The UK’s former ambassador to the European Economic Community on the negotiation errors so far—and the chances of future progressby David Hannay / November 6, 2017 / Leave a comment
It is hard for anyone who cares about Britain’s role in the world and about its future prosperity and security not to feel a sense of foreboding at the progress—or rather the lack of it—in the Article 50 negotiations to leave the European Union.
The lack of preparedness for what everyone, on both sides of the argument, regards as the most complex negotiation Britain has undertaken in living memory, the endless infighting within the government’s own ranks as to what the end-state should ideally be, the repetition by the government and its main Brexit supporters of the “no deal is better than a bad deal” mantra, a sure recipe for self-harm—these are not harbingers of a happy outcome.
Why does upbeat talk from figures like Boris Johnson and Liam Fox about the sunlit uplands of life outside the EU lack any credibility? Well, at least in part, because so many of the claims they made in the referendum campaign have already been shown to be untrue or remain shimmering mirages on a distant horizon. That £350 million a week sent to Brussels to be diverted to the NHS? It never existed, and the only thing coming back from Brussels just now is a substantial bill. That claim by some Brexiters that there was no question of leaving the single market? The prime minister put paid to that in her Lancaster House speech last January. Untapped markets around the world thirsting for British exports? It is going to take an awful lot just to make up for the damage to our currently frictionless trade with the market which takes 49 per cent of our exports of goods and services and which brings with it another 12 per cent of free trade deals with third countries.
And then there are the mistakes the government has made since the referendum. Here is a far from complete list of the main ones:
– Failure to make at the outset a bold and generous unilateral offer on the status of the EU citizens living and working here. To have done so would have gained Britain the moral high ground, might have avoided the haemorrhaging of people we can ill afford to lose, and would have been the best way to secure a good deal for our own citizens in other…