Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

The UK and EU Face Off

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 2nd March, 2020

David Frost Michel BarnierToday the Conservative Government’s chief Brexit negotiator, David Frost, is meeting his EU counterpart, Michel Barnier, in Brussels for the first of what are likely to be numerous and probably quite fractious talks about a possible UK-EU trade deal. Like most Remainers I am aware that the best deal is the one we had until 31 January, as a member of the European Union, with the bonus of a budget rebate. Nothing that Mr Frost will be able to achieve will come anywhere near that, but under Prime Minister Boris Johnson we have an ideologically driven government which wishes to “respect” the wishes of the most extreme Brexiteers, i.e. not just leave the EU, as we have, but to disengage ourselves from EU rules and regulations, as well as associated bodies and any form of European jurisdiction, notably rulings by the European Court of Justice. This is all in the pursuit of some illusory national sovereignty, as if any country can be “totally independent” in today’s globalised world. It is worth pointing out that this glorious isolationism is not what most Breixteer politicians campaigned for. Remember Tory MEP Daniel Hannan saying during the EU Referendum campaign that nobody was talking about leaving the single market or the customs union? That was just one of the most egregious lies, alongside the infamous bus promising £350 million a week for the NHS in place of contributions to the EU.

But all that is water under the bridge, alas, and what now should be the order of the day is damage limitation. That is why the Liberal Democrats (among others) should be campaigning for the closest possible trading relationship with the EU, though that is rejected by the Johnson government. Without close alignment, UK trade with the bloc will be seriously undermined and I completely understand why the EU is sticking to its guns, saying that it cannot compromise its own common standards (agreed by the UK while a member, of course) or the single market. It is in the interests of both sides to come to a workable agreement, however, rather than drifting into an impasse that leads to the UK walking away into a No Deal situation, trading on WTO terms when the formal transition period ends on 31 December. That is what the more extreme Brexiteers in government would like, but it should be resisted strongly. And while I can quite understand why the EU27 are totally fed up with the UK’s often boorish behaviour, especially since Boris Johnson came to power, it is in everyone’s interest for there to be an amicable, bespoke solution to a new UK-EU trading relationship. Britain’s rabidly anti-European populist Press: please note!

One Response to “The UK and EU Face Off”

  1. Maggie Clarke said

    With a sad heart for what is being lost I agree with what you say our approach should be.

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