. However, he respects the decision of the British nation.

“We must respect the decision of the British nation, although we hoped that the UK would remain in the EU, being an important partner for Estonia,” Palling said. “It is difficult to accept that the once strong and united European Union, of which the UK is an important part, will now be weakened.”

In his opinion, the results of the referendum should be analysed with the view of helping the EU to be more attentive towards the wishes and concerns of its Member States in the future.

“Both the European Union and the United Kingdom must move on, and the results of the referendum must not be allowed to divide the society,” Palling said. He added that the British coast will nevertheless remain only a few dozens of kilometres away from the EU, and that the British will not become isolated in the future.

“For Estonia, Brexit means that we will lose an important economic and security parter,” Palling said, stressing that the British decision will not bring along immediate changes for the Estonian citizens in the UK, or to the Estonian businesses operating there. “For all the eventual changes, we must first wait for the further decisions of the UK government,” he said.

“We do not know yet how much the British decision will affect the EU economy or the financial sector, but the impact will definitely not be positive,” Palling said. Analysts predict that the British economy will weaken as a result of Brexit, as will the international influence of the nation.

“Although Estonia has chosen a path of deeper integration than the UK, and has joined both the eurozone and the Schengen area, we have nevertheless enjoyed very close relations with the UK, and these would definitely have become even closer during the upcoming presidency period of the Council of the European Union,” Palling said.

Palling affirmed that Estonia will continue preparing for the EU presidency according to the current plans, and that the possible changes in the schedule of the presidency will depend on the wishes of the UK government and the other Member States. He did not exclude the possibility that Estonia might start its presidency somewhat earlier, and do it without the UK. Estonia’s presidency is currently scheduled for 2018, immediately following the UK.

At the British referendum on 23 June, 48 % of the British supported staying in the European Union, and 52 % supported leaving it. Voter turnout was over 70 per cent. The decision is not binding for the government.

Riigikogu Press Service
Epp-Mare Kukemelk
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