Last week, Michael Gove from the Leave campaign claimed that Britain should pursue a ‘Albania-style’ deal if we vote to leave the EU. This claim was so bewildering that even the Albanian PRIME MINISTER has spoken out to tell them they’re wrong.
Here, the Prime Minister of Albania, Edi Rama, explains why Albania does not provide a model for Britain to follow.
“When I saw the story of Michael Gove’s suggestion that Britain could abandon its partnership with Germany, France and other EU countries and instead enter into a non-EU partnership with Albania, Kosovo, Serbia and Bosnia, my immediate reaction was: “Isn’t that a bit weird?””
“While I am a proud Albanian and a proud Balkan, I would not make a claim that we have either the political or the economic muscle to see ourselves as a rival to the EU, which has helped deliver peace and prosperity to so many, for so long”
“But I am not convinced that it would suit either our or Britain’s 21st-century needs to create this new BBC, the British-Balkan Confederation. Or that it is right for Britain to look at Albania as a model of a relationship with the EU. Indeed I am convinced it would be wrong for Britain to do so.”
“While he [Michael Gove] and fellow Brexiteers want out, most countries on the edges of Europe want in, because we know the remarkable benefits there have been to EU countries such as Britain.”
“We have only limited access to the EU’s market in services, and no passport for financial services. Our banks cannot operate across Europe, as British and British-based banks can. We are outside the EU’s customs union, meaning that we face costly red tape and rules of origin for exporting businesses.”
“The EU eliminates all tariffs and customs duties on Albanian industrial goods. But while our wine and our beef is among the world’s best, because the EU maintains WTO most-favoured nation tariffs for several agriculture products and permanent quotas for several fisheries products, exports to the EU are limited. Tariffs also apply to some fruit and vegetables. And we do not have access to the EU’s external trade deals. So when the EU lands a great trade deal, for example with South Korea, we do not benefit. In future, were you part of the Balkan bloc rather than the EU, nor would you.”
“Countries across the Balkans have seen not only their diplomatic ties improve but their living standards increase as a result of the reforms that the EU has encouraged. We hope that will continue.”
“But having negotiated with the EU from the outside, I can see how any post-Brexit UK negotiation with the rest of the EU could be dragged out. I have heard Mr Gove’s side say this will all be resolved within two years. This is unrealistic in the extreme, as unrealistic as his BBC.”
“But I cannot believe it can be in Britain’s interest to look for a model in Albania or to emulate the current status of Albanian-European relations. We are not ourselves interested in the status quo. Why would anyone in Britain be?”
“It is, of course, for the British people to decide if they want to stay or leave the EU. But the impact of their decision will go far and wide. As a friend and admirer of Britain, I really hope you will vote to stay. There is no British-Balkan Confederation, nor will there be. The Albanian-EU relationship is not a model for Britain to emulate. Take it from us, we live here. I am convinced that Britain staying in the EU will be good for Albania and good for Europe. I am equally convinced it will be good for Britain. Millions of people across Europe and beyond are urging the people of Britain: Please don’t go.”