Time for EU member states to intervene
If the EU continues to adopt a totally intransigent position in negotiations with Britain, then we must walk away on World Trade Organisation Terms. If EU member states want to avoid that, it's time to step in and over-rule Brussels
This week saw the United Kingdom bypass the European Union and speak directly to the individual EU member states. This was done by making public the full draft proposed agreements which have been presented to the EU throughout the negotiations.
These documents are a clear breakdown of how the UK wishes to complete a simple and off-the-peg trade agreement with the EU by the end of this year. The proposals are nothing radical, they are simply adaptations of deals the EU has already signed with other trading partners.
One has to ask, where has the massive conflict come from over the past few weeks? What reason is behind the complete lack of progress across the board? Quite simply, the blame can only be placed at the feet of one man and his ideological mission to treat the UK as some sort of vassal state – Michel Barnier – the EU’s Chief Brexit Negotiator.
Barnier has even said: “The UK has no right to the type of deals the EU has agreed with other countries”. This is hardly the language of someone who wants to see a deal reached, nor someone who has any respect for the United Kingdom. We are supposed to be two equal partners in this negotiation; this government cannot be walked over like the one of Theresa May.
However, it doesn’t seem Barnier understands this and in an exchange of letters between himself and the UK Chief Brexit Negotiator, David Frost, which can be read here, Barnier shows time and again his apparent lack of understanding about what it means by the UK being a sovereign nation. He clearly only wants to reject any form of reasoned debate in favour of abject criticism of the tone of the UK’s negotiating requests, and just demands we submit to the will of the EU.
Of course, negotiations are built on compromise by both sides and the UK may not get everything we want. However, this is a two-way street. It seems the EU only has eyes on trying to behave in a way which would be of sole benefit to them, rather than any sort of deal built around mutual benefit.
Given the current global economic situation and the clear mutual benefit which would come from a comprehensive Free Trade Deal between the UK and the EU, it seems baffling the EU is taking such a hard-ideological approach of no compromise.
This does not need to be the case. With the UK proposals now visible to all – including EU Member States - a change of approach should be possible before the June high-level conference between the UK and the EU when a decision on any extension will be taken. Quite simply, the burden is now on the national Governments of member states to stand up to Brussels and sort out the creases and hypocrisies which are rife within the EU’s suggestions.
This is a responsibility which domestic Governments have, for some reason, neglected to embrace. With the clock running down, Chancellor Merkel, President Macron and other leaders of member states must take a stand. The EU is supposed to represent their best interests, but in what way does refusing to compromise or act sensibly help the citizens of Europe?
At the end of the day, it is the businesses and people who live in the EU who will pay the price for any failure to get a Free Trade Deal with the UK - not the Brussels-based bureaucrats like Barnier and the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen.
Regardless of what happens, they will collect their vast salaries and continue to press on towards their ideological vision of a Federal Europe dominated and controlled entirely by the EU from Brussels.
They can be in no doubt Prime Minister Boris Johnson will not waver in his commitment to Get Britain Out of the EU by the end of this year - with or without a deal.
If the EU continues to see the UK as “uniquely among their trading partners, so unworthy of being offered the kind of well-precedented arrangements commonplace in modern FTAs” as David Frost (the UK’s Chief Brexit Negotiator) puts it, then we must walk away on World Trade Organisation Terms.
Or perhaps member states could actually push Barnier towards a mutually beneficial trade agreement which will benefit everyone across Europe. If they fail to do so, they will face the electoral consequences of lost jobs and struggling businesses across the Continent.
Jayne Adye is the Director of the leading cross-Party grassroots Eurosceptic campaign Get Britain Out
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