This week the European Union continued its obstinate approach to the Brexit negotiations, with the release of the European Council’s draft guidelines for our future relationship. Following the conciliatory steps taken by the Prime Minister in her Mansion House speech last Friday, these guidelines further demonstrate the stubborn and belligerent tact being pursued by our European ‘partners’. Having approached these discussions with good faith and a sense of cooperative optimism, it is becoming increasingly clear the Government’s efforts are falling on deaf ears.
Not only have the Eurocrats continued their desperate campaign to try and lure Financial Services away from City of London to less glamorous locations on the Continent, but they have engaged in a display of ludicrous “cherry-picking”.
By failing to offer us access to the Single Market in some specific sectors, whilst simultaneously demanding the UK continues its wholehearted commitment to European Security, allowing tariff free access of European goods, and permitting European vessels to fish UK waters, the EU itself is trying to “have its cake and eat it”.
As one of Continent’s largest defence spenders, with access to the world’s most comprehensive intelligence alliance (the Anglosphere Five Eyes) and a proud history of foreign policy leadership, it is vital for the EU to secure the closest possible security relationship with the UK, Post-Brexit. Our strategic expertise in areas such as diplomatic sanctions, coupled with our stature on the world stage – enhanced by our nuclear deterrent and ‘full-spectrum’ military capabilities – would be invaluable for an EU otherwise facing a dearth of such resources.
It is right the Government wants to continue this co-operation when Britain is outside the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy. However, Theresa May must not unilaterally pledge our continued support in this area without reciprocal promises from those on the other side of the negotiating table – for example, on important issues such as Financial Services. As the draft guidelines state, the EU wants “as close as possible a partnership” in the areas of “security, defence and foreign policy”. We have something to offer them, and vice versa. So there is no reason a more realistic deal cannot be made.
The EU’s insistence the UK does not place tariffs on European goods after Brexit is unsurprising. The Continent runs a trade surplus of goods with the UK of over £60 billion per year, and we are their single biggest export market. It is mostly in their interests to avoid the addition of tariffs and to keep this trade as free and seamless as possible. We can already see German car manufactures and Italian wine producers fretting about the impact of World Trade Organisation tariffs on their industries. For the UK, however, only 20% of our GDP comes from industries outside of Services, so whilst the abolition of trade barriers on goods is undoubtedly desirable, it is a benefit greatly skewed in the EU’s favour.
Additionally, Brussels elites wish to maintain their access to UK fishing grounds after we have left the EU. Not only would agreeing to this be a betrayal of the EU Referendum result, in which British fishing communities voted to take back control of our waters, but it is further evidence of the EU’s blatant cherry-picking. For them “reciprocal access to fishing waters” would allow continued exploitation of a British asset for the EU countries’ economic gain, yet they are offering us nothing in return. It is vital we Leave the Common Fisheries Policy on the 29th March 2019, and utilise our rich natural resources for the advancement of our own country – not to prop up Belgian and French fishermen! The Chancellor, Philip Hammond’s recent despicable suggestion this might not happen post-Brexit, shows the feeble attitude with which many in the Government are approaching the negotiations.
Despite the pretences of Donald Tusk during his latest press conference this week, the EU has often sought the inclusion of comprehensive Financial Services chapters when negotiating previous trade deals. This was the case with both CETA (with Canada) and TTIP (with the United States) where, despite ultimately failing, the ambition was clearly there. The refusal of Eurocrats to include such an offer in a trade deal with the UK must not, be taken as the inexorable conclusion of the UK’s red lines – as some Remoaners naively view it. Instead, it is nothing but negotiating bluster, designed to extract as many concessions as possible from UK negotiators and offer as little as possible in return.
It is imperative the Government is not deterred from its policy to Get Britain Out of the EU. This includes us Leaving the Single Market and the Customs Union. When trade negotiations officially begin after the European Council summit later this month, Theresa May and the Cabinet must be prepared to stand up for Great Britain’s interests. The EU is playing hardball in an attempt to get itself the best possible deal. It is about time the UK bit back and started doing the same. The EU is clearly trying to punish Britain and set an example to any other Member States who are tempted to Leave, and if one thing has become clear from these draft guidelines, it’s the UK which has leverage.
Robert Bates is a Research Executive at cross-party grassroots campaign Get Britain Out