Sadly, it was the only way. Despite numerous attempts to engage warmly and reasonably with the European Union, the UK’s chief negotiator David Frost has been forced to issue an ultimatum. The long version, firm but elegant, was contained in his recent statement. The short version is, “play ball – or go hang.”
The impasse was inevitable. The EU has refused to engage constructively in these negotiations. The Franco-German alliance which dictates Brussels’ strategy has been, throughout this process, more concerned with punishing the UK and thereby scaring dissident, increasingly EU-sceptic member states back into their box, than securing a reasonably, mutually beneficial deal.
The EU is negotiating neither from a position of strength, nor, it seems, a position of reality.
It’s a self-defeating and stupid approach from Brussels. The EU is bust, struggling with not only a health crisis, but a funding crisis too. Its members are growing increasingly restless, and restive, yet it’s still wasting time and capital on a perverse and unwarranted Brexit vendetta. How could a sovereign UK possibly grant the EU unfettered access to our fishing waters? How could it possibly give the EU permanent control over our taxation? How could it possibly allow it continued domination over our laws? The EU is negotiating neither from a position of strength, nor, it seems, a position of reality.
We should be relaxed about the talks failing. Despite its systemic weaknesses, the European Union is currently making it impossible for them to succeed. Originally they were quite happy with a Canada-style free trade agreement, as indeed were most Brexiteers. Where once they accused us of “cherry-picking”, now it’s the other way round.
The truth is, the European Union has never been entirely rational. Forced to try and accommodate so many competing economies and cultures, not to mention personalities, the temperament of the union has become increasingly schizophrenic and confused. Why else would it move its Parliament back and forth across the continent every half-year, at great cost and inconvenience, simply to appease the French? Wastage to satisfy egos is the worst wastage of all.
There is still hope that a reasonable settlement will be achieved. The EU has form on dragging its feet, on posturing then rowing back. It has always been my view that the EU would only commit to anything bordering on a mutually acceptable arrangement at the 11th hour.
Gorbachev once remarked that “the most puzzling development in politics… is the apparent determination of Western European Leaders to re-create the Soviet Union in Western Europe.” The EU was born of high ideals, but it has descended, slowly but surely, into sclerosis. Rhetoric has replaced action. The European project is out of date and insecure. What better evidence of insecurity and decline than Germany’s new law, jailing dissenters who burn the EU flag?
You can’t constrain the human spirit – and it’s the innate vibrancy and optimism of the human spirit which fuels Brexit. As a sovereign state, we will be able to set our own tax levels and our own laws. We will be able to deregulate, and declutter. We will be able to innovate and invent. The Coronacrisis has changed the way we do business, and we will be better placed to do business without the dead hand of Brussels pulling us back. The EU may be losing its mind over our fishing waters, but we have bigger fish to fry.
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