London, January 17 - Officials in Tehran followed British Prime Minister Theresa May's speech yesterday with interest, noting that if, as she declared, the UK will remove itself from the European Union, the Islamic Republic of Iran will be more than happy to offset the kingdom's departure by joining.
May gave an address Tuesday afternoon in which she announced her government's intention to complete the country's exit from the Continental union, following last year's referendum that called for such a move. The Brexit, as it was dubbed, has left other countries in the European Union uncertain as to the future of the arrangement itself, and the government of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has begun to reassure the leaders of Germany and France that Iran will step into the breach created by Brexit.
Already, economic ties between Continental enterprises and Iran have tightened, enabled by last year's nuclear deal that removed myriad economic sanctions on commercial dealings with Tehran and the businesses under its rule. European aviation giant Airbus has signed a lucrative contract for delivery of passenger and cargo aircraft, and the energy sector promises further development, in addition to the automotive and other consumer industries hungry for new markets. While British contributions to the Union outweigh Iran's potential by a considerable margin, Tehran's military and political clout in the Middle East may prove advantageous to an EU looking to expand its commercial relationships into that part of the developing world.
"Culturally and in its essence, the EU is a better fit for Iran that it is for Britain - at least under the current British government and political atmosphere," observed Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, the body's foreign relations arm. "As the Union's immigration policies and attitude toward the Arab-Israeli conflict demonstrate, we're much more on the same page as the Ayatollahs than we are with Ms. May and the voters who chose Brexit. The loss of Britain's economic might will certainly be felt, but we can manage without them, especially with the infusion of new blood, if you will, when Iran does join."
British opponents of Brexit voiced bitterness at the prospect of not participating in the Union with Iran. "As I see it there's no reason for anyone to wait before accepting Iran as a member, regardless of Brexit or no Brexit," remarked Opposition leader Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Labour Party. "We could accomplish so much together, since we have so many friends in common - Hamas, Hezbollah, and who knows how many militias dotting Iraq and Syria."