Monday, 1 May 2017
The Game of Who Blinks First Is On
Big story of the weekend was the leaked response of Jean-Claude Juncker, chief panjandrum of the EU and all-round pompous, unelected fanatic for all things EU. Juncker remains and always will be a European enthusiast. He is outraged that Britain is leaving and means to punish us. He has therefore, in a thoroughly disreputable but entirely typical way, leaked details of his meeting with the PM last week. It reeks of desperation rather than strength.
Because what Theresa May told him last week is entirely right. We are under no obligation to pay the EU a penny once we leave. If we decide to pay them anything then they will have to give us something in return. The Commission is seeking to present this as a bill we must pay before anything else is decided. It is not deluded to tell them no. That aligns with the legal reality. The Government has already ascertained that this is the case. If they want to play rough we simply walk away taking out money, security expertise - our security services foiled a couple of terrorist attacks just this last week - our armed forces and the destiny of millions of people who are living here as EU citizens. We also have a huge and growing market. Access to that is as much of a bargaining tool as the EU's market is.
But we have to be prepared to walk away. We have already accepted that we will not be members of the single market and the customs union. If the EU means to play hardball then so be it. We walk away in 2019 with no deal and trade with them on WTO terms, just like the rest of the world. This so called hard Brexit would be nothing like as onerous as it is portrayed. Free trade is an ideal, although often a misnomer. If free trade involves us accepting EU legislation, the jurisdiction of its interfering federalist court and handing over billions too then we should simply shrug (a gallic sort perhaps) and leave without a deal. No deal really is better than a bad deal.
The 27 leaders of the rest of the EU took just one minute to approach the vengeful draft negotiating guidelines for Brexit and then burst into applause. This tells us a lot. It shows that they are out to punish us and exact a price. Its why our leaving looks more and more like a wise choice. This is fanaticism devoted to an impossible ideal that is simply not working for the people of the EU. Their leaders are on a path to union at any cost. Britain has never been signed up to that and would have continued to resist had we voted last year to stay. We would have ended up leaving at some point whatever happens. Their behaviour proves the point.
The PM's steely determination bodes well. There is no need to stoop to their grandstanding and leaking. Britain's position is that we are leaving and wish to do so on good terms for everyone. It seems that the EU does not agree and thinks it can present us with a bill just to talk. That is truly delusional. If they persist in this attitude we should simply take our money away early and walk away. Once the election is over that will become a real option. This is turning into a game of who blinks first. Mrs May's record suggests it will not be her. She tried to tell Juncker this last week. He responded in typical fashion. The game is now well and truly on. Her decision to call this election looks inspired.