Why Britain must play hardball in Brexit talks

Dire warnings are coming out of Brussels as the UK triggers Article 50. But the tough talking from the EU masks a deep underlying weakness. Britain should be as tough as old boots in the Brexit talks. That way, reason will prevail soon enough

The Union Jack is the bigger flag
the commentator
On 29 March 2017 11:51

As Britain triggers Article 50 today, and thus formally sets in motion the process of leaving the European Union, it is noticable that the talk in Brussels has been hardening.

While Britain is criticised for not clarifying the position of EU nationals living in the UK, it appears perfectly all right for all manner of threats to be made against the UK by the EU and its leading lights and institutions.

Project Fear Central, otherwise known as the Guardian newspaper, has, right on cue, come out with a dire warning from that most undemocratic of EU bodies, the European Parliament.

A democratic Potemkin Village if ever there was one, the European Parliament has drafted a resolution with a whole set of high handed and threatening conditions attached to Britain's position in the forthcoming negotiations.

According to the Guardian report:

"Britain will not be given a free trade deal by the EU in the next two years, and a transition arrangement to cushion the UK’s exit after 2019 can last no longer than three years, a European parliament resolution has vowed, in the first official response by the EU institutions to the triggering of article 50 by Theresa May.

"A leaked copy of the resolution, on which the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, has been a close conspirator, lays bare the tough path ahead for Britain as the historic process of withdrawing from the trade bloc begins.

"Across 11 pages of clauses, May is warned that the EU will stridently protect its political, financial and social interests, and that the position for the UK even during the transition period will not be as positive as it is today."

Apart from its delusional and somewhat comic assumption that the crisis-ridden European Union is in any position to get into a trade or diplomatic war with Britain over its departure from the EU, this illustrates precisely why we must let it be known to our counterparts that we really would walk away from a deal if we felt we had to.

Negotiation is all about getting people to see where their interests really lie, making compromises, and thrashing out a mutually beneficial deal.

So given that many on the EU side are starting from a position located somewhere in fantasy land, Britain needs to cajole the EU back to reality right from the get go. And that means being as tough as old boots on the whole gamut of issues to be negotiated.

We'd much rather this all took place in an atmosphere of good faith and reasonableness. But talk of "punishment" did not come from the British side.

We have a lot of cards to play against them, and with many European economies flat on their backs they can hardly afford for things to turn ugly.

Appearing weak is never a good strategy in international relations. Playing hardball is our best starting point. If we do it right, they'll come to their senses soon enough.

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