Theresa May’s negotiating technique with the EU has been to go in announcing red lines she wouldn’t accept, then – as soon as she found that she wouldn’t get them – to throw herself in front of the EU steamroller appealing to better natures the EU hasn’t got.
The calculation must have been that by acting humble she could get some kind of settlement, however unsatisfactory. The Tory Party in Parliament will then be forced to accept it as the price of staying in power and the accurate criticisms of the Brexiteers will be brushed aside. Then a long transition period can postpone the problems, rob the Rampant Remainers of their fear weapon and the People’s Vote wreckers of their hopes of staying in the EU by democratic deceit. Boris and his Brexiteers will grumble, even revolt, but most of the party will heave a sigh of relief and shuffle into line while Labour, even more divided, will be torn between its desire for an election and its commitment to a ‘soft’ Brexit. It may even fall apart with those keen to stay in the Single Market supporting the Government.
It’s a calculated strategy, which might work in a country getting fed up of the long futile argument. But it won’t achieve the Brexit the people voted for at the referendum and will leave Britain at the mercy of an intransigent and unforgiving EU. The two essential requirements of independence, control of EU immigration and the ability to come to trade deals with other nations whose trade is now growing while the EU’s share remains stagnant, will not have been delivered. We’ll still be subject to the EU rule book. That means dearer food and German dominance continuing to drain Britain.
The EU will have us over a barrel. We’ve already seen how rule-bound and hostile to British interests and arguments they can be, but in an infinitely extendable “transition period” to work out the details of Brexit, we’ll be well and truly trapped. An open-ended deal is infinitely extendable to keep the UK on a rack so they can refuse any of the changes we need and force us to observe the “EU rule book” as adjudicated by the EU court. We’d be hog tied unless we insist that no money will be handed over until we get an acceptable settlement. Nothing is settled (or paid) until all is settled.
After Theresa May has given away so much in her Chequers appeasement, the only point of leverage left is the enormous bill she’s undertaken to pay to allow the Commission to continue building marble palaces in Brussels and protect the other 27, who are already getting restive with the EU, from having to increase their contributions. “Can’t Buy Me Love,” as the Beatles sang. Theresa’s attempt to do so falls due next March when the notice we’ve given under Article 50 expires.
To pay that ransom, or anything at all, before everything is settled removes our last means of influence. The EU’s insistence that our departure allows them to punish us for being so naughty will prevail and we walk naked into the negotiating chamber. There we’re in limbo and they can dictate on all the issues remaining to be settled, as they most certainly can’t be before next March. That’s the reason they talk about a transition. To pay anything before it’s completed is to accept being a colony of the union our electorate voted to Leave.
Parliament can, and must, reject that, by insisting on a ‘no tickee, no takee’ clause before any deal is ratified. The Government would find it difficult to resist, Labour couldn’t vote against saving money and the canny Scots would be forced to choose between bawbees and their love of the EU. That leaves only the Liberals – who’re so Euro-daft that they’d be happy to pay even more to stay in – likely to vote against. As for the public, they’d be overjoyed that at last something is being done to implement their wishes, instead of all the wheedling, fear, manipulation, delay and weakness they’ve had to put up with up to now.
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