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EU hasn’t bullied us, this mess is the fault of Brexiters

by Luke Lythgoe | 21.11.2018

Brexiters are blaming EU “bullies” for Theresa May’s miserable deal. This is rich, since they’ve been at the heart of this mess since day one. Their fantastical demands and the strategic missteps the prime minister has made at their behest are the real culprits.

The first reason the UK looks to have got such a bum deal is that Brexiters set expectations for these negotiations so high in 2016. They insisted that we’d get a good deal because the EU needs us more than we need them. And that we could have as good a deal outside the EU as we do inside it. Both are fundamentally wrong.

Then there are the mistakes made by the government in the past two years of negotiations. Don’t forget, prominent Leave campaigners have been ministers in that government throughout – and Brexiters outside the Cabinet have been hounding the prime minister to do their bidding.

The biggest mistake was triggering Article 50 without a proper plan or achievable goals. That meant months of refusing to budge on unworkable, contradictory red lines before inevitably caving in to the EU’s proposals. And again, those red lines can be traced directly back to what Brexiters promised in 2016.

Then the government agreed to a “backstop” insurance policy to keep the Irish border open. It’s now clear this could easily lock us into a miserable, rule-taking relationship with the EU – potentially indefinitely. But because the government had no plan, the EU proposal was the only one on the table. The Cabinet which first agreed to this last December was full of Brexiters – including Boris Johnson and David Davis – who clearly didn’t take the time to understand what they were signing up to.

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Now May is making another error. She’s pushing for a “blindfold” Brexit where we sort out the details of Brexit after we’ve left. This helps her cover up how terrible her deal will eventually be. But after we’ve left the bloc – having made binding commitments to pay lots of money and keep the Irish border open – we’ll have even less leverage, because every single EU country will have a veto.

That is likely to see our “divorce bill” balloon from May’s conservative £39 billion estimate to more like £60-70 billion if we need to extend the post-Brexit transition period beyond 2020. It also means individual EU countries can push their terms for a future trade deal – whether that’s more rule-taking, access to UK fishing waters, or more Spanish influence over Gibraltar.

Throughout this negotiation process, the EU has said it wants to be “fair”. But unlike our government, EU officials have been realistic. They know any Brexit will be damaging, but accept the UK voted to leave. Of course, fairness towards Britain can only go so far when it starts hurting the interests of the remaining 27 member states and the European project as a whole.

It was always impossible to deliver the Brexiters’ fantasies. However, we already have a good deal inside the EU that doesn’t need negotiating. That’s why we need a People’s Vote, to ask the public if they want to throw what we’ve got away in favour of May’s Brexit mess.

Edited by Hugo Dixon

14 Responses to “EU hasn’t bullied us, this mess is the fault of Brexiters”

  • No. Because the EU have known all along what the government can and cannot do. Being professionals, they read our newspapers and have detailed reports on the UK economy, the make-up of parliament, etc.

    The Remainers could have been flying with the fairies like the Leavers and it wouldn’t have changed the negotiations one jot.

  • When you leave a ‘club’ with its rules why would one expect the club to change its rules to accommodate the one who is leaving ? The whole negotiation has been in fact a terrible misnomer. It also reveals the alarming ignorance of the workings of the EU at the highest levels of government, though no doubt the civil service must have been aware of the reality of the situation.
    The Conservative government bears an enormous responsibility for getting the country into this mess which has awakened also appalling nationalist tendencies on the part of certain sectors of the population which would not otherwise have been stimulated.

  • How could “negative campaigning” undermine the negotiating position? Can you give an example of something?
    No one has said anything that the EU don’t already know. They made their own detailed impact assessments early on (which were made public, unlike our own governments), so they know the position of the UK as well as anyone. They understand completely how different deals (or no deal) will negatively impact both the UK and the EU. That’s why their negotiating has been so effective, because they have clearly seen the cards that both sides held from the start. None of this was secret, is only our government who tried to pretend that things were different. No negative campaigning could have changed any of that.

  • Not sure what you mean by “all the negative campaigning by you and your ilk” not making any difference. It clearly has and is:-

    a) The Government has all but written off any notion of ever leaving “no deal”. That was far from the case in the first couple of years.
    b) There is is now a massive wave of popular support for the idea of holding a second referendum and likely electing to remain. Politicians are driven by public opinion and are more likely to vote down this dreadful “deal” as a result.
    c) One mans “negative campaigning” is another man’s warning’s of danger.

    But yes you could in some ways say that what separated Remain & Leave voters all the way back in 2016 is the former could see this is likely where we would end up and the latter could not. If one wanted to be charitable one could say the Leave voters took an optimistic “punt” on a long shot, a illogical but favorable outcome. The bet didn’t come off and now we are in a mess.

  • It was entirely predictable that Brexiteers would blame the EU when the truth started to sink in that this wasn’t going to be the easiest deal in history. After all, they have nowhere else to go, unless they start looking in the mirror and eating large chunks of humble pie.

    Dominic Raab’s comments blaming EU bullying are particularly regrettable given that he was the lead negotiator. If he had won greater concessions from the EU would he have accepted comments to the effect that he had bullied the EU? I think not. And to then go on and state, ‘we are the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, we can’t accept those dictated terms’, is not really going to cut any ice with anyone in Europe. I’m sure they are aware who they are negotiating with, and laying on the national chauvinism like that just makes him look rather silly. As would any state whose representative started pompously stating, ‘we are the Federal Republic of Germany’ or ‘we are the Kingdom of the Netherlands’ etc.
    I really hope we never end up with Raab as PM.

  • The UK seems to be prepared for if not to be actively seeking a death by a thousand cuts at the hands of the European powers. It is difficult to apply logic to the situation. Theresa May is now saying things she might have said more than two years ago and is acting as if they are new revelations from the mountain. Everything in the country is speeding up without regard to reason. Change has long been made simply for change’s sake but it now comes at breakneck speed. rapid fire decision making and hatred of others, with no benevolent vision for the future, chaos reigns, and if something isn’t done conflict is coming. Yet another thing the UK is not prepared for.

  • You are either a paid troll or an idiot. The reporting on this site is easy to verify and there is never a need to print an apology and/or retraction. Unlike the Mail’s banner headlines that the ‘Queen is for the exit’ (for example) retracted weeks later in small print at the bottom of page 8 (or somewhere similar).

  • Could it be that all those remainers in parliament who certainly do not respect the decision made in the 2016 referendum are ruling out no deal as an option?????
    Why would the EU give us a good deal when they calculate that we will come back with our tail between our legs if this non deal is not accepted.

  • “Why would the EU give us a good deal when they calculate that we will come back with our tail between our legs if this non deal is not accepted.”

    A better question might be to ask why the EU would care one way or another if the UK requests t re-join the EU at a later date or not? It’s behaved as a Trojan Horse during 40+ years of members and there are many reasons why the EU would likely be relieved to see the back of the UK.

    As for a “deal” – good or bad, the presumption that the UK is entitled to any deal whatsoever from the EU is perplexing. The UK is not being ejected from the EU. It’s a voluntary decision. As such, the UK needs to take responsibiliy for the consequences what being a non-member of the EU are. If it’s not sure, then it can consult with the many countries around teh world that are not members of the EU and ask them.

  • Name calling and insults are a poor way to counter opposing views. There may be idiots and trolls on this side or that but the argument is better made by reasoned discourse. Trump style politics may get results of a sort but, in the end, truth will out and after the post truth world is a world of truth. It will certainly come but I hope to God it comes soon.

  • Peter,

    How have remainers in parliament not respected the result of the referendum? They voted to trigger Article 50. This was unwise and had they acted responsibly in the national interest they would have refused to sanction it until the government had agreed a negotiating plan. But no, faced with the fear of being accused of seeking to thwart the will of the people they voted for it.