Reasonable or unreasonable?

It will have come as no surprise to many keen observers of the Brexit process that the fourth round of talks ended this week ended with Jean-Claude Juncker, the Commision President, saying that it would take a “miracle” for Brexit talks to progress quickly enough to persuade the EU to start discussing a trade deal any time soon. This follows on from Michel Barnier saying the same thing a day earlier.

It is the usual story. An optimistic David Davis speaking of encouraging progress followed by a more negative slant from the EU side.

The divergence in assessing the state of play goes right back to Davis and his team agreeing to the EU’s negotiating schedule, which demanded that progress had to be made on the rights of EU citizens living in the UK, the Irish border question and the financial settlement, or so-called divorce bill, before the issues of trade would be discussed.

Was it reasonable or unreasonable for the EU to take the initiative in proposing a schedule? Hard to say. After all, they never wanted us to vote to leave. On the other hand, we were not bound under Article 50 to agree to their schedule, but for better or worse, we did.

So what of the three demands? The size of our divorce settlement was always going to be a contentious issue. Some would argue that we shouldn’t pay a penny after Brexit day while others are willing at least to concede that we should honour our obligations up to the end of the EU’s seven-year budget cycle, which takes up up to 2020. There is a even a huge gap between the EU’s demands and the generous figure which Mrs May has indicated she is willing to pay – £50 billion – and this is higher than the carefully-researched study by the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales, which comes out with a figure of  £28 billion, including  spending which has been authorised but not incurred. The EU is unhappy with our foot-dragging, but given that Mrs May’s alleged offer was a generous gesture to try and unblock talks, if it doesn’t satisfy the EU, they are definitely the side who are being unreasonable.

The most unreasonable of all demands is that any agreement regarding the legal status of EU nationals living in the UK after Brexit includes a role for the European Court of Justice. This is quite frankly absurd.  If the UK insisted on UK law and the UK courts determining any aspect of the lives  of UK expats in, say Saudi Arabia, the Saudis would tell us, to quote Boris Johnson (or was it Philip Hollobone?), to “go whistle”. English Common Law means just that – it gives common treatment to all UK residents including non-nationals. We did make an exception in the Middle Ages, with the clergy subject to Canon Law instead and the general population didn’t like it one little bit, especially as monks and priests were able to get away with crimes for which the rest of the population wold be punished. There is no need to create another exception now. Our legal system is fair, with plenty of checks and balances. No EU citizen living over here should feel they are living in a tyrannical, unjust country

The question of the Irish border, however, is another matter.  The Irish republic joined the EEC, as it was, along with the UK in 1973. The two countries’ economies were – indeed, still are – closely linked and for the Irish to have kept out while we joined the European project would have caused immense problems. When the Irish joined the €uro, they did so in the expectation that we would follow suit. We did not, nor have we abandoned imperial measurements as they have. They have consistently elected governments which are led by EU enthusiasts. By contrast, most of our Prime Ministers since 1973 have been at best lukewarm towards the EU apart from Ted Heath and Tony Blair. In spite of these divergences, however, we share a common language, a common genetic ancestry and several hundred years of common history. More importantly as far as Brexit is concerned, we will soon be sharing the only land border between an independent UK and an EU member state.

It is true that the EU as a whole would suffer proportionately less than the UK from our crashing in March 2019 without a trade deal, but some individual states would take a big hit, with Ireland topping the list. No one wants a “hard border” and everyone wants trade to continue to flow freely between the Republic and Northern Ireland but, as Michel Barnier keeps pointing out, we become a “third country” in 18 months’ time. It is one thing to insist that we cannot go back to the days before the Good Friday Agreement but quite another to come up with a workable arrangement which is acceptable to Dublin and Brussels. So far, the EU negotiators have not head anything from their UK counterparts which provides the basis for a future agreement. Their impression is that, 15 months after Brexit, the UK has not got to grips with the issues involved in striking a deal on the Irish border question.  If this is true, there are good grounds for the EU to say we are being unreasonable.

There are other areas, however, where the EU – or at least, some of its senior figures – is being very unreasonable. The over-the-top reaction to Michael Gove’s denunciation of the 1964 London Fisheries Convention is one good example. Another  is the behaviour of José Margallo, the former Spanish Foreign Minister, who has been ramping up the Gibraltar issue, claiming that  Gibraltar will eventually have to welcome dual sovereignty for Spain and  spreading misleading statements about a proposed meeting with Fabian Picardo, Gibraltar’s Chief minister.

Of course, if, as claimed by one reliable source, staff are quitting the Department for Exiting the European Union “in their droves”, this isn’t getting us any closer to address the issues where some work is obviously needed by the UK side.  There is a good argument to be made that some EU demands are very unreasonable, but equally, a strong case can be made that thus far, our side’s approach to these difficult negotiations has left a lot to be desired.


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  1. Adam HileyReply

    May & Davis are making a complete hash of the talks when there is nothing to negotiate with Europe on but Corbyn & McDonnell would be even worse

  2. StevenReply

    No doubt this sounds like a nutty conspiracy theory but is it not totally beyond the realms of possibility that May, Labour and the EU are involved in a joint plan to delay and dither over Brexit until the next British general election happens when it is likely the Tories will be turfed-out of office and either a Labour majority government or a Labour/Lib Dem, Labour/Lib Dem/SNP, Labour/Lib Dem/Green/SNP coalition/confidence and supply government cancels Brexit or waters it down so much it becomes remain in all but name?. Let’s face it, May is a remainer at heart along with most of her cabinet and the majority of the party’s MPs still are. To be frank, the Tories don’t seem to be at all worried about their opinion poll ratings and if they had any sense of survival they would be getting rid of May and allowing someone who DOES believe in Brexit ie Jacob Rees-Mogg in as PM and leader of their party. If they couldn’t win a decent victory in June of this year with probably the best circumstances for a Tory victory since the election of 1992 and certainly 1987 then it is doubtful they ever will win a proper majority ever again. I’ve always believed TIME was the great enemy of Brexit and that is my belief more than ever now.

    I think what this mess and dither/delay illustrates is that having a referendum on the issue wasn’t the best way of resolving it yet I can understand why many wanted it seeing as our supposed ‘representative’ democracy isn’t actually representative with no PR in general elections!

  3. Adam HileyReply

    We need a Government that is not for Banks & Big Business the LibLabConSNPGreen are only the populist party are the real alternative

  4. Jason BReply

    Reasonable or Unreasonable ! The unprepared government spent 9 months of Exit preparation before giving final notice, has this been all been in vain? They sadly gave in to the EU blocking progress demands of refusing us parallel talks on the two separate issues of trade and domestic agreements until their domestic demands are met. This is not nothing but EU tyranny. Greenland warned us last year when they gave quit notice in 1982 it then took a further three years and was tough going. We further understand they conceded much ground in the process on their fishing. A proof the wily EU are not to be trusted.

    May I invite the technical minded to look into an interesting transposing error via the web I found last week about our signed European Communities Act 1972. Under chapter 68 and under ‘what version’ it being the original (As enacted) under clause (2a) we find a reference error of 22 January 1927. This incorrect year date makes in my view the whole agreement right from the begining invalid. Could it be our saving grace!

    Time is ticking by and about 540 days left to the 29 March 2019. What is the answer!

  5. Phil JonesReply

    It’s clear to me that the whole EU approach is to delay, delay, delay in the hope that the Tory party will implode and the UK will end up with a General Election and disarray on Brexit and then withdraw the Article 50 notice. And May is playing right into their hands. This morning the BBC showed the European Parliament in session. A lot of anger displayed against Brexit, with Germany’s head MEP there saying that the whole problem with trying to negotiate with the UK was Boris v May and the Tory party v the UK, from which I took the view that he was trying to play one side against the other in the UK in a number of ways, i.e. divide and conquer. It’s clear that the European Parliament will never ever accept the UK leaving. Further negotiation is a total total total waste of time. A strong leader would be ready at this point for the UK to just walk away — but I can’t see that May is making any plans in that direction. If we don’t walk away sooner, I’m very against a transition period UNLESS ITS FINAL DATE IS SET IN STONE. It’s too easy for Big Business to keep playing games trying to extend it. If proper actions were promptly taken now by Big Business, I can’t see why we couldn’t be ready for total separation in March 2019 rather than March 2021. Apparently David Davis is retiring in 2019 (mentioned in one of today’s dailies) and he would like Boris to take over in his role at that time.

  6. StevenReply

    I’m convinced that the Tory Party under May has an agreement with Labour to delay, delay, delay Brexit until they lose to Corbyn at the next election which is a highly likely scenario without a fresh start under a new leader. Now, many would say why would the Tories deliberately do everything possible to lose to their supposed political opponents? Well, let’s face facts here, Labour and the Tories DO agree on a lot of things like open borders and continuing mass immigration for the benefit of big business and because they basically don’t like the British people and another British political Establishment icon is EU membership. They have spent 40 odd years tying us into the Common Market/EU so a little thing like a referendum is not going to be allowed to hinder their grand, joint project. Put simply, they both want to delay Brexit until the Labour Party can gain office and quietly cancel it and thanks to our archaic voting system in general elections and in England and Wales local elections they WILL get away with that betrayal. Labour will put some gloss on the sell-out by saying the Foreign Office has recommended it due to the ‘rise of the far right in Germany’ or ‘world instability’ and the Treasury will warn of ‘permanent damage to the British economy’.etc.

  7. StevenReply

    Apparently, somebody wrote to the government’s No 10 Petitions Unit in order to be allowed to put-up a petition asking why the government doesn’t remove the UK from the EU under by using the Vienna Law on the Convention of Treaties? The government gave a curt answer they were not willing to do that. We will NOT be coming out of the EU by going down the tortuous Article 50 route which is EXPRESSLY DESIGNED to make the process as protracted and hellish as possible so those who use it give up in despair.

  8. Andrew PittReply

    I can foresee that as soon as we have ‘left’ the EU in March 2019, though in reality we will be complying with all EU rules as though we were a member, the politicians will claim that the referendum result has been honoured. The ‘transition’ will turn out to be the final destination. We’ll still be negotiating for form’s sake, but it will achieve as much as Harold Wilson’s re-negotiation or David Cameron’s re-negotiation.

  9. StevenReply

    Indeed, Andrew Pitt. What WILL be achieved is the removal of Britain’s MEPS (and for those of us who live outside of London in England NO further Proportional Representation elections). As far as the Tory Party is concerned, ‘Brexit’ is only meant to get rid of a platform for UKIP politicians thus ‘Mission Accomplished’ as far as that nest of vipers is concerned. After all, they only gave their consent for a referendum to be held in the first place NOT because they believe in the British people being allowed to have their say on our involvement in the EU and be able to exercise our right to self-determination but because they hoped it would shut-up UKIP as a rival for Tory voters. It’s all a game for the Tories!

  10. Gordon WebsterReply

    Reasonable, as I discovered while working as an Adviser for five years, is a term not define in Law. Whether something is, or is not, reasonable is left for a Judge to decide given the facts of the case. Being the Absolute Sovereign of Britain, we are entitled, given that we are the employer of both sides concerned in the dispute, to act as judge in this case. We were taken into a Common Market based on a ie, and deliberate misinformation. We are not getting a “divorce,” since we were never legally married, and the EU has no more legal validity than an Unincorporated Association – a Social Club or Golf Club. Under any such UA, the remaining members of the club are liable for any debts, and retain control of all assets – the leaving member ceases to have any say or liability.
    Given those facts, it is reasonable to say, that given the behaviour of the European Union side of the argument is unreasonable, and the Great Britain side would be entitled t call for a Repudiation or Rescission of Contract.
    The Current Government have all the legal advisers they need, and so must know that they could walk away, given the precedent set by Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia when they left the Soviet Union. Why don’t they, and why won’t they?

    • StevenReply

      I think the answer to that is a simple one: they don’t want us to leave the EU! Going down the route of a referendum and Article 50 was always going to be a tortuous process. May is a Remainer at heart, along with most Tory MPs and most cabinet members. What is the betting she has come to a agreement with the EU to delay, delay, delay until such time as the mostly pro-EU Tories can hand over the reins of power to Jeremy Corbyn OR go back on her word (she has form for this after all as she said an early general election wasn’t going to be held) and have a second referendum with the option of remaining AFTER deliberately negociating an horrific agreement with continuing mass migration from Poland and the other new EU states? She will then bet the house on the country voting to remain a part of the EU knowing that the immigration issue was one of the primary reasons Leave won the referendum. The referendum result was a close one (although I thought it would be closer still) and so a sufficiently bad agreement (particularly taking into account the immigration issue and a few other ones as well ) could be a good way from their point of view of ‘bouncing’ the country into voting to remaining in the EU in full or an ‘associate’ membership of it.

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