David Davis has updated the House of Commons on the latest Brexit negotiations. I report his words and suggest, in italics, what he might actually have meant.
“With permission, Mr Speaker, I will update the House on negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union in November, reflecting our actions since the October Council.
Both the United Kingdom and European Union recognised the new dynamic instilled in the talks by the Prime Minister’s Florence speech.” But the EU doesn’t realise just how unequivocal she was.
“At the October European Council, the 27 Member states responded by agreeing to start their preparations for moving the negotiations on to trade and the future relationship we want to see.” At last!
“The Council conclusions also called for work to continue, with a view to being able to move to the second phase of the negotiations as soon as possible.” Yeah, right – they’d rather screw us for every last penny than give us a good deal.
“It is, of course, inevitable that discussions are now narrowing to the few outstanding, albeit important, issues that remain.” And these issues are the ones on which the EU has not budged an inch.
“Last week, our focus was concentrated on finding solutions to those few remaining issues.
As we move forward towards the December Council, we have been clear with the EU that we are willing to engage in discussions in a flexible and constructive way, in order to achieve the progress needed.” I only wish they were prepared to be ‘flexible and constructive’ too. It would make the whole process a lot easier.
“To this end, our teams are in continuous contact, even between formal rounds.
I will now turn to the three, key, ongoing areas of discussions, and outline progress made last week on each of these.”
“We have made solid progress in our ongoing discussions on Northern Ireland and Ireland. Key areas of achievement include:
- Continued progress in technical discussions on preserving North/ South co-operation.” Not actually ‘solid progress’, but at least we’re still talking.
- “Agreed joint principles on the continuation of the Common Travel Area and associated rights.
- Drafting further joint principles on how best we preserve North/South cooperation under the Belfast Agreement to help guide the specific solutions to the unique circumstances in Northern Ireland.” Sounds good, but it doesn’t actually mean anything at all.
“Both sides also remain firmly committed to avoiding a hard border, a point we have remained clear on throughout.” However, the EU have made it clear that they want Northern Ireland to go its own way independent of the UK, something we won’t agree to.
“We also remain resolutely committed to upholding the Belfast, Good Friday Agreement, in all its parts. And to finding a solution that works for the people of Northern Ireland and Ireland.
We have continued to hold frank discussions with our Commission counterparts about all these issues.” ‘Frank’ discussions! More like a dirty great row.
“But in this area we have also had to be very clear with our counterparts that, whilst we respect their desire to protect the legal order of the single market and Customs Union, that cannot come at the cost of the constitutional or economic integrity of the United Kingdom.” And that’s the sticking point. The EU want to dictate to the UK how the border should be run, and we’re not having any of it. They won’t concede that they don’t have a say in the UK’s internal constitutional affairs.
“As I’ve said, we cannot create a ‘new border’ within the United Kingdom.” And they’re not happy with that.
“This is an area where we believe we will only be able to conclude talks finally in the context of a future relationship.” So essentially, we’re not going to get an agreement here unless and until everything else is settled.
“Until such time as we do so, we need to approach the issues that arise with a high degree of political sensitivity, with pragmatism and with creativity.” We do but there’s no reciprocal ‘political sensitivity, pragmatism or creativity’ from the other side.
“Discussions on these areas will continue in the run-up to the December Council.”
“We have continued to make good progress on Citizens’ Rights, both sides are working hard towards resolution of outstanding issues.” Gotta say that, haven’t I?
“Last week, to respond to the request for reassurances by the European Union, we published a detailed description of our proposed administrative procedures for European Union citizens seeking settled status in the United Kingdom.”And they didn’t like it one bit!
“As our paper demonstrates, the new procedures will be as streamlined, straightforward and low-cost as possible.
They will be based on simple, transparent criteria, and these criteria will be laid out in the Withdrawal Agreement.
While there remain differences on the issues of family reunion and the export of benefits, we’ve been clear we are willing to consider what further reassurance we can provide to existing families of EU residents here – even if they are not currently living together in the United Kingdom.” They want what?? Do they really want us to continue paying for Eastern Europeans’ children, even if they’re not living in the UK? Do they expect the UK government to support to children living in Poland, Latvia and Bulgaria?
“I believe this paves the way to resolving the remaining issues in this area, and this was acknowledged by the Commission on Friday.” If the Commission thinks it can persuade us to keep sending all this money abroad to Eastern European children, they’ve got another think coming!
“There remain some areas also where we are still seeking further movement from the European Union on issues such as voting rights, mutual recognition of qualifications, and onward movement for British citizens currently living in the EU27.” We’ve made considerable concessions on all these matters. All we want is reciprocal arrangements to be offered by the EU. They’re more than happy to accept our offers but to offer the same – no way.
“In all these three areas, the United Kingdom’s offer goes beyond that of the European Union.” Yeah, and they refuse point blank to match our offers.
“Finally, the Commission has not yet matched the UK’s offer in relation to the right to stand and vote in local elections. Now, this is a core citizen’s right that is nominally enshrined in the European Union treaties.” There’s another area where we have made offers and concessions but the EU simply won’t agree anything similar, despite it being a fairly standard clause in most treaties.
“I have been disappointed that the European Union has been unwilling to include voting rights in the Withdrawal Agreement so far.” They are determined to make life difficult for us. Even though they claim they’re not out to ‘punish’ us for leaving the bloc, their actions speak louder than those words.
“As a result, we will pursue this issue bilaterally with Member States.” We’ll go over their heads to the individual governments and the EU can put that in their pipe and smoke it!
[The rest of Mr Davis’ speech will appear here tomorrow.]