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Analysis

‘EU needs us more than we need it’ untruth unravelling fast

by Hugo Dixon | 05.09.2017

During the referendum Brexiters peddled the falsehood that the EU needs us more than we need it. They said Brussels would be falling over itself to cut a trade deal with us since EU countries sell us more than we sell them. In particular, they claimed that Germany’s Angela Merkel would be desperate to reach an agreement so BMW could sell us its cars.

It’s not clear whether the Brexiters were dishonest or just willfully ignorant. But it is now dawning on even die-hard Leavers that we need the EU more than it needs us. David Davis is pleading for the EU to be “more imaginative and flexible”. Liam Fox has accused the EU of “blackmail”.

If the other countries really needed us more than we need them, it would be the EU that was pleading with us to show flexibility and accusing us of blackmail. As Nick Macpherson, the top civil servant at the Treasury until last year, tweeted: “‘Blackmail’ is the perpetual cry of the smaller negotiator with the weaker hand.”

The UK, along with Germany and France, is one of the three largest and most powerful EU members. That’s why we have so often been able to influence its decisions – for example, helping create the single market and write its rules. But the Brexit negotiations pit us against the combined might of all the other 27 EU countries. Collectively, they are five times bigger than us. Our exports to the rest of the club account for 12% of our GDP; their exports to us amount to only 3% of their GDP.

Of course, the EU will be damaged by Brexit, especially if it is acrimonious. But we will be hurt more proportionately. That’s why we are now the supplicants calling for a transitional deal to ensure our economy doesn’t fall off a cliff when we quit the EU. That, too, is why the government is giving up its red lines one after another – for example, it is now prepared to countenance some continued involvement by the European Court of Justice, albeit not “direct jurisdiction”. The EU, by contrast, hasn’t yet budged from its negotiating position.

It’s not just on trade that we need the EU more than it needs us. True, our armed forces and diplomatic staff are perhaps the best in the EU. The same goes for our intelligence services. But they are not stronger than the internal and external security services of the rest of the EU combined.

Of course, the EU benefits from British expertise in fighting terrorism, standing up to Vladimir Putin’s Russia and so forth. It’s an increasingly dangerous world – with Europe virtually surrounded by authoritarian regimes or countries in the throes of civil war – and we all benefit from standing shoulder to shoulder. But it is folly for Brexiters to assume that the EU needs us more than we need it in these areas. They’ll soon be pleading with Brussels for flexibility on access to its intelligence databases and cooperation on foreign policy – and crying blackmail if they don’t get it.

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Edited by Luke Lythgoe

5 Responses to “‘EU needs us more than we need it’ untruth unravelling fast”

  • Even when reverting to WTO rules, UK customers will not stop buying BMW’s, because of the fact some petrol heads like these cars. The UK hasn’t got much of a car industry left either to buy British.

    Giving in to UK pleads on the other would mean risking the collapse of the single market/EU if you give the signal you get a better deal if you are not a member, which would be bad for every company on the continent. Trying to obtain the collapse of the EU is the only way Britain can get out of this without being worse off than most ofther member states.

    I’m still struggling to understand what Brexit tries to achieve. Being the 5th economy in the world should be good enough, no? It’s not like you are going to overtake the American or Chinese economy, is it?

    Taking back sovereignty is also a bit of a joke as the ECJ will be in charge in case of trade disputes.

    This leaves you with taking back control over migration, which you already had since you could remove any EU citizen, who wasn’t contributing the company, after 3 months.

    So I’m starting to agree with Theresa May. Brexit really does mean Brexit and nothing else. It’s all about walking to the door. It was the easiest commitment your governement has ever made as it just required to write a letter.

  • Brexit is pointless, and will be damaging if it goes ahead.
    The tory ministers are all incompetents and charlatans, they haven’t a clue, our international reputation is falling apart because of these clowns.
    The EU would miss us, but we certainly need them a lot more than they need us.
    Regarding the UK motor industry, it may be primarily overseas owned, but it is very vibrant, employs 800,000 people, and is our biggest exporter, exporting 78% of production.
    If we leave the EU, that will change dramatically, Vauxhall will be the first to go, PSA don’t need it, they have Opel. Jaguar are already making their latest model, the iPace, in Austria because of Brexit, and that is only the start of the exodus.
    The only sane and sensible course of action is to rescind the Article 50 notice, and work within the EU to improve it!
    We have not, and never will lose sovereignty.

    • Rescinding article 50 is not an option I’d like to impose on the U.K. At the moment. Forget about the pound sterling, forget about border checks as at present and those nice rebates Margaret Thatcher was able to negotiate. The Brexiteer factions would go violent in very much the way we’ve seen that in the US. It’s just the way that breed has been put together.

  • My reading of the present situation is that the EU is financially preparing itself for a British walkout. It is certain that this would hurt notably the poorer countries but the EU goes through an economic upswing that to a certain point would soften the blow. The same cannot be said of the UK, and it will be interesting to see how this lamentable government is going to deal with this reality the moment it can’t be hidden from view any longer. Apart from that, various reactions from EU countries point at the fact that they are growing tired of the U.K. and would like to see it go. My main concern is the situation in Ireland.

  • The only good thing about Brexit is that will be such a disaster that the Tories will be out of power for a generation. Good riddance.