You’d be forgiven for getting whiplash if you’ve been watching the Brexit negotiations. At the end of last week, the leaders in Brussels were citing a constructive atmosphere. The German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, was expressing hope for a good Brexit deal, and the EU had agreed to ‘prepare’ for trade talks.
This week, the tone has been completely different.
Michel Barnier, the EU’s Chief Brexit Negotiator, has returned to claiming a trade deal with the UK will take “several years” – which is ridiculous when we are working from the basis of an already existing trade relationship. He went on to say a transition period would only be agreed after the specifics of the UK’s withdrawal have been negotiated.
This creates needless uncertainty for businesses on both sides of the Channel, although perhaps risking the health of their own economies is a price Eurocrats are willing to pay to spite the UK.
Perhaps hearteningly for Brexiteers, he also said any transition period should be scheduled within the EU financial period, ending in 2020 – making it one-year long – half as long as the transition envisioned by the British government. Barnier also said a trade deal with the UK would likely be on the lines of the Canadian deal; in other words, he’s echoed the end-point desired by most Brexiteers. If only he wasn’t so keen on needlessly muddying the waters with ridiculous speculation about how long trade negotiations will take. If only he wasn’t arbitrarily delaying the transitional agreement. All this posturing may help his future political career in Brussels, or wherever, but it doesn’t help get a deal done.
Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, also came out with an attack on “No Dealers”, telling them they had no friends in the European Commission. He said there would be a “fair” deal. Of course, those urging the government to be ready for a No Deal scenario know the Eurocrats aren’t their friends.
Meanwhile, European Council President Donald Tusk told the European Parliament today, that if all 27 Member States do not remain united in their approach to Brexit, the EU will face “defeat” in Brexit negotiations. He also made the type of comment which has become customary from the EU in these negotiations. “It is,” he said, “in fact up to London how this will end, with a good deal, no deal or no Brexit.”
Tusk has also talked again about Brexit not necessarily meaning Brexit. This is quite ridiculous.
The mixed messages coming out of the EU on a regular basis – let alone the deliberate leaks designed to embarrass our Prime Minister about so-called ‘confidential’ conversations over the dinner on Monday – mean that we should do even more planning about what is better for the UK, instead of pandering to the EU.
Even “no deal” would not mean no trade with EU countries. We have lots of options – even without a formal trade deal with the EU.
Business, industry, and people’s livelihoods are at stake here, but unfortunately this bunch do not seem to care about any of this. They care just about making ridiculous headlines.
The latest comments from Tusk come on the heels of the European Council summit, where it seemed tentative steps were made towards progressing negotiations onto trade talks.
Now we have the use of words like defeat and victory, which have been studiously avoided in negotiations so far. This inflammatory and contradictory language displays just how fickle the EU leaders can be – and how far negotiations have to go. There is plenty of time for EU leaders to delay and frustrate these talks and return to their more usual belligerent tone.
The EU needs to stop playing games with the livelihoods of millions on either side of the Channel. Unless the EU gets real’, they risk creating a no deal scenario which will do far more damage to them than to us.
Jayne Adye is Director of the grassroots Euroscepticcampaign group Get Britain Out