It’s a CV-19-free zone this morning, thanks to the breakup of those EU negotiations. Looking at today’s broadsheet home pages is very strange. As the talks broke down yesterday and David Frost returned to London, there’s only the one obligatory article about this event in RemainCentral and the DT. No editorials, no comments at the time of writing. The Express is again full of loud headlines which only link back to articles published earlier where the reader is treated to the opinion of this or that MEP or EU journalist, excepting the actual report by their Brussels correspondent Joe Barnes.
It’s also rather odd albeit not precisely unexpected that the broadsheets give more space to what M Barnier had to say, hiding the remarks by Mr Frost at the bottom of their reports. Let’s first look at David Frost’s statement, reported by Joe Barnes (not a Remainer) in the Express:
“Mr Frost said: “We have completed our discussion of the full range of issues in the negotiation in just over three days. Our talks were face to face for the first time since March and this has given extra depth and flexibility to our discussions. The negotiations have been comprehensive and useful. But they have also underlined the significant differences that still remain between us on a number of important issues. We remain committed to working hard to find an early understanding on the principles underlying an agreement out of the intensified talks process during July.” (link)
That’s a nice example of diplomatic language: saying nothing much at all while sounding kind. Mr Frost leaves all doors open for the next round. Now compare and contrast with the Barnier speech. It’s long. You can find the full text here, but the summary in RemainCentral is sufficient:
“The EU’s chief negotiator expressed his disappointment that intensified talks […] had failed to make progress. “Our goal was to get negotiations successfully and quickly on a trajectory to reach an agreement. However, after four days of discussions, serious divergences remain,” he said. […] Mr Barnier complained that, while the EU had listened to demands made by the prime minister two weeks ago, the government had failed to honour its side of the bargain. The EU has asked Mr Frost to return to London with the message that the prime minister must show where he is ready to compromise. “The EU expects its positions to be better understood and respected in order to reach an agreement. We need an equivalent engagement by the UK,” Mr Barnier said.” (link, paywalled)
This last Barnier sentence has also made it into the reports in the Express (link) and the DT where their Brussels correspondent James Crisp, Remain to the core, has gone native. The headline of his article says it all:
“Michel Barnier blames UK’s lack of respect as Brexit talks break up early – EU’s chief negotiator says lack of progress the fault of British intransigence and refusal to engage in talks” (link)
Let me just observe in passing that his report was the first to be published – a nice indicator that this Remain correspondent was trying to ‘frame the narrative’, to make us believe that the breakdown of the talks was Frost’s fault. It’s our negotiators who are intransigent and lacking respect – Michel Barnier is as flexible as a circus acrobat and of course ever so accommodating to us poor benighted Brexiteers if only we would accept, ahem: respect Brussels demands. Our demands have not changed. Still, we must compromise but not the EU:
“Mr Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, blamed British intransigence and a refusal to engage in negotiations for the lack of progress in this week’s round of talks, which had been meant to close on Friday. The EU and UK are divided over fishing rights, the future role of the European Court of Justice, Brussels’ demands for “level playing field” guarantees and the governance of the future relationship treaty.” (link)
When one looks at what the Brussels correspondents took home from Brussels and stuck into their reports, it becomes clear that Mr Waterfield (RemainCentral) and Mr Crisp (DT) are lapping up Barnier’s critique as if it were gospel. See for example this quote from RemainCentral which introduces the Barnier remark about us having to ‘respect’ the EU:
“Mr Barnier complained that, while the EU had listened to demands made by the prime minister two weeks ago, the government had failed to honour its side of the bargain. The EU has asked Mr Frost to return to London with the message that the prime minister must show where he is ready to compromise.” (link, paywalled)
It made my blood boil when I read the last sentence above! ‘Mr EU’ Barnier, utterly not intransigent, ‘listened’ to what Johnson had said, rejected it as not being sufficient, declared that our negotiator Mr Frost, by not taking the knee, was ‘not honouring’ the EU’s demands and then had the gall to send Mr Frost back like a schoolboy to convey ‘Mr EU’ Barnier’s displeasure and his command that the PM accede to the EU’s demands.
It doesn’t seem to have occurred to M Barnier or indeed the Remain correspondents that ‘we’, represented by Mr Frost, have also listened to the EU which on their part has also failed to honour their side of the bargain. That none of the correspondents is even getting hot under the collar about this clear disrespect shown to us is astonishing. They and of course Barnier know full well what our red lines are:
“The EU negotiator said that Boris Johnson had, over the past few weeks, set out a number of UK demands which he referred to as “red lines”. These included that the European Court of Justice would have no role in the UK; that the UK would not be bound to EU law; and a new agreement on fisheries that “shows Brexit makes a real difference”. (link)
Even now, as it’s getting close to midnight in the EU’s Last Chance Saloon, Barnier and by extension our Remain Brussels correspondents still are blind to the fact that our red lines are non-negotiable, that these encapsulate the Brexit we voted for.
They still haven’t grasped the fact that they’re no longer negotiating with a weak Remain PM whose negotiators were only too happy to accede to Barnier’s dictates. Why none of them – not those Remain correspondents nor M Barnier – understand that we no longer cower when we’re told “the EU expects” is beyond me. This attitude of the EU is insufferable, this ‘de haut en bas’, from their, from Barnier’s assumed olympic heights to us poor blighted Leavers in the UK! Sending back our negotiators like naughty schoolboys, in the old Barnier fashion we’ve come to expect and despise, isn’t going to work any longer.
I highly recommend the excellent report – just out – by our friends at facts4eu. Not only do they provide the Frost and Barnier statements in full, their tongue-in cheek interpretation of David Frost’s statement is priceless:
“Our read of David Frost’s statement is as follows: “This is an utter waste of time. I’m going through the motions for appearance’s sake, but we’ll can this charade as soon as we’ve got the optics right and can show the world what impossible people we’re dealing with.” (link)
As for me – I hope Johnson and Frost remember the famous words Admiral Nelson signalled to his fleet at Trafalgar:
“England expects that every man will do his duty”.
We who’ve voted for Brexit and for Johnson expect that he and Frost will do their duty, now!