The Cable

A Banner Day for Leaving — and Coming Closer to — the European Union

Georgians move closer to the EU on the same day as Britain details plans to leave it.


British Prime Minister Theresa May’s government on Thursday published its Brexit white paper, detailing the prime minister’s 12 point plan for leaving the European Union.

Meanwhile, nearly 2,600 miles from London in Tbilisi, Georgia, people celebrated hard-won approval to travel to the EU visa-free. In Georgia, the EU is still considered the destination, not something from which to escape, it seems.

May’s white paper, titled “The United Kingdom’s Exit from, and New Partnership with, the European Union,” came a day after the U.K. House of Commons passed a bill allowing May to begin negotiations to leave the EU.     

In the paper, the May government seemed to double down on the notion that leaving the globe’s largest trade bloc will make Britain more, not less, global.

“We are a great, global nation with so much to offer Europe and so much to offer the world,” it states.

Among the 12 points enumerated in the plan are “providing certainty and clarity” and “taking control of our own laws.” Also listed is “controlling immigration” and, specifically, “the number of EU nationals coming to the UK.”

Indeed, control over European migration is to be a central point in the impending negotiations. Former chancellor George Osborne said during the debate on the Brexit bill that immigration control, and not the economy, was the government’s priority.

On the other end of the EU travel spectrum stands Georgia. The eastern european country spent four years working to meet tough benchmarks to get the European Parliament’s blessing for its citizens to travel without visas to the EU. Among other things, it developed policies to better handle migration and to fight against corruption and organized crime. “This process itself is important for our society,” David Bakradze, Georgian ambassador to the United States, told Foreign Policy.

Why? Because Georgians wanted to come closer to Europe. “Europe is Georgia’s destiny. It’s our home,” said Bakradze.

And what of the reality that some in Europe are looking to leave? “That is the choice that is made by the British people, by the UK citizens,” Bakradze said. “Our choice supports the EU.”

Photo credit: VANO SHLAMOV/AFP/Getty Images

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