Sixteen negotiating days till Christmas. We cannot tell if it is going to be a Hollywood ending or ‘Hasta la vista, failure’.
Britain has been free of the European since 31 January: all the close engagement in detail since then though might make us forget we ever got out of the stifling bureaucracy. In the same time, Britain has concluded several major free trade treaties around the world, while the one that should have been a cake-walk is teetering on failure., with just days to go.
The initial failings have been well rehearsed: the European Union should have started the negotiation the day after the Brexit vote, which was four and a half years ago, but instead refused to speak without a withdrawal agreement, which was delayed by other factors – collaborators in Parliament giving aid and comfort to the enemy encouraging the EU to think the referendum would be overturned. Mrs May’s choice of surrendering negotiators worsened it: movement only came with Boris and the realisation that it was all for real: the game was up. That left us however with just eleven months to do what should have been started three and a half years before.
What has gone wrong in the negotiation, no one outside it can really tell. We can write long commentaries of speculation, and I am sure I have done that before, but what passes in those rooms is a mystery.
It does not seem like a mystery: the press is full of foreign politicians bewailing what has been said and vowing that ils ne passeront pas, and Whitehall and Gove batting back. It is undignified, crass, unstatesmanlike, ungentlemanly and ultimately unhelpful, but it is also dishonest, as the negotiation is not done by press release.
We do know the opening European position, as they published their proposals, and we know how the British team opened its batting too. The two were far apart. The European side spoke in pious tones about maintaining to the finest detail the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement and the Political Declaration which was the agreed framework for negotiation, and then promptly placed a text on the table that flatly contradicted the latter. There is a word for that, and not a pretty one.
The preconditions they demanded, contradicting the solemn promises, are heaped up like chains on Marley’s ghost.
Accounts suggest there is just a hair’s breadth between the two sides, but on what we do not know, in truth, nor whose word is stopping finality, or if those who have said they object have been put up just to force the negotiation, It is a very Trumpian tactic and to be admired for that as a negotiating technique, but could, mishandled lead to an unnecessary collapse in talks, and many, many unnecessary business bankruptcies.
Is it really Macron, as he claims? Is he standing up for Europe lie the statesman he pretends to be? Is he just playing his part in a psychological game to put pressure on the Brits? Is hem, and this seems most likely, trying to distract attention from the flames that are consuming French cities. It is a major fault in the French political system that they do not realise that the most fundamental duty of the state is to preserve public peace. Maybe it is just for its impossibility with a people whose national myth is the glory of revolution not the peace at the end of it. Such is not a culture “with a purpose to make those men that relyed on them, the more apt to Obedience, Lawes, Peace, Charity, and civill Society“.
(Rousseau’s bastardised version of Hobbes in Du Contrat Social is deficient but accepted over there. Maybe it is forgotten in that imperfect mirror that the Essence of the Common-wealth; which (to define it,) is “One Person, of whose Acts a great Multitude, by mutuall Covenants one with another, have made themselves every one the Author, to the end he may use the strength and means of them all, as he shall think expedient, for their Peace and Common Defence.”)
Yet the negotiation continues, to the wire, aiming by that squeezing of time to squeeze concessions, while businesses go to the wall and others pause their investments to see what happens. Wasn’t there some film of the negotiation? Maybe:
This makes little sense in logic (and emphasises again, if it ever needed repeating, that the European Union is a disastrous entity).
In the wreckage that has been left from the continental lockdown, when thousands, probably millions, are thrown out of work, when state finances are in a condition worse even than during the Euro crisis, when every effort should be made to go lean, to let business thrive, to open every advantage to recovery, when the sources of finance through the City of London are more important than ever, why now to stall for political reasons alone? A failure by the European side to grasp this opportunity for recovery would be unforgivable.
I have always written that it is in Britain’s interests that he rest of the continental European Union should remain together, but if they are to beggar the continent for political pride, the Eurocrats deserve nothing more than dissolution, that something better may be created.
- Statesmanship, a lost art
- Last year was so last year, lads
- Got Brexit Done
- Boris unleashed
- Where is the text, Boris?
- All Out War: The Full Story of How Brexit Sank Britain’s Political Class by Tim Shipman
- Brexit: Why Britain Voted to Leave the European Union by Harold D. Clarke, Matthew Goodwin and Paul Whiteley
- Britons: Forging the Nation 1707-1837 by Linda Colley
- Empire: What Ruling the World Did to the British by Jeremy Paxman
- A History of Scotland by Neil Oliver
- Brexit: How the Nobodies Beat the Somebodies by Sebastian J. Handley
- Brexit and Ireland: The Dangers, the Opportunities, and the Inside Story of the Irish Response by Tom Connelly
- Beyond Brexit by Vernon Bogdanor
- From Partition to Brexit: The Irish Government and Northern Ireland by Donnacha O Beachain
- Brexit: Its Necessity and Challenge by Tony Kosuge
- Rising Tides: Facing the Challenges of a New Era by Liam Fox
- By Boris Johnson:
- For the Record by David Cameron