As of January the UK has officially left the European Union and a new relationship is currently being negotiated between the two international actors. The Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs is doing its best to ensure that Czech expats apply for “settled status” in Britain. However, questions regarding future agreements on programmes that have thus far been key in fostering a strong Czech presence in the UK remain.
With Britain having just exited the EU, Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček flew to Manchester on Friday to meet members of the local Czech community and discuss their concerns connected with Brexit. Mr Petříček started his trip by visiting a cemetery in Cheadle and Gatley, south of the city. Radio Prague’s Tom McEnchroe has been following the events on the ground and spoke to us on the phone on Friday morning:
Since June 2016, when the United Kingdom voted to leave the EU, the number of British nationals living and working in the Czech Republic has been steadily growing. According to data released by the Czech Labour Office and the Ministry of Interior, the number of British employees in the Czech Republic has risen by more than a third. There has also been a 55 percent increase in the number of British nationals who filed for permanent residence in this country.
Brussel's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier met with Czech
deputies and senators in Prague on Friday to discuss the developments
around Britain's expected departure from the EU, the head of the
European Affairs Committee in the lower house Ondřej Benešík told the
CTK news agency.
Barnier informed Czech lawmakers about the possible scenarios after the December parliamentary elections in Britain, saying Brussels was striving for the best possible deal with Britain and its fulfilment.
The talks also revolved around practical matters, such as the modification of contracts in air transport and consumer protection post-Brexit.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš said he regretted the postponement of a vote
on the Brexit deal in the House of Commons on Saturday, adding that he
hoped Britain would clarify its position as soon as possible.
Mr. Babiš noted that since no one in the EU wanted a no deal Brexit one could only hope that British MPs would manage to approve both the required legislative changes and the Brexit deal by the set deadline. Similar reactions have come from politicians across the political spectrum.
Confectionery manufacturers are among Czech businesses most likely to be hard hit by Brexit, Czech Radio reported this week. According to an analysis carried out by the country’s biggest bank, Česká spořitelna, about a quarter of confectionery goods produced in the country are destined for the British market.
Britain’s departure from the EU was the focus of talks in Prague on Tuesday between the Czech foreign minister, Tomáš Petříček, and his Irish counterpart, Simon Coveney. The latter said measures proposed by the London government do not come close to replacing the Irish border backstop – and that there may be no solution to the divisive issue.
In 2009 the Eastern Partnership, a project seeking closer ties between the EU and its Eastern European neighbours was proclaimed in Prague. Ten years later, the union is evaluating its progress and searching for prospective strategies. Whatever the future brings, it seems that this is likely to be a long-haul effort.
EU leaders are meeting in Sibiu, Romania on Thursday for a summit that was originally intended to affirm post-Brexit unity and chart a course for future development. Although member states are expected to adopt a declaration of “unity and confidence in the future”, the summit is overshadowed by uncertainty regarding the outcome of European elections, due later this month, and the many question marks surrounding Brexit.