Photographer: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP via Getty Images

Luxembourg Floats 24-Hour Border Curbs to Show Value of EU Ties

  • Luxembourg’s prime minister says U.K. caught unprepared
  • U.K. voters didn’t understand impact of Brexit, Bettel says

Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel said European Union governments should consider imposing borders controls for 24 hours to shock voters into appreciating the value of visa-free travel.

The U.K. decision to leave the European Union has been a wake-up call for a lot of EU leaders and governments have to review what works and what doesn’t in the bloc, Bettel said at a conference in Paris.

“Shutting the frontiers for a day would show people what it means to wait two hours to get into Italy or Spain, to have controls everywhere, to block all exchanges,” Bettel said. “One day. So that people see what it is to be outside Europe. It’s terrible what I’m saying, but it would be good for people to understand.”

European leaders meet in Brussels next week to discuss plans to revive enthusiasm for the EU across the continent after the U.K. vote to leave. U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May has alarmed investors and her international partners over the past week, signaling that she favors a more decisive break with the EU and may be prepared to sacrifice British companies trading privileges with the bloc in order to guarantee immigration controls.

Bettel, who met May last month, said he had the impression the British government had not foreseen Brexit. May has announced she’ll trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty before the end of March to set in motion Britain’s exit. EU leaders have said they will wait for the U.K. government to set out its position and come forward with a formal notification before they start any talks.

Bettel said EU leaders should “remain firm” on that position.

The U.K. “wants to have its cake and eat it,” he said. “Before they were in and they had many opt-outs; now they want to be out with many opt-ins. We’re not on Facebook where there’s an ‘it’s complicated’ status.”

Should the EU allow the U.K. to have a “Europe a la carte,” choosing the benefits of bloc without any of the disadvantages, there’d be a risk of referendums in many European countries desiring a similar status, Bettel said.

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