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Analysis

EU strong and stable on Brexit negotiating position

by Nick Kent | 22.05.2017

While Theresa May was changing her mind on social care, the EU adopted its Brexit negotiating position with little fuss. The meeting lasted barely an hour, the press conference under 20 minutes. The calmness in Brussels this morning was a lesson in how to be strong and stable.

The meeting agreed the directive which is the legal basis of the EU’s negotiating position. As expected, it prioritises EU citizens’ rights, Britain’s financial obligations and the Irish border. It re-affirms that there must be progress on these issues before trade, security and other topics can be discussed.

If the UK hoped to find divisions amongst the other 27 countries, it hasn’t succeeded. If anything, a recent European Commission discussion indicated a hardening of its position on the financial questions.

To the other countries, Brexit is a needless distraction, an unwanted reminder of the dangers of populism and an incredible mistake by the British. They just want to get it over with and deal with issues that matter more to them. As the Maltese deputy prime minister, who was chairing today’s meeting, put it: “Brexit will not be allowed to derail the work of the EU”.

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All 27 member states would rather the British were not going. But they will seek to gain from it.  Which is why the withdrawal process will be conducted on their side with a determination that the EU must not give away too much. They do not see the UK as a market for BMWs or prosecco, but as a trade and investment rival threatening to adopt Singapore-style free market policies. In any case, they understand that while the UK depends on the other 27 for 44% of its exports, just 8% of theirs are bought by the British.

On this side of the Channel, politicians seem to think that the entire EU is quaking in its boots at the thought that the British are coming. Or going. Because Brexit Secretary David Davis seems to want to throw all of his toys away even before getting into his pram.

Threatening to walk out of the talks before they have started might cheer up hardline Leavers but it produces an indifferent shrug from the chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier. He simply points out that quitting the EU without a deal will do more harm to Britain than to the other countries. Sooner or later hardliners in the government are going to have face the fact that leaving the EU is a risky, uncertain business and the cards are stacked in its favour not ours.

Edited by Hugo Dixon

One Response to “EU strong and stable on Brexit negotiating position”

  • Our Country is about to be needlessly wrecked and millions of us are extremely worried for our future.
    Surely this brexit madness can be stopped?