Britain touted as future ‘associate member’ of EU

Britain could rejoin the European Union as an ‘associate member’
Britain could rejoin the European Union as an ‘associate member’

Britain could rejoin the European Union as an “associate member” under plans for the bloc’s expansion drawn up by France and Germany.

The UK would be expected to contribute to the EU’s annual budget and be governed by the European Court of Justice in exchange for “participation” in the bloc’s single market.

The plan will be officially unveiled on Tuesday afternoon as Sir Keir Starmer, the Labour leader, meets Emmanuel Macron, the French president, in Paris.

Sir Keir has said he would prioritise getting “a much better deal for the UK” as part of a review of the post-Brexit trade deal, due in 2025, if he wins the next election.

Keir Starmer and Emmanuel Macron are holding talks in Paris
Keir Starmer and Emmanuel Macron are holding talks in Paris - Laurent Blevennec/Presidence de la Republique France

Brussels is preparing to welcome Ukraine as a full member of the bloc in less than seven years as part of its biggest shake-up in decades.

Leading European officials have set a 2030 deadline for the expansion, which will also include the Western Balkans, and the largest reforms to the EU’s budget and voting system since the Lisbon treaty in 2007.

Paris and Berlin will present their vision for the bloc on the sidelines of a ministerial meeting in Brussels on Tuesday.

Laurence Boone and Anna Luhrmann, the Europe ministers of France and Germany, will propose a four-tiered structure to integrate countries that aren’t “willing and/or able to join the EU in the foreseeable future”.

Under the plan, Britain could be invited into the third tier as an “associate member” of the EU.

“Associate members would not be bound to ‘ever closer union’ and further integration, nor would they participate in deeper political integration in other policy areas such as justice and home affairs or EU citizenship,” a report commissioned by France and Germany says.

“The basic requirement would be the commitment to comply with the EU’s common principles and values, including democracy and rule of law,” the report reads. “The cost areas of participation would be the single market.”

The EU’s internal market is built around four key freedoms – movement of people, goods, capital and services.

Membership fees would be lower than usual contributions by full members but would result in “lower benefits”, such as no access to the EU’s common agricultural fund.

Associate members would be represented by speakers inside the European Commission and Parliament without any voting rights.

The Trade and Cooperation Agreement signed by Boris Johnson ended the European Court of Justice’s jurisdiction in Britain and ended the UK’s financial contributions to the bloc.

“Countries would join one or the other outer tier out of their own political will, either because they withdraw from the EU or because they have no intention of joining in the first place,” according to the Franco-German plan.

“Careful negotiations will be needed to find the right balance between a looser form of integration and institutional participation while retaining the highest benefits for full EU member states.”