Senior Tory Brexiters demanded last night that Theresa May exploit Angela Merkel’s political weakness and suspend plans to offer billions of pounds more to the European Union, according to today’s front page of The Times.
Talks to form a coalition in Germany collapsed yesterday, and Mrs Merkel said that she was ready for a rerun of the September election as most parties refused to return to negotiations.
The Times reported, ‘Brexit-supporting ministers were said to be pressing Mrs May to use the turmoil of the EU’s most powerful nation to reduce Britain’s “divorce bill” before yesterday’s meeting of the cabinet sub-committee overseeing the negotiations.’
But Brexiters don’t seem to get it.
The EU is not one country. The remaining 27 EU countries are united in their resolve in their handling of Brexit. That’s not going to change whoever is the government in Germany, and in any event, Germany is just one of the EU member states.
And the idea that the British government should ‘exploit’ political difficulties in Germany is unlikely to win any favours among the EU27.
It’s widely reported today that the British government may increase its so-called ‘divorce settlement’ with the EU, so long as the EU promises to give Britain a good trade deal. This also shows complete misunderstanding.
The amount owing to the EU is not a ‘divorce settlement’; it’s the amounts Britain agreed to pay whilst we have been a member. Unless Britain wants to gain disrepute across the world for not settling its accounts, the amount has to be paid whatever happens next.
There are only four possible deals; the UK government knows this, but will not tell the British people.
˃ Deal 1 would be to stay in the EU (that’s not even an option that we are being allowed to consider, even if the country has changed its mind about Brexit; so much for democracy).
˃ Deal 2 would be to stay in the EU Single Market, like non-EU member Norway, but we would have to obey most of the rules of the EU, including free movement of people, without any say or vote on those rules, we would have to be subject to the European Court of Justice for those rules, and we would still have to pay an annual contribution to the EU.
˃ Deal 3 would be to have a third-ccountry free trade agreement like the one the EU recently signed with Canada; but it would not include services (our biggest export earner), it would not include all sectors, and it would be far inferior to staying in the EU Single Market
˃ Deal 4 would be to crash out of the EU and Single Market altogether, and rely totally on WTO rules, which would be disastrous for Britain, and many of our costs, such as for food, would shoot up.
There are no other deals possible. So, frankly, there is nothing for the UK team to negotiate.
The Prime Minister, through obstinancy, has ruled out deals one and two; she has said she wants something better than deal 3, a ‘unique arrangement like no other’ she calls it (no hope; the EU is not going to give us a better deal than they themselves enjoy – something that Mrs May actually pointed out during the referendum campaign).
Deal 4 (i.e. No Deal) is what the hard-line Brexiters in her Cabinet desperately want, but this would not be the best outcome, as the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, eloquently pointed out in his speech yesterday.
So what are these negotiations about? David Davis says he won’t agree to settle our outstanding bill with the EU until he knows what sort of deal he can achieve.
He already knows; and whichever of the options above, Britain cannot wriggle out of its financial obligations made whilst we have been a member. It’s not a ‘divorce bill’; it’s a bill of what we owe.
In the meantime, it was announced yesterday that London is losing the European Medicines Agency to Amsterdam and the European Banking Authority to Paris.
The Guardian reported today, ‘The British government was powerless to stop the relocation of these two prized regulatory bodies, secured by previous Conservative prime ministers.
‘The Department for Exiting the European Union had claimed the future of the agencies would be subject to the Brexit negotiations, a claim that caused disbelief in Brussels.’
Yesterday the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier said, “The 27 will continue to deepen the work of those agencies, together. They will share the costs for running those agencies. Our businesses will benefit from their expertise. All of their work is firmly based on the EU treaties which the UK decided to leave.”
The Liberal Democrat leader Vince Cable said the suggestion by Brexit Secretary, David Davis, that the UK could keep the agencies showed “just how little grasp the government has of the potential consequences of Brexit.”
He added, “This marks the beginning of the jobs Brexodus. Large private sector organisations are also considering moving to Europe and we can expect many to do so over next few years.”
And the front page of today’s Guardian announced that Vote Leave is now under investigation by the Electoral Commission over whether it breached the £7 million EU referendum spending limit. The Commission said it had “reasonable grounds to suspect an offence may have been committed.”
Is there anyone left in the country who still thinks that Brexit has any advantages for Britain, or that last year’s referendum was fairly conducted? Apparently yes. We can only hope, for all our sakes, that they come to their senses without delay.
Britain urgently needs a legitimate, democratic opportunity to reconsider Brexit. Nobody in last year’s referendum gave their informed consent to destroy Britain.
Now we increasingly know ‘what Brexit means’, we must have the chance to say, ‘We’ve changed our minds. #StopBrexit!’
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