As the second round of negotiations comes to end, despite the outward facade of achievement, it is becoming increasingly clear that there a major differences between the UK and EU’s position over the Brexit deal. Whether or not the UK team, led by David Davis, is at all underprepared or have not got the details to hand, the fact would appear to be that the Commission is becoming irrational in their demands. If this continues, the UK government will have no option than to leave the EU without a Brexit deal. The other other options are for either party to readjust their ‘red lines’. If the UK retrenches, this will mean they gain a deal, but no Brexit. If the Commission does so, it means the policy of “punishing” Britain for Brexit will have to be dropped. The stakes are remarkably high on both sides, and with the current system of ‘megaphone negotiation’, the first option is looking increasingly likely.
Dr. Fox has proposed we have a ‘Transitional Phase’ before we sign a new trade agreement with the EU, that could last up to three years. He states he has been waiting all his life to leave the EU, and another two years won’t make a difference to him. If patience is a virtue, then Dr Fox must be a virtuous man. More so than myself, for although I would be happy to wait another two years to achieve a post-Brexit free trade agreement, I do not see it happening.
The EU have made it extraordinarily clear that we must settle Brexit first before we can continue to post-Brexit relations, and they have made extortionate demands on the UK for the first step. These demands often clearly overstep the Red Lines the Prime Minister has remarked. As mentioned in previous articles, unless we solve this issue, the only option is to leave without a deal, or we will not have anything that can be accurately referred to as ‘Brexit’. Therefore, if we reach an impasse within six months of Article 50’s ‘official transitional phase’, will adding more time help in any way? I strongly suspect it will not.
Dr Fox continued by stating that he viewed a trade agreement with the EU nations as the simplest and easiest to perform. Again, if we were conducting an agreement with the nations within the EU, I would agree with him. Unfortunately, we are not. We are negotiating with the EU Commission, whose motto for Brexit would appear to be “Brexit means Beatings”.
The Commission is clearly becoming increasingly irrational and greedy in their demands to the UK. Unless this ends within the two years stipulated by Article 50, we will have two options:
- Accept whatever the EU offers – the “bad deal”
- Leave without a deal – “no deal”
While the Prime Minister has made it repeatedly clear that no deal is better than a bad deal, it would seem her Cabinet is not united in this belief. This is unfortunate, as May does need a strong negotiating hand in the Battle of the Red Lines. The Commission does not wish to see Britain succeed outside of the EU, and appears to be trying to ensure we do not. Therefore, if we are to stick to our Red Lines, we must be prepared to leave the table and perform a “Unilateral Brexit”.
Therefore, as we are more than likely to leave without a deal – unless the Prime Minister folds – we will need to be prepared for such eventualities. Therefore, it would be wise for the government to begin planning for that now.
- Redeploy our small group of negotiations to conduct worthwhile trade deals with nation who wish to do so with us. It will be hard to know which nations, but it is imperative the government do so. We need as many FTAs to be signed on the day we officially leave to create as seamless a transfer as possible.
- Inform the EU Commissions that when we do leave without a deal – which we shall unless they begin to negotiate seriously as opposed to merely holding forth – we will not operate under WTO rules. We unilaterally operate trade in goods, services and capital as if we were still members of the Single Market. Therefore, we will continue as before so all EU based companies will have no change what so ever when it comes to trading with or investing in the UK. However, we will inform the EU that while we will not place any restrictions, be they Tariffs, Quotas or Non-Tarrif Barriers to Trade, we will respond in kind to any EU restrictions. If they decide not to make a special case for UK exports to the EU to not face quotas or tariffs, we will reciprocate. If they tax UK built cars at 10%, we will charge a 10% import duty to all cars made in the Common Market.
This proposal, I believe, will clearly place the ball in the EU’s court and make full use of the advantage we have due to the trading imbalance. If necessary, the money we would make from the tariffs we could use to pay for the EU import tariffs UK businesses will face. Due to the imbalance of payments, the UK would ‘win’ any tariff war. This is an advantage the UK has and needs to be used to its full potential: We do not want a tariffs war by any means, but if the Commission do, we should be prepared to take the moral & economic high ground. The EU are trying to appear as the reasonable party, and it is imperative the UK takes that from them, especially for domestic audiences and public understanding of the Brexit process.
To ensure the public remain fully updated with the negotiations is an important task that the government needs to become involved with. It was released that the Barnier suggested that in exchange for us accepting the authority of the ECJ over EU citizens in the UK, any UK citizen in a EU member state would maintain access to all EU rights. However, if the Briton chose to move to another EU member state, he would not do so. This is “fair” as defined by Barnier.
We are nearly refighting the referendum again over the concept of a “soft” Brexit, but fortunately, May would appear to be firmly on course. Yet now is not the time for brexiteers to rest on their laurels: that must wait until 2019. Because the negotiations are not proceeding with the equanimity as hoped formed, we must be prepared to restart campaigning: pressure groups, and the Brexit supporting press needs to ensure a steady pressure is maintained on the government to guarantee a proper (or “hard” or “clean”) Brexit occurs. I sincerely hope it does not come to it, but it may have to approach the determination and ubiquity of the “Guilty Men” campaign of mid-1940, when a few appeasement supporting British politicians risked derailing Churchill’s premiership and force Britain to sue for peace rather than continue to fight after France’s collapse and subsequent surrender.
Unfortunately, Brexit may well be at stake, and if we must have a mass campaign to “name and shame” the irrational, illogical, and outrageous positions Barnier’s team have so firmly entrenched themselves in, then we must. The announcement of the Labour Party to effectively begin a guerrilla campaign against the Great Repeal Act – while doubtless providing Corbyn pleasure to compare himself to Guevara – could lead to all EU law having no grounding in the UK in 2019. This would be disastrous for all UK based business, and hamstringing the act would by no means prevent or soften Brexit. It would mean that Brexit would become needlessly painful for the citizens of the UK.
Does such a strategy require a lot of nerve? Most certainly. But such a stance is by no means our first choice. It is not even our secondary choice – it is our last resort. It is “going nuclear”: It must be used only in the last resort, but we must be prepared to use it. Hopefully, the ‘risk’ of us doing so will be enough to bring the Commission to the negotiating table for some meaningful discussion. I am not a supporter of a “Unilateral Brexit”, yet I believe we ought to prepare contingency plans and be prepared to put it into action if necessary. Brexit means taking back control, and if we must do so via economic brinksmanship, then I fear it will be the lesser evil by far: Barnier and the Eurocrats can’t be allowed to sabotage Brexit.