So just who is really messing up Brexit talks?
Good gracious! Someone tell me I’m not dreaming! A Eurocrat has spoken the truth about Britain’s negotiations with the EU.
In an article in The Times (£) Hans-Olaf Henkel, a senior German politician who is deputy head of the European Parliament’s industry, research and energy committee, accuses the European Union’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier of trying to punish Britain by making a deliberate “mess” of key elements of Brexit.
You don’t say!
Mr Henkel writes that the European parliament’s Brexit negotiator, Guy Verhofstadt, was responsible in “no small part for the disaster of Brexit” and “now wants to punish the British, full stop”.
“He says he doesn’t want to, but I’m afraid he does. My impression is that Mr Barnier wants to do the same. The reason is simple. They would seek to make sure that Brexit is such a catastrophe that no country dares to take the step of leaving the EU again.”
Precisely. This should be obvious to everyone. But you don’t hear this at all in the cacophony of Remoaning now at ear-splitting level in Britain. All we are hearing, day in, day out, is how the British government is making a mess of Brexit, how they haven’t clue what they are doing or what they are up against, how the negotiators (who include some of the sharpest minds in Whitehall) are so totally useless they even turned up for their negotiating session this week alongside the Brexit minister David Davis without so much as a single sheet of paper in front of them, in contrast to Barnier’s team who were seated behind sheaves of notes.
Moreover the UK team departed after merely an hour. This was promptly interpreted as “Davis is lazy/incompetent/has a rotten negotiating hand/had no negotiating hand because the government is in chaos”.
Is any of this really likely? Or is it more plausible that the UK team didn’t need any notes because the real negotiating work is being hammered out elsewhere (which it is), that it has a negotiating strategy akin to playing a poker game, and that the last thing it’s going to do is show its hand since it is aiming to outwit the EU side by more discreet and serpentine means?
Here’s a snippet from a Press Association report yesterday that you may not have read in today’s papers:
“Insiders close to the talks said EU staff were surprised at how prepared the UK side was on the detail of the issues, with negotiators going into talks with packs of papers. EU negotiators are also said to have remarked on the agility of Britain’s position since it is not pinned down by the kind of detailed position papers produced by Brussels.”
I don’t know the truth of any of this because I don’t know what’s going on behind the scenes; but nor do the people who are declaring as a fact that Britain is being outclassed and out-gunned.
A closed circle of Remoaning has been established in Britain, in which Remainer journalists are going to Remainers in Parliament, industry, finance houses and so on who are processing every single thing that happens through the prism of the utter catastrophe (as they see it) of Brexit and the insane suicidal extremism of these who actually believe Brexit means, er, Brexit; which is being published as “apocalypse now” by Remainer journalists – who are even telling us Brexit will make us die of cancer because Britain is insisting it means leaving Euratom and thus jeopardising the supply to patients of radioactive isotopes; which means that Remainers reading and hearing this litany of impending doom and disaster feel vindicated in their belief that Brexit is a national catastrophe, which means they redouble their apocalyptic predictions; and so on.
But now look at what Mr Henkel is saying:
“It is obvious that it would be a disaster for the UK to leave Euratom but I don’t know who it would be worse for: us in the EU or you.
“My position is that the EU must accommodate the British. It will require give and take on both sides. For you, it will mean paying in and abiding by the rules, as Britain does now, and accepting the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice when it comes to overseeing Euratom…”
The British government says, as does the EU, that the UK has no choice but to leave Euratom (which administers the transport of radioactive materials) if it leaves the EU. This is a legally untested issue, and there are those who maintain Britain doesn’t have to leave Euratom at all. The British government says it will set up an alternative arrangement. Quite why it cannot accept the jurisdiction of the EU over Euratom if the UK remains a member when it appears to have accepted the jurisdiction of the EU in a similar arrangement it is currently on the way to ratifying over the administration of patents is unclear.
However that particular issue is resolved, what is clear from Mr Henkel’s comments is that he is distraught that Britain is leaving the EU – because he well understands, and is intellectually honest enough to acknowledge, that the downside for the EU will be disastrous.
“This is a terrible situation for us all. In my country, Germany, we value the ties we have with the British and we value your voice in Europe.
“In the 1990s, I came to the UK to urge you to join the euro. Thank goodness you didn’t. The single currency has been a disaster, creating social and economic havoc.
“I’m big enough to admit I made a mistake. Is it too much to hope that leaders of stature in the UK might say to people that, when it comes to Euratom, they got it wrong? And who knows, as we all face the disaster of Brexit, perhaps when it comes to EU membership itself, tell the British people: ‘We’ve all made a colossal mistake?’”
No, because the Brexit vote was not a mistake. It cannot be a mistake to vote for democratic national self-government. The mistake was the creation of the EU which denies democratic self-government to its member states.
But thank you, Mr Henkel, for your candour and your friendship. All it takes is for your colleagues to extend the same spirit of co-operation to Britain, rather than seek to punish it, and the UK and EU will then be able to forge a new relationship to the benefit of all.