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President Ilves at the European Council on Foreign Relations: the UK must be given some time – the European Union will become more closed upon its leaving


The main topic discussed yesterday and today at the annual conference of the European Council of Foreign Relations in The Hague was, as expected, the referendum on European Union membership that took place in the United Kingdom.

President Toomas Hendrik Ilves, who is a member of the council's think-tank, stated at the discussion: we need to give the UK some time to allow it to decide how to proceed.

"The lies fed by the supporters of Brexit largely influenced the outcome of the referendum. The UK referendum also showed how very dangerous it can be to play around with international relations and foreign policy issues to score a domestic policy point or short-lived gain," stated President Ilves.

According to him, the EU with its 27 Member States can become more protectionist, as the United Kingdom has been the most outspoken promoter of free trade within the EU.

"In today's world, reclusion will slow down economic growth," he warned, adding that enhanced reclusion is definitely not the tool to be employed for faster development of the common EU digital market.

"Keeping large US information technology corporations away from the European Union shouldn't really be our goal, as argued by some opponents of the common digital market; instead, we should focus on the creation of a new environment that promotes entrepreneurship within the European Union," emphasised President Ilves. "This will mean, in turn, a risk capital market bigger than ever to offer easier access to funding for start-up companies."

The taxation system and legislation of countries should also support entrepreneurship, said the Estonian Head of State. A common digital market of a considerable size should influence the decisions of more IT companies than before to use Europe as their place of business.

At the annual conference of the European Council on Foreign Relations, the view of the recent UK referendum was shared by some UK's ministers, Malcolm Rifkind and Douglas Alexander, and historian and author, Timothy Garton Ash; three former prime ministers – Alexander Stubb from Finland, Helle Thorning-Smith from Denmark and Gordin Bajnai from Hungary as well as the Chairman of the Committee on Foreign Relations of the German Bundestag, Norbert Röttgen, spoke on behalf of the other European Union Member States.

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