The Czech Centres in London and New York are getting new directors this spring, with Přemysl Pela assuming control in the UK capital and Miroslav Konvalina taking the helm in the Big Apple. We spoke to both before their departure for the key branches of the Czech Republic’s cultural diplomacy network in the English-speaking world.
Czech Foreign Minister Tomáš Petříček (Social Democrats) met his
British counterpart Jeremy Hunt in London on Wednesday to discuss bilateral
relations and the status of Czechs living in the UK following Brexit.
Following the meeting, Minister Petříček tweeted, “Britain is currently our fifth largest export market and among the leading investors in the Czech Republic. We have great potential to strengthen cooperation in the areas of artificial intelligence, cyber security, renewables and nanotechnology.”
In a gesture meant to show good relations will continue, Petříček and Hunt exchanged national football jerseys with their respective surnames on them.
On Tuesday, the Czech Ministry of Foreign Affairs opened a new Czech Consulate General in Manchester primarily to bring consular services to Czechs living in the northern UK.
The Czech Republic is ready to agree with the United Kingdom’s request to
extend the Brexit deadline of March 29 at the EU Council meeting in
Brussels on Thursday.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš (ANO) said at Wednesday’s European Affairs Committee meeting in Prague the deadline sought would likely extend to June 30. He said he could not imagine any EU Member State would seek to block the summit meeting, which would lead to a no-deal Brexit.
A June 30 deadline would means that the UK would not take part in the European Parliament elections.
The Czech minister of foreign affairs, Tomáš Petříček, opened a new
Czech Consulate General in the UK city of Manchester on Tuesday. It is the
Czech Republic’s second diplomatic mission in the UK after its embassy in
London and is intended to serve people living in the north of England,
Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Mr. Petříček said that the Consulate General would help Czech firms to continue operating in the UK after the country leaves the EU. He said the Czech Republic wished to maintain good relations with Great Britain following Brexit, adding that his government was interested in fostering cooperation in the field of innovation with UK partners.
An estimated 100,000 Czechs are resident in Great Britain.
Amid continuing uncertainty over Brexit, Czech officials are pushing to speed up the approval of a government bill which would protect the rights of British nationals living in the Czech Republic in the event that Great Britain leaves the EU with no deal. The bill would ensure that British nationals would have the same rights as all EU citizens up until the end of 2020.
It is not just Czechs who are currently remembering Jan Palach’s radical protest in January 1969 and the impact his sacrifice helped create. The British ambassador to the Czech Republic, Nick Archer, has had a painting by a UK artist – created right after Palach’s death – installed at his country’s historic embassy building in Prague. He explains the background to the acquisition.
The Czech government has agreed on special legislation in the event of a
“hard Brexit” to treat Britons living here as if they were EU nationals
up until December 31, 2020.
That date mirrors one for a similar policy which the British government has
announced for EU nationals living within the UK. The Czechs government
hopes to get the legislation passed as soon as possible.
The draft special legislation was prepared primarily by the Interior Ministry and is to be put into action if a hard Brexit were to take place in March 2019.
The Czech government will reportedly consider a draft law guaranteeing
Britons living in the Czech Republic the same rights enjoyed by EU citizens
in the event of a so-called “hard Brexit”, up until the end of 2020.
According to the news agency ČTK, the draft law is based on a Ministry of Interior proposal, due to be discussed on Monday.
As it now stands, if the United Kingdom leaves the EU without an agreement, British citizens would lose free access to the Czech labour market, as well as the public health and social benefits systems.
The draft law aims to ensure legal certainty after the UK leaves the EU in order to avoid serious complications for both British citizens in the Czech Republic and the relevant Czech authorities, ČTK cites the Interior Ministry proposal as saying.
The Czech Republic would want a reciprocal arrangement – in the form of a post-Brexit transition period – from the British government.
As the deadline date for Brexit looms ever closer, Czechs are asking themselves what the economic impact of a “hard” Brexit would be. A report published by Česká spořitelna, says that as the country’s fifth largest trading partner, the UK’s exit on WTO rules could cost tens of thousands of Czech jobs and around CZK 55 billion. However, the economic impact would be too small to affect projected economic growth.
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