Almost nine years after withdrawing from the European Union, Sadiq Khan, the Prime Minister of the Union of England and Wales yesterday submitted an official request to Brussels to join the European Union.
Last November the English and Welsh public overwhelmingly voted to reinstate the countries’ full membership of the EU in a 59 to 41 percent vote. “The people of England and Wales have sent a strong message of goodwill to the people of Europe” Mr Khan said in Brussels after the meeting with his European counterparts. EU members Scotland and Northern Ireland, both of whom broke away from the United Kingdom in 2022, welcomed the step.
Mounting unemployment and a four-year economic recession have put pressure on successive governments of the Union of England and Wales. Moreover, prior to the election of Mr Khan a series of political crises saw six prime ministers from three different parties occupy 10 Downing Street in just over three years. In order to gain greater access to the Common Market England and Wales were forced to loosen immigration rules over the past few years bringing the countries’ closer to the EU immigration framework.
The 2016 British exit from the European Union sent the country into economic turmoil with thousands of jobs lost in The City coupled with spending cuts, tax rises and a depressed currency. The Chancellor of the Exchequer Emily Stewart last week stressed on the strength of the economy of the Union of England and Wales, the 11th biggest in the world, adding that its accession would result in a 10 percent rise in EU GDP.
An extended and intense period of negotiations lasting almost three years followed a surprise vote by Britain in a landmark referendum in 2016 to leave the EU. Mr Khan served as London mayor for two terms from 2016 to 2024 before succeeding as leader of the Labour Party in 2025 with the promise to reinstate the Union of England and Wales into the EU.
US President Julian Castro, whose country is seen as London’s closest international partner, is expected to make a statement following his meeting with King Charles in Buckingham Palace today. “Washington is keen on having England and Wales rejoin the EU,” said political science professor Annabelle Fellows, “it had the most to lose from Britain’s exit in 2016.”
England and Wales will join a club that has contrary to initial concerns not only survived but expanded its membership to 35 countries to include Iceland as well as the Balkan states of Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina. A group of Eastern European countries led by Poland had insisted that England and Wales submit to the same conditions they were subject to in an allusion to adopting the Euro. The November referendum made no specific mention of the adoption of the Euro but according to EU guidelines the Union of England and Wales will have three years to switch to the European common currency. “There should be no more special treatment,” said Albanian Prime Minister Ermira Balaj whose country currently holds the rotating presidency of the EU, “We must avoid mistakes of the past.”
In their upcoming meeting in Oslo next month the EU heads of state are expected to endorse the Union of England and Wales membership along Moldova despite warnings from Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.
The office of Angela Merkel, the former President of the European Council issued a brief statement saying, “Europe can once again become whole.”
This article was published in Newsweek on June 29, 2016.