May’s Brexit deal – a Chequers cherry pickers’ charter or a dog’s dinner?

Introduction

So after locking up her entire cabinet at Chequers on a boiling hot Friday in July, confiscating their mobiles and threatening to make them walk home if they resigned, Theresa May has finally managed to bully her cabinet colleagues into signing up to a position statement on Brexit – for the moment.

Without a hint of irony, or recognition of what a shambles they’ve been, the Government published that statement yesterday about the outcome of its Chequers Away Day

Quite what the EU will make of this document – or rather the more detailed White Paper that will follow next week – is anyone’s guess. But it’s hard not to view what May has come up with as anything but the worst of both worlds, as far as the UK is concerned.

Shades of another ‘Munich” in the making perhaps when May eventually returns from Brussels with a “deal” as Neville Chamberlain once did.

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Cherry pickers’ charter

From an EU perspective, we suspect the hardliners in Brussels will simply view the Chequers deal as wishful thinking from a government that still seems terrified of the consequences of leaving the EU and desperate to stay tied to its Brussels comfort blanket for as long as possible.

Right from the moment the UK voted to leave the EU, there have been repeated warnings that Britain could not “cherry pick” from what it used to have as an EU member state. Yet to the EU, the Chequers statement looks a lot like a cherry pickers’ charter and one that is full of inconsistencies and irreconcilable fudges. Indeed, we would even have some sympathy with Michael Barnier if he rolled his eyes on reading some of the text.

Although the proposals do tie Britain in to the EU and make it very hard – if not impossible – for us to really benefit from Brexit in economic terms, the EU are likely to push for even greater concessions. As history shows, the more you give these people, the more they take.

May and her advisers have consistently made this mistake from the very start of the negotiations. It borders on the criminal how they keep repeating the same mistakes over and over again.

Dog’s dinner

From the UK’s perspective, there are some words which are clearly put in to try and kid Brexit supporters that we are getting what we voted for. But elsewhere, these are either watered down or negated altogether by various caveats and contradictions.

The UK wants out of free movement but it wants a common customs area.

The UK will end the primacy of the European Court of Justice, but says that the English Courts will still have to take into account the ECJ’s decisions.

According to the paper, the UK will be free to strike trade deals with other countries, but it also says we will strictly follow Brussels’ regulations and standards on goods – effectively giving the EU a means of veto over any trade deals we might do.

Worse, whilst giving all sorts of concessions to the EU in relation to the trade in goods where EU countries benefit from a huge trade surplus with us, we get nothing reciprocal in return in relation to the trade in services, which are the most important earners for our economy. At least we aren’t agreeing to let the EU regulate our service industries. Not yet, anyway.

But perhaps most stupidly of all, the paper rules out any notion that we might actually take advantage of our new found freedom to enact sensible employment, environmental and transport laws that could boost our economy. In other words, we can’t rid ourselves of the ruinous burden of stifling red tape and regulation that all of our businesses have to suffer at the hands of EU bureaucrats.

Where now for Brexit – May’s sell-out or “no deal”?

We still have to see the detail before reaching a final judgment. But it is likely that most of us who want a genuine Brexit with all the huge political, economic and social benefits that would accompany it, will not just be disappointed ; we will be angry too. How did our government throw away such a good negotiating hand?

The only crumb of comfort from what emerged at Chequers yesterday is the Government’s stated intention to “step up” preparations for “no deal” just in case. But can anyone seriously take that at face value? A cynic would say that the reference to no deal is merely insincere window dressing stuck in to keep the Brexit supporters happy

Brexiteers might now be pinning their hopes on “no deal” as the last chance to stop a complete sell-out of the UK to Brussels.

After the wonderful sense of hope created by the referendum result, how did it all come to this?

The Great Brexit giveaway

Introduction

The last few weeks have been both depressing and frustrating for Brexiteers. This is not because Brexit itself has suddenly become the wrong decision to have made. Nor is it because Britain is really suffering as a result of our vote to leave – despite what the Guardian, the BBC, Faisal Islam and James O’Brien may say. Indeed, barely a week goes by without the Remainers’ negative narrative being further discredited by inconvenient things called facts.

No, the reason for our rising concern has been the awful spectacle of Theresa May and her government making the most appalling hash of the Brexit talks with the EU. It seems that they have learned nothing from witnessing the EU’s tactics from the very start of the negotiations. Instead, like some desperate retailer on Black Friday, all we have seen them do is to give concession after concession to the bullies in Brussels. A kind of ghastly Brexit giveaway.

Meanwhile, Theresa May has became embroiled in a completely unnecessary Twitter spat with the US president over a few dumb retweets sent from his Titter account. At a time when playing our relationship with the US against the EU has never been more useful, it is an astonishingly inept way for a British government to behave.

Strong Negotiating position

Moreover, there is no need for the UK to give in to EU extortion and blackmail. Britain’s position is strong, not weak.

There are five factors which give Britain very powerful leverage in the negotiations with the EU.

1. Money

First, there is the money. It has long been obvious that the EU is terrified of the impact on its budget that a UK withdrawal will inevitably have. Part of the EU’s power over its Member States, is its ability to dispense financial largesse. Without the billions we have been contributing, Brussels’ power will be weakened and it will face having to make awkward requests for money from its remaining contributors such as Germany. We should not be making it easy for the EU by promising any money at this stage. That sword of damocles should be left hanging over them for the duration of any negotiation.

Further, there is no legal liability on the UK to pay anything after the end of March 2019 unless it wants to. It was a mistake to allow the EU to impose a two stage talks process demanding a deal on money first, before trade talks. But it is even more foolish to offer them money at the first stage as May has done – twice now. There must be no money on the table unless and until we see what (if anything) we will get for it. If they won’t talk to us without it then so be it. We walk.

2. Huge UK market

The second big negotiating card we have is that the UK is an immensely important marketplace for the EU’s goods worth over £300 billion a year. It is true (as Remoaners never cease to point out) that the UK represents a much smaller percentage of the EU’s trade than the other way around. But that is to overlook something more important. The UK is a hugely significant trading partner to a number of the EU’s most important countries (i.e. Germany, France, Holland and Italy). For example, we are Germany’s second most important market after the US and they make a massive surplus from selling to us. A failure to agree a trade deal will undoubtedly hurt Germany, France, the Netherlands and Italy very hard. It doesn’t matter for these purposes that we may only do a tiny amount of trade with Romania or the Czech Republic. The impact would be severe where it counts – in the very heart of where the EU’s power resides.

3. Singapore model

Thirdly, Brexit provides a huge opportunity for Britain to adopt a lower tax, lower regulatory environment than the EU’s protectionist, high tax-high regulation alternative. Whilst talk of making the UK a new “Singapore” is simplistic, there is no doubt that we can make life very difficult for the EU after we’ve left by reducing, for example, our corporation tax rate. Stupidly and inexplicably, the UK government has failed to play on the EU’s fears in this regard. Instead, Downing Street has gone out of its way to stress that it won’t depart from the European model. No doubt the EU will be hoping to shackle us to the protectionist model after we’ve left. We must resist this.

4. EU’s troubles

The fourth piece of negotiating leverage is the inherent instability of the EU itself. For all the talk of unity, there is precious little of that in reality. The former Eastern European nations will not co-operate with the EU on muslim migrants. The ClubMed states still have serious systemic debt and competitiveness issues. France too is desperately in need of economic reform. Germany is now struggling to form a working government. The latest Greek bailout package comes up for renewal in 2018. Italian elections in 2018 may produce a Euro-sceptic government. ECB money printing cannot go on forever. The list of the EU’s problems is endless and mounting.

5. Project Fear myths exploded

Fifthly and finally there is the absence of the fear factor. Brexitblog has long believed that the Leave majority in the referendum would have been much higher had people like Jeremy Hunt not been scared into voting to remain by Project Fear. But more than a year on, we know that almost all of the Project Fear scare stories have proved false. There’s nothing to be afraid of. (Even the City has now admitted that the real threat to Britain comes not from Brexit but from a Corbyn government).

So we can negotiate strong in the knowledge that we are doing fine “despite Brexit”. We have nothing to fear but fear itself.

What is May doing?

But has May exploited our strong negotiating position? Sadly, there is no sign that she has. Instead, she keeps folding a winning hand and the EU keeps successfully calling her bluff. Every single time.

As we have previously pointed out, the EU has no interest in giving the UK a helping hand or a fair deal if we leave. It will never voluntarily do so. Showering it with endless concessions and appearing too scared to walk away from the talks will never work. It can only prove disastrous. Equally, a continuing failure by May to advance any kind of positive or coherent vision for post-Brexit Britain is failing to reassure waverers at home (or EU negotiators abroad), that the UK is confident it has a strong hand to play.

But despite the calamitous start to the process, even now, it still isn’t too late to salvage the situation.

The way forward

In a letter to the Government today, Leave Means Leave has set out the demands we should be making of the EU as a price for continuing the talks. Brexitblog.info has argued in similar terms on these pages. We agree with them.

The bottom line is that we should be telling the EU that we expect significant forward progress in the negotiations and if none is forthcoming, we will walk. If that happens, they can kiss goodbye to any more money after we’ve gone and it will be open season on their exports to us which will will henceforth have to compete with tariff-free goods from other countries.

Theresa May cannot seriously think that doing a deal with the EU which is seen to be unfavourable to the UK will do anything for hers’ or the Tories’ chances of political survival. Yet evidently she and her cabinet continue to cling to the delusion that a rubbish deal is better than no deal. It isn’t.

She can still turn things round but only by focussing on the real enemy – the EU – and playing them at their own game. There is still a huge opportunity for her to harness anti-EU feeling in Britain to her political advantage. But she cannot keep missing that open goal at one end and scoring own goals (i.e. with Trump) at the other.

May’s desperation for a “deal” is putting Brexit at risk

Introduction

Theresa May is back in Brussels battling with EU leaders in an effort to put the Brexit negotiations back on track. But whose track is that?

The problem right from the start of these talks has been a twofold one.

First, there is the apparent lack of reality on the UK side about what the EU wants out of the Brexit process. Secondly, there is the political weakness of the Prime Minister, whose divided cabinet is riddled with Remainers and whose government can barely command a majority in the House of Commons.

All of this has led to Mrs May staking everything on being able to trumpet that she’s “done a deal” with the EU – no matter how much she may end up giving away in the process. Moreover this obsession with doing a deal is to look at Brexit through the wrong end of the telescope.

The important thing is that proper Brexit is delivered – not the appearance of Brexit.

Concessions

In recent weeks, we have seen evidence of increasing desperation on the part of Mrs May and her government. In Florence, May offered concessions on the EU budget by promising to pay an extra two years’ worth of EU budget contributions up to the end of the EU’s current long term funding cycle at the end of 2020. This was despite there being no legal obligation on the UK to do so. It also came in the face of the continuing obstructionism, intransigence and bullying that have become the hallmarks of EU negotiating tactics.

Today, we learn of an open letter being sent by Mrs May to EU nationals in the UK.

All of this smacks very much of a Prime Minister who feels she must keep making the first move, to keep the prospect of a deal in play – no matter how unreasonable and intransigent the EU has been.

What is so frustrating is that none of this is necessary. The UK’s position is far stronger than the Remainers and the EU would have us all believe. We can leave with no deal and start enjoying the immediate benefits of Brexit – free and back in control. As Roger Bootle and many others have argued, we have nothing to fear from such an outcome. The screams and scaremongering from Remainers about the perils of “no deal” is simply a repeat of Project Fear – and about as convincing.

EU still wants to punish Britain

When she triggered Article 50, the PM was warned by none other than the former Greek finance minister that allowing the EU to dictate the terms of the Article 50 negotiations would be a recipe for disaster. Yet she agreed to the EU’s demand that initial discussions be limited to just three issues – the Brexit bill, NI border and EU citizens’ rights. Only if sufficient “progress” was made on those issues, so the EU insisted, could talks move on to the far more important subject of trade.

In the event, this has all worked out exactly as the EU intended. The pressure has built on the UK to offer concessions on these matters because – correctly – EU leaders have assessed that May is weak and desperate to reach a deal. We can expect them to keep turning the screw now they think they have May where they want her.

The point is of course that the EU has no interest at all in giving a favourable deal to Britain. On the contrary, they want to put our head on a proverbial pole and make an example of us so as to deter any other Member States from following suit. If Britain is shown to have suffered by leaving the EU, the hope in Brussels is that they will still be able to use fear to keep the other countries in line. By contrast, if Britain were to thrive after it has left, the writing would be on the wall. Populist politicians in other EU states would soon be campaigning for their own countries to come out. The dream of “ever closer union” would be in tatters.

So when Theresa May keeps talking up the idea of a “special partnership” and David Davis talks about how “constructive” his talks with Mr Barnier have been, the reality is that they are pursuing something that is never going to be voluntarily on offer.

The EU will never – voluntarily – offer terms that are anything but lousy for Britain. Only if it is forced to make a pragmatic compromise will there be a semblance of a deal that we can and should accept.

EU objectives

No doubt some in Brussels harbour hopes that the more difficult they make things, the more chance there is that the government could fall and the UK will end up giving up on Brexit altogether. But if that doesn’t happen, the EU has two very obvious objectives.

First it wants to screw as much money out of the UK as it can in order that it can go on spending and won’t have to ask other states to make up for the huge gap in funding that would otherwise be left behind by a departing Britain.

Secondly, the EU will do what it can to tie the UK’s hands, post-Brexit. The aim of this will be to stop the UK reaping the full benefits of its new found freedom. Brussels will want to stop the UK undercutting the EU on taxes and regulation or doing deals with other countries – the very things that make Brexit – economically speaking – worth doing. Talk of a “transition period” epitomises this.

The way things are going, the UK is simply going to end up being dragged along by its nose and kept in permanent orbit around the EU. As Boris Johnson has rightly pointed out before he was shouted down by the Remainers – that would be the worst of all possible worlds.

So the key question is how do we force the EU into a position from where it has no choice but to offer us a reasonable deal, but one that still delivers on the essentials of Brexit?

Time to make a stand

Theresa May and her government (which is full of Remainers), too often gives the appearance of being scared of leaving the EU without a withdrawal agreement. The desire to cling on in a transition period illustrates this.

What she needs to do is make clear to Brussels that the UK has gone as far as it can in relation to the three pre-conditions of NI, citizens rights and the “Brexit bill”. We cannot and will not agree to pay anything to the EU after we have left, except possibly as part of an overall deal. Agreeing payments now, as the EU is demanding, is impossible.

The message should be that if the EU still insists on our making such a commitment before it will talk about the future, we will have no choice but to withdraw from further talks and work on the assumption that we leave without a deal in March 2019. Full and serious preparations need to be made and publicised to prepare the country for “no deal”. This cannot be a bluff. It must be real.

Pressure on EU

If the UK adopts that stance, then the EU will be faced with an unpalatable situation.

First, as of March 2019, it will no longer be receiving any money from Britain. So it will have to immediately revise its financial budgeting for the remainder of the current financial framework period up to the end of 2020. That will be painful and difficult because no other states will want to pay more than they already do. The UK’s offer to pay another two years’ worth of contributions will suddenly look very attractive indeed.

Secondly, for EU exporters, the nightmare prospect is that the UK will free up trade with other countries and the tariff-free access EU exporters have enjoyed in the huge UK market will disappear. EU producers will face stiffer competition from US, Australian, Japanese and other goods without the tariff advantage they have previously enjoyed. The main European economies of Germany, France, Italy and Spain all run trade surpluses with the UK. They stand to lose much.

And this is the EU’s catch 22. It wants to punish Britain. But if it does, it will inevitably hurt the economies of its own member states in the process. Sure, Britain will suffer too, but the pain will also be felt in Europe. That will do nothing for the EU’s popularity as jobs are lost and livelihoods destroyed – all to keep the EU’s vanity project on track and to spite Britain.

Wiser heads are likely to prevail when faced with the unattractive consequences of a punishment approach to Britain. But they won’t be heard as long as the UK keeps giving in to bullying and making concessions.

Don’t do it May

May is under pressure from Remainers who have foolishly whipped themselves up in a frenzy about the supposed perils of a no deal exit. It is as though she sees a deal with the EU as almost an end in itself, her political salvation perhaps, rather than a means to an end. The danger is that if she keeps giving away more and more concessions, she and her Remain colleagues, together with the Remainer civil service, will end up tethering Britain to the EU in the worst possible way.

The Brexiteers were correct to demand that Mrs May walk away from talks.

The fear is that her desperation to “to a deal” could ruin Brexit. It must not be allowed to happen.

Even Jeremy Hunt has had EUnough

Introduction

As the Secretary of State for Health in a Conservative government, it’s fair to say that Jeremy Hunt has not always been the most popular of politicians. But even he must have had millions of voters nodding in agreement during his refreshingly frank interview on 3 October 2017 with Ian Dale on LBC..

Hunt admitted in the interview that he’d supported Remain in the EU referendum due to his concern about the short-term impact of a Leave vote on the British economy. But he’d been pleasantly surprised at how his worst fears had not been realised. He also expressed his impatience with the attitude of the EU in the Brexit negotiations, lamenting what he termed their “arrogance” in the face of the UK’s repeated gestures of goodwill.

What conclusions do we draw from Hunt’s comments?

Hunt’s answers to Dale’s questions are interesting in two respects.

First, they tend to confirm what this writer has long believed about a good many Remain voters: that many of them voted to Remain not out of any great enthusiasm for the supposed “benefits” of EU membership, but because, like Hunt, they had been scared into supporting the status quo by the relentless propaganda of Project Fear.

Thus, if during the referendum campaign, the government had been more honest and less intent upon dressing up unlikely worst case scenarios as presumed facts, the Leave majority would probably have been much higher than 52% of the vote.

The second interesting aspect of Hunt’s comments is that they suggest the EU’s continued obstructionism and intransigence in the Brexit talks is finally starting to convince even moderate Remainers that the Commission is not negotiating in good faith.

This is important because the more unreasonable the EU is and the more absurd its demands are (and they are absurd), the more likely it is that even those who would have favoured compromise in the negotiations are coming to realise that we may have to leave without a deal. In other words, just as the EU pushed the UK too far during David Cameron’s ill-fated attempt at “renegotiation” in 2016 leading to an eventual Brexit vote, so the EU could be making the same mistake again.

In our next post on Brexitblog, we will examine what the government can and should do to change the mindset of the current negotiations and wrestle back the initiative from the EU. Sadly, whether Theresa May is capable of following this advice remains to be seen…

EU’s Brexit insanity

Introduction

As David Davis embarks upon another Brexit negotiating round with his opposite number in Brussels, let’s take a rain check.

The EU 27 export over £300 billion of goods to the UK each year.  They do so tariff free and make a healthy trade surplus in doing so.  Huge numbers of jobs within the EU and the livelihoods of millions of families depend on that trading relationship.  You might think, therefore, that the No.1 priority for the EU27 in their Brexit negotiations with the UK would be in securing that crucial economic relationship.  Wouldn’t you?

Well, you’d be wrong.

It is abundantly clear that the EU elite and their ridiculous “negotiator” Mr Barnier have no interest protecting those jobs and livelihoods.  Their sole priority is to protect the edifice they are building, namely the authoritarian,  centralised European superstate they call “the Union”.  They believe that in order to protect their cherished dream of an “ever closer union” of European states, they must be seen to punish anyone who steps out of line.  The Greeks briefly rebelled against “the Union” but inevitably were crushed.  Their gigantic economic mess left them too weak to resist.

But the UK, for all its problems, is a different beast.  A majority of its voters had the guts to resist an unprecedented campaign of fear during the UK’s 2016 referendum.  Despite large numbers of people no doubt being cowed and scared into voting Remain, astonishingly a majority still voted to leave the EU.

Despite various attempts since last June to derail the referendum decision, the UK remains on track to leave in March 2019.  Meantime, the biggest threat to a successful Brexit outcome continues to be from within.  Divisions within the government as to how to approach Brexit and the treacherous manoeuvrings of the opposition threaten to weaken our negotiating stance at the very moment when we need them to be strong.

It is time to put the remoaners in their place.

Upside down negotiations

The EU is terrified of the impact of losing the UK’s enormous budget contributions – believed to be net figure of around £10 billion a year.  It has continued to press – absurdly – for the UK to pay a golden goodbye in the form of a “Brexit bill”.  There is no legal liability for such a payment to be made and no justification for it.  But by trying to strong arm the UK and refusing to talk about trade, they are hoping to bully the British people (or rather the politicians representing them) into easing the EU’s budgetary headache after we’ve gone.  Their gambit is to refuse to talk about their own £300 billion trading relationship with the UK until we surrender on the “Brexit bill”.  They no doubt derive encouragement from the “useful idiots” (i.e. the remoaners) in the UK establishment tweeting their support.

Article 50(2) of the EU Treaty, very sensibly envisages that when a member state leaves the EU, the parties need to resolve not only exit terms but also at the same time how they will trade with each other going forward.

The EU is wilfully departing from that obligation.  It refuses to discuss both aspects of Brexit

Its conduct is reprehensible.  It is also irresponsible.

How much longer are elected politicians in EU countries going to sit back and allow Barnier and his cronies to behave in this fashion?  It is insanity.

Wake up call

If no deal is reached with the EU concerning future trade, then from the end of March 2019, the parties will fall back on WTO rules.  Tariffs will be imposed on the £300 billion of goods sold by the EU to the UK (and vice versa).  But with the pound having fallen so far in value and with a big deficit on trade with the EU, this can only hurt EU exporters harder than it will hit the UK.

The grown ups in the EU, elected politicians there and business leaders need to wake up and fast.  If they do not, then they will find their dole queues lengthening and their export markets shrinking.    The UK may not emerge unscathed.  But – politicians permitting – we at least will have the freedom to take measures to protect ourselves.   We can lower taxes and cut regulation to make the UK even more attractive for overseas investment and job creation.  We can open up markets through free trade relationships with other countries.    By contrast, the EU is sluggish and cumbersome.  It cannot do anything quickly or flexibly.

If Brexit proves to be a success, it is the beginning of the end for the EU.

Torn apart by the migrant crisis and soon to be squabbling over who will make up the budget shortfall caused by the UK’s exit, it is unlikely that Britain will be the last country to leave.

Stay firm Mr Davis.  This is a defining moment for the country.

 

Remoaners are the EU’s “useful idiots”

Introduction

In politics, a “useful idiot” (or “useful fool”) is a person perceived as a propagandist for a cause, the goals of which they are not fully aware of, and who is used cynically by the leaders of that cause.  It’s a term coined during the Russian revolution in 1917 which is making a comeback in Brexit Britain.

In the run up to the UK’s referendum on EU membership, barely a day went by without a relentless barrage of increasingly hysterical “Project fear” propaganda from the pro-EU side,  warning us of instant economic disaster if we dared to vote Leave.

Since 23 June 2016, virtually none of those predictions have proved to be correct.  Apart from the fall in sterling (which has its upsides too), supporters of the Project Fear mantra have largely been discredited.  The instant doom they promised us has not happened.  So they’ve been forced to change tactics.

Now, we are told, Brexit is going to be a disaster.  This Project Fear Mark 2 has been in action for months now.  Every piece of pro-EU news is trumpeted as proof of how silly we’ve been to think of leaving.  Meanwhile, every possible effort is made to denigrate the UK government and the country and to convince us all that resistance to staying in the EU is futile.

Something has happened to those “Remainers” who supported staying in the EU before the referendum.  Many of them have morphed into what we now call “Remoaners”.

These Remoaners display common characteristics.

They pour vitriol on those who voted to leave and dismiss all of us as dimwits and racists who fell for a slogan on a bus.  Yes really.  They want to set aside the referendum result and would happily ignore the clear majority vote to leave.

They lost the biggest democratic vote the UK has ever had.  But they refuse to accept it.

“Useful idiots”

In the process, however,  they do nothing but divide and undermine the country.

To the EU’s Brexit negotiators they have become what Lenin used to describe as “useful idiots”.  By suggesting that we might yet change our minds on Brexit and reverse the decision, they simply encourage Brussels to believe that being aggressive and unhelpful to Britain will yield results.

The ridiculous demand made of the UK to pay a so-called “Brexit bill” for which there is no legal case whatsoeveris part and parcel of that, as are dire warnings of lories queuing for miles to the channel ports while customs paperwork is completed.  Given that most of the goods travelling across the channel are actually goods coming from the rest of the EU to Britain, such threats are insane.  Yet such is the detachment of the pampered bureaucrats who run the EU, that they simply don’t understand – nor appear to care -what damage they will do to the lives of ordinary people whose jobs and livelihoods depend on smooth trade with Britain.

But never mind –  the Remoaners are right behind them.

Cracking up?

After years of the UK economy outperforming most of the EU,  few months of data have been cited as proof by the Remoaners that it’s all going pear-shaped for Britain.  A bank that employs thousands in the UK opens a representative office in Germany for a handful of staff and suddenly the Remoaners scream that all our jobs are going abroad.  You know the drill:  British agriculture will die without foreign fruit pickers; the NHS will collapse without migrants.  And so on.

It’s nonsense.

Yet astonishingly, so determined are these new Project Fear merchants that the UK should suffer after Brexit that they would rather scupper any chance of a UK trade deal with our single most important trading partner – the US – rather than see us succeed.    Yes, so desperate have the Remoaners become, that even hapless chlorinated chickens have been drafted into the forefront of Project Fear’s arguments.  Never mind the millions of poisoned Dutch eggs brimming with illegal insecticides that the EU allowed to be imported into the UK.   They don’t matter.

Personally,  I think the Remoaners are cracking up.

Message to EU: Reality can bite you back.

An Article  entitled “Reality Bites” published by the head of the European Policy Centre starkly highlights arrogance of the EU elite and how they could be about to make another massive blunder over Brexit.

Introduction

The European Commission’s Deputy Chief Brexit Negotiator is Sabine Weyand.   On 24 July 2017 she approvingly tweeted an article by Fabian Zuleeg, the CEO of the so-called European Policy Centre.  The article was entitled “Reality Bites” and purports to give the view of Brexit negotiations from the other side of the Channel.

The article provides an illuminating insight into the mindset of the EU establishment and of the arrogant attitudes held by some towards Britain: the same attitudes that directly contributed to Brexit happening in the first place.  These attitudes may well cause further damage to Europe in ways they do not expect.

EU’s attitude to Brexit

This commentator is not alone in regarding the EU’s behaviour towards Britain following the Brexit vote as having been nothing short of a disgrace.

We are a country that has contributed many billions of pounds to the EU over decades. We are still doing so even now.

Having helped to rescue Europe from Nazi tyranny in WW2, we subsequently kept a standing army in Germany at vast expense to help protect Europe from Soviet aggression during the cold war.  In fact, our contribution to the European continent’s peace and prosperity has been above and  beyond the call of duty.   Yet we are now vilified and treated as pariahs by the EU.  Why? Because, following the biggest democratic vote in our country’s history, our electorate made a historic decision to leave the EU – as we are perfectly entitled to do in accordance with the EU Treaties.

It is typical of the EU elite that instead of accepting this decision with good grace and adjusting their financial planning to take account of the impending loss of the UK’s huge budget contributions, the EU has instead behaved like a petulant child and demanded money from us with menaces    In effect, the ridiculous (wholly unjustified) demand for Britain to agree a €100 billion “divorce” bill from the outset of negotiations is nothing less than an attempt at extortion.

Against that background, it is extraordinary that Mr Zuleeg’s article should criticise Britain for the way it has supposedly “burned bridges” in the Brexit negotiations.   We would respectfully suggest that he re-reads Theresa May’s eminently polite Article 50 letter and then reads a digest of speeches and statements by EU leaders since the referendum.  Enough said.

Frankly, to anyone who knows anything about British history, the whole idea that by threatening to punish the UK and making unreasonable demands of us, the EU can somehow bully us into coming back in, displays a level of self-delusion that is hard to fathom.

EU mindset

Mr Zuleeg’s article is clear in its themes: the EU’s position is strong while the UK’s is weak; the EU cannot compromise but the UK must do so in order to get a deal; the UK is politically divided while “the EU27” are united; a no-deal Brexit will be very damaging to the UK, but not really for the EU.  Blah Blah Blah.

Much more interesting than this tiresome posturing, is his perception of how the UK’s negotiating has been affected by the general election result.  Further,  as those of us who support Brexit have feared all along, the antics of the minority of Remoaners at home and their continued opposition to Brexit have been deeply damaging to our country’s national interests.  If what is stated in this article is to be believed, their efforts are evidently helping to fuel the erroneous belief in Brussels, that there is somehow an increasing appetite in the UK to reverse the referendum result and for Britain to crawl back into the embrace of the EU.  Nothing could be further from the truth

In the 1980s,  the support given to the IRA by left wing politicians like Jeremy Corbyn encouraged the Provisionals to believe that their campaign of terror would eventually weaken Britain’s political resolve towards Northern Ireland.   It was a delusion.  In the same way, in 2017,  the relentless, sneering negativity about the UK’s prospects from the Remoaners, and the continuation of their absurd Project Fear campaign, appear to be encouraging Brussels to believe that if it takes a tough enough line in the negotiations, the UK will crumble.

Mixed messages from members of our own government have admittedly not helped the situation.   Nor has the now lame duck premiership of Theresa May.  Certainly these factors do not assist in persuading to take Britain seriously.  But we are where we are.

However, despite these undeniable negatives, the fundamentals of Brexit have not changed.   It was the right decision last June and it is the right way forward now.

So the time has come to stop dividing ourselves and for the UK show some fighting spirit. We do not have to dance to the EU’s tune.  We can stand tall in these negotiations.  And if we don’t like what is on offer, we can and should walk away.   There is a whole world out there beyond the EU and it is the EU that currently enjoys a trade surplus with us, not the other way around.  During the next full multi-annual financial framework period, if it had stayed in, the UK would have been expected to contribute net sums of over €80 billion to the EU budget.  That is a massive financial hole to fill and the EU are petrified of having to fill it – as they will have to do.

Ultimately, if we walk away, sooner or later the EU will want to talk to us again.  A sensible trading arrangement might then become possible.  But only when EU officials finally grow up and emerge from their post-Brexit sulk.

Contempt for democracy

Mr Zuleeg, like other pro-EU figures,  cannot hide his contempt for the concept of democracy and political accountability when it comes to the European Project  With astonishing frankness he sums this up when he says::

“A deal….will only be possible if the UK accepts the EU’s red lines while..breaking the promises made to the UK electorate….”

The mindset behind the EU’s uncompromising stance towards the UK is further highlighted by this passage:

“If the UK realises that any deal would be far inferior to full membership and inflict significant political costs on the UK, there could even be a reconsideration of the UK’s decision to leave…….”

(There is no suggestion of course that the UK electorate should have any say in that “reconsideration” of our EU Membership.  Perish the thought).

Mr Zuleeg is deluded if he thinks that there is any wish on the part of the UK electorate to reverse the Brexit process.  The EU’s arrogant and hostile stance towards the U.K. has surely hardened the Leave vote and probably converted many Remain voters into supporting Brexit too.

Another more amusing theme of Mr Zuleeg’s article is the supposed unity of the so-called “EU27” which he contrasts with his view of the UK’s divided society.

Unity of the EU27.  Really?

In reality, the notion of EU unity is laughable.

One does not doubt for a moment that many EU countries are united by a desire to extract as much money as possible from the UK when it leaves, so as to prop up the EU’s spending plans.   (Britain’s departure will cost the EU many tens of billions of Euros over the years immediately following our exit).  The alternative is for EU spending to be cut (something they are pathologically unable to do) or for Member States to increase their own contributions to the EU budget.  Neither are palatable options.

But that is as far as it goes.  The fault lines in the EU are already visible for all to see.

For example,  the Commission is at war with Poland and Hungary over their flat refusal to countenance taking in quotas of migrants from Africa and the Middle East.  Poland’s recent constitutional changes have also led to the threat of suspension of its EU voting rights.  Meanwhile the EU’s total paralysis in the face of the continuing migrant crisis is causing tensions from the Mediterranean to the North Sea.  Voters may not have swept anti-EU parties to power in Holland or France earlier in the year.  But if things do not change,  the likes of Le Pen and Wilders will bounce back.  Italy meanwhile teeters on the brink, it’s banking system is still in crisis and anti-EU parties  continue to ride high in the polls.

The victory of the pro-EU Macron in France may have caused a sigh of relief in Brussels, but rabid EUphile that he is, even Macron recognises the need for reform if the EU is to survive.  The trouble is, in the eyes of the Germans, his recipe for reform is about as welcome as a dose of arsenic.  It will not happen.

Finally, while the EU negotiators posture and sneer at Britain, there are signs that businesses in EU countries are becoming uneasy at the potential damage that will be done to hundreds of thousands of German, Spanish and Italian jobs if Britain ends up imposing tariffs on the EU with whom we have a huge trade deficit.

in short, the potential for squabbles to break out among the EU27 over Brexit is limitless.

Reality check

The EU overplayed its hand when sending David Cameron home empty handed from his ill-judged attempt at the “renegotiation” of Britain’s relationship with the EU.  All the signs are that EU leaders have learned nothing from that episode and that they are about to repeat the same mistake in the Brexit negotiations.

Politically, it would appear at present that the government is keen to secure a tariff-free trade deal with the EU, probably in return for some sort of annual subscription.  That, so it appears to think, would look good to the electorate.  But the more voters see and hear of the arrogance and disrespect being shown towards Britain by Barnier and his negotiators, the more obvious it will become that the EU’s agenda is to try and punish Britain and to bully it back in.  The EU also wants to continue controlling us through its Court of Justice.

If the EU’s aggressive and bullying stance does not change, it is more likely that the UK electorate will demand a tougher line from its political leaders.   If enough work is put into preparing for a “no deal” exit scenario, it may be that “no deal” will prove a popular (and vote winning) option after all.

Reality can bite back

So the message to the likes of Ms Weyand and Mr Zuleeg is that reality does indeed bite. But it may bite the EU back in ways they do not expect and in a way which may cause a great deal of  political and economic pain for the EU.

The solution is clear: stop treating the UK with contempt and stop cutting off Europe’s nose to spite Britain’s face.  You will only regret it in the end.