Senior political figures on the continent sound warnings for the UKby Alex Dean / October 25, 2017 / Leave a comment
Seven months into the Brexit process, the challenge of disentangling ourselves from Europe remains as daunting as ever. Negotiations are going agonisingly slowly—and all the while the Article 50 timer is ticking down.
Prime Minister Theresa May’s recent trip to Brussels was meant to move things forward, with European leaders adopting a softer tone in the run-up to the event. It almost looked like being a success—until reports emerged of the PM begging Juncker for Brexit help during the Council dinner. Whether they are true is beside the point: Britain once again left Brussels humiliated, with little material progress having been made.
Added to this, May has now made a deeply troubling statement implying Britain will only enter into a transitional deal with Europe if it has already struck a free trade deal by then. That means yet another thing to negotiate by 2019, and it’s perhaps the biggest of the lot. The chaos isn’t letting up: this morning David Davis suggested MPs would not be given a vote on the Brexit deal until after Britain has already left Europe—only to be contradicted by the PM later on.
All of this is, of course, causing heated rows at home—but what is the reaction from our European partners? After all, it is the EU27 who will decide our fate. What is the atmosphere on the continent? Discussion with European political figures and think tankers painted a clear picture.
Radosław Sikorski, Polish minister of Foreign Affairs in Donald Tusk’s Cabinet from 2007-2014, took no prisoners in a comment to me over email. “Britain is about to discover that when dealing with the European Union as a non-member, the word negotiation is polite.” Harsh words from such a senior European statesman—and he wasn’t done yet.
“What is more likely to happen is that Britain—under time constraint and threatened with chaos at the borders—will need to adjust to the EU27 negotiating mandate.” The thinking is that the complexity of Brexit will leave us with no choice but to accept EU demands, while the remark on border control will cause alarm in Westminster.
“Britain… will need to adjust to the EU27 negotiating mandate”
Sikorski’s point about the timeframe came up more than once. “The British internal tensions don’t allow [you] to conduct the negotiations with an…