Fico: Slovakia’s Specific Issue Concerning Brexit – Slovaks Living in UK

Prime Minister Robert Fico (right) and Michel Barnier, the Chief Negotiator in charge of the Preparation and Conduct of the Negotiations with the UK under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty at a briefing in Bratislava (photo by TASR)

Bratislava, November 10 (TASR) – The European Commission (EC) chief negotiator has the full support of the Slovak Government, and we’re fully aware that it’s only the EC that is entitled to lead all negotiations on Brexit with Great Britain and so contribute towards relevant results, stated Prime Minister Robert Fico (Smer-SD) on Thursday.

Fico was speaking in reference to his meeting on the same day with Michel Barnier, the Chief Negotiator in charge of the Preparation and Conduct of the Negotiations with the UK under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, who is visiting the remaining 27 EU countries at the moment.

The Slovak premier would welcome it if the European Council, the European Parliament and the EC were involved in the Brexit process. “On behalf of the Slovak Government [I would say that] we fully respect the fact that the unity of the 27 countries is essential,” he said, adding that individual negotiations aren’t possible.

“It’s also important that no negotiations take place unless the UK officially notifies the launch of the its process of leaving the EU,” he added.

Fico further underlined the EC’s opinion as a whole, according to which it rejects the policy of ‘cherry picking’ regarding the fact that Britain might want to keep certain advantages concerning cooperation with the EU, such as free access to the European single market. On the other hand, Fico pointed to the four fundamental freedoms (the free movement of services, goods, labour and capital), which are absolutely sacred for him and which shouldn’t be up for negotiation.

“I also told Mr. Barnier about Slovakia’s specific issue, as that’s the main value of his visits to all 27 countries. Every country has something specific in relation to the UK. I informed him about the relatively large number of Slovaks living and working in the UK,” said the Slovak prime minister.

Fico stated that he wants Slovaks who live and work in Britain to remain there under the same conditions enjoyed by British citizens. “Of course, it can be expected that the UK is considering certain restrictions regarding freedom of movement in the future, but when it comes to those people who’ve been working and living in Britain, we strictly insist on keeping the same status and rights for them that UK citizens are entitled to,” said the premier, noting that this applies in particular to Slovaks who’ve been living and working there for a long time.

Barnier was upbeat about the talks with Fico. “The negotiations with Premier Fico were very constructive. I’ve already visited half of the member states, with which I’ve held talks on their positions on this matter in the same way as I’ve discussed this with representatives of the European Parliament,” he said.

“I can say that our position will be neither aggressive, nor naive. It’s extremely important for us to maintain the unity of the 27 EU-member states,” he added, noting that keeping the four basic freedoms will be key as well. Barnier also congratulated the Slovak prime minister on the successful Slovak Presidency of the EU Council.

The British Supreme Court recently issued a ruling according to which British Prime Minister Theresa May can’t officially initiate Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty without the consent of the British Parliament. Her Cabinet has appealed against the court decision, and the Supreme Court is set to deal with this appeal in December, with a ruling expected to be announced in January.