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The UK has displayed conspicuous goodwill. Now is the time for the European Union to reciprocate

Michel Barnier, the EU negotiator CREDIT: REUTERS


The talks have turned into such a ritual of frustration that it is remarkable that my friend and former colleague David Davis retains his patience and good humour.

Time, as Barnier repeatedly reminds us, is passing. It is now over six months since we served notice of withdrawal under Article 50 and less than 18 months before we are due to leave.

There can be little doubt that the EU is stringing out the negotiations with a view to piling pressure on the United Kingdom.

The longer that discussion of the future relationship is delayed, they undoubtedly calculate, the less time the UK will have to prepare for life outside the EU and the more inclined it will be to agree to a substantial divorce settlement and a diluted Brexit – possibly with continued freedom of movement and British submission to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

Clearly, it is in the interests of both the UK and the EU to have a good relationship after March 2019. Britain is seeking a comprehensive free trade agreement with the EU.

Theresa May reacts before a second session at the European Union summit in Tallinn, Estonia in September
Theresa May reacts before a second session at the European Union summit in Tallinn, Estonia in September CREDIT: AFP 


If mutual economic benefit, rather than doctrinaire politics, were the primary consideration, it is hard to see why the EU should be reluctant to discuss such an arrangement, given that the UK will be its most important export market post-Brexit.

Furthermore, Article 50 provides that withdrawal negotiations should take into account the framework of the future relationship between the departing member state and the continuing EU.

The European Union, otherwise such a punctiliously legalistic entity, is therefore in flagrant breach of its own founding treaty. It is behaving very badly.

The European Council, which is to be held this week, comes at an important time in the withdrawal process. Given the EU’s stubborn intransigence, it is the moment when the Prime Minster should make clear that the United Kingdom’s patience is not indefinite.

In her Florence speech last month, Mrs May made a very fair offer to the EU, saying that the UK would honour all financial commitments made during its membership, so that no other member state should be worse off as a consequence of our departure.

She could hardly have done more. Her offer, however, appears to have been rebuffed.

The Prime Minister should therefore firmly inform the Council this week that if the EU does not very soon confirm its willingness to discuss the future relationship, the UK will suspend further negotiations until such time as it is ready to do so.

We will not be willing to wait, as the EU clearly wants, until the December Council.

In the meantime, we will begin preparations for a new trading relationship with the EU on World Trade Organization terms – which, given the scale of European exports to the UK, would probably prove unwelcome to EU manufacturers.

At the same time, the Chancellor should make provision for the funding that will be needed to underpin that new relationship: providing, for example, for extensive new customs facilities and associated IT.

Such a declaration will send a powerful signal to the EU that trying to make the United Kingdom sweat is a strategy that will not work.

It should, therefore, result in either an early breach of the negotiating logjam or a recognition by Brussels that its stubbornness is founded on political, rather than economic, considerations.

In either case, it will have moved matters along. A good relationship with the EU is highly desirable.

The United Kingdom has displayed conspicuous goodwill. Now is the time for the European Union to reciprocate.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/10/14/uk-has-displayed-conspicuous-goodwill-now-time-european-union/

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2 Comments on "The UK has displayed conspicuous goodwill. Now is the time for the European Union to reciprocate"

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John Bailey
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Excellent article, if only the PM was able to execute.

Bill
Guest

peeing in the wind springs to mind.

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