On Sunday, EU negotiator Michel Barnier spooked Britain and Europe by making his most ferocious attack on British premier Theresa May’s Chequers plan for a post-Brexit world.
Having a week ago boosted sterling when he promised Britain a good deal for a third country, Barnier now appears to have been overruled by his paymasters and told to regroup to attack.
What a pity and also largely fallacy
As Sky reported (CLICK HERE) Barnier seems to think that concessions and flexibility will weaken the European Union. This is the same EU that fudged its way through the European debt crisis 2009-2016. And instead of realising that a mean clenched fist approach is actually more likely to weaken the Union as more voters opt for referenda to quit, just like Britain.
Such a pity Europe feels the need to punish Britain rather than work with a democratic decision to leave, in such a way that it benefits European and British enterprise.
Barnier seems to think that being flexible with Britain will threaten the Union because other third nations would want the same deals. But Britain isn’t a third nation! We are an EU member seeking to leave. As such, we have more than 40 years of alliances with Europe and have paid our way in the bloc in that time. Surely, we deserve better treatment and a more conciliatory exit like an old friend?
It is not unfair to treat Britain slightly differently from nations who are not European, or who have never qualified to join the EU.
Barnier also trashed the notion of Britain collecting taxes for the EU to expedite the customs process. He said it was “an invitation to fraud”. Really? What about allowing French, German and other leading border teams to join the Brits at Dover to check the books were being correctly completed?
Britain can be trusted to observe and pay the EU its dues. The idea that we are some dodgy nation on the make, frankly, is insulting and not worth a dignified and reasoned response.
Concerns such as collecting customs fees from Chinese clothing importers could equally be addressed by manning UK border controls and customs with joint UK-EU staff.
Barnier’s threat to European car makers to use minimum UK parts in cars exported to Korea under the EU trade agreement, well, if nothing else just makes the case for Britain to strike a parallel deal with Seoul to sell our own cars directly to Korea – without using European parts!
The breath-taking tirade on Britain by Barnier is very disappointing. He has at least agreed to push deal-making from October to mid-November. But despite his iron hand, the reality is that the EU will need to show fleixibility for everyone’s sake. A deal can’t be done before March 2019 and Britain should be invited to agree to an extension of 2-3 years to get this sorted out.
Instead, Barnier is helping to further undermine May’s stature, already under threat from British Tories. Who would he rather negotiate with, a populist British premier?
Meanwhile, May could make her own position easier if she agreed to a second Referendum to vote on the actual deal – if any – struck with the EU. You never know, it might lead to us staying in the EU if we can’t get a deal in the national interest.