So, Eurocrats want the UK to agree a hefty ‘divorce settlement’ before they will proceed to trade talks. This reminds me of a scenario to which I have referred recently here on UKIP Daily. Very nearly 12 years ago, the then Prime Minister Tony Blair returned from meetings with various members of the Brussels elite, triumphantly proclaiming that he had persuaded them to review the Common Agricultural Policy. This is the one that at that time took up 43% of the whole of the EU budget, and of that sum, a quarter went to French farmers.
Much of the problem with French farmers, I believe, is that when the farmer dies, his estate is split between his children, ensuring every farm becomes smaller and smaller and therefore less and less efficient. Here in the UK, farms go to the next of kin upon the demise of the farmer, so it is often the eldest son who inherits the lot.
But back to Blair. He agreed to relinquish a billion pounds of the rebate hard won by Margaret Thatcher, which was at least a third of the amount we were paying the EU at that time. In exchange, the eurocrats said they would schedule a spending review four years later, in 2009, to which the French agreed. I don’t know if that spending review ever took place or whether they took one look at the CAP and decided it was absolutely fine as it was, but certainly no changes were made to it.
Why should they make changes? The inefficient French farmers were coining it in and the efficient British farmers got very little. That suited the French down to the ground, and the British? Who gives a toss about British farmers?
Back to the present. It seems Barnier and his team are saying they won’t even talk about a trade deal until we have committed to a multi-billion euro payment. So once we have said we’ll give them €100billion or whatever is the latest figure they have pulled out the hat, what’s to stop them offering us the most appalling deal ever?
They could say we can trade but we are not allowed to put any tariffs on our goods but they’ll slap huge tariffs on anything we buy from them, or some such other one-sided deal. And if we get narky about it, they’ll just refer us to the document they made us sign agreeing to pay the huge ‘divorce settlement’. “Well, you signed, Mrs May, and we didn’t promise anything but talks about trade,” they’ll say. “Take it or leave it.” They’ll have the UK by the short and curlies.
The EU negotiating team is very good at saying “nothing is agreed until everything is agreed” and yet they are insisting we agree upfront to this ‘divorce payment’ before they will agree to discuss trade. It seems there’s one rule for the EU and one rule for the UK. Nothing new there then.
Mrs May has been reported as being ready to raise the £18billion she has already offered in an attempt to break the deadlock and it is understood that some leading Remainers feel this might be a small price to pay for trade talks, but it seems to me that the EU is asking us to pay for something we haven’t yet got and don’t know anything about, and might even not want once it is laid out before us.
But it’s not just the money Barnier is on about. The latest demand is for a ‘hard’ border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, and he’s also suggested Northern Ireland become a separate state, rather like Hong Kong. The temerity of the man! How dare he suggest the breakup of the four nations that make up the United Kingdom! Who the hell does he think he is?
And the third sticking point in the Brexit negotiations is the rights of citizens in each others’ countries. Mrs May has said she will protect the rights of EU citizens in the UK, even going as far as promising to take the rulings of the European court into account when decisions are made in our own courts, providing the EU reciprocates with UK citizens. No such reciprocal promise has been made and it seems that the EU’s negotiators are insisting that we not only take the rulings of the European court into account but promise to stick to them rigidly. Do we really want a foreign court having jurisdiction over the people of the United Kingdom? I know how I feel about that.
One wonders why the EU negotiators are being so intransigent. If Barnier and his team had made a few concessions, then Davis’ team – and the British people – might have looked upon them a little more favourably. Rather than make an outrageous demand about how much they want, if their demands were reasonable and they let us know how much they might accept for this deal we, too, could be reasonable, but it seems that every time Mrs May suggests a figure, it’s “Non!”, followed by “we want more but we’re not going to tell you how much”. All this talk of ‘clarification’ – it’s not clarity they want, it’s just more money. Mrs May should tell them the situation is perfectly clear: this is how much we’ll give and no more.
I can’t see any move at all towards a settlement from the other side. Barnier was quoted some time ago saying he “would not move one iota” from the demand for €100 billion euros. If that’s the case, we might just as well finish negotiations now.
Perhaps their intransigence is because they want to ensure we pay through the nose to trade with the bloc and get little or nothing in return, or because the just don’t want us to leave at all and are doing their damnedest to stop us. If that’s the case, they have seriously misjudged the British character. We Brits are at our best when we have our backs to the wall.