The chips are down, the Barnier, a.k.a. M EU, has spoken. The lines – blue with yellow stars sprinkled over them for the EU, red for Johnson – have been drawn in the sand. We’ve got the text of that mandate now, the one being prepared by No10 will be presented to the HoC tomorrow. Here is the whole text of that Barnier Mandate, signed off by the 17 EU members.
M Barnier has kicked off the blame game already – and yes, it’s all going to be our fault. RemainCentral’s headline (only the headline, mind!) sets the tone: “Brexit trade talks: give way or we’ll walk out, say both sides” (link, paywalled). Yay to that! The real fun and games will start next week, then we’ll see who stands firm. First though – M Barnier’s press conference, which must have been quite a spectacle. Joe Barnes, Brussels correspondent of the Express, reports:
“In a press conference in Brussels, Mr Barnier said: “These will be, demanding negotiations that take place in a limited amount of time before the UK leaves the single market. A short time chosen by the British Government, not by us… Everyone needs to assume their responsibilities, in a brief period of time, you can’t do everything – it’s the British Government putting time pressure on these talks.” (link)
You might well think that Johnson has suddenly come out with something utterly unreasonable: a timetable and demands poor M Barnier has never heard of before! Here’s more, from RemainCentral:
“Amid diplomatic sparring before the start of formal negotiations next week, Downing Street accused Brussels of hypocrisy in demanding concessions from the UK that it had not requested from other trade partners. No 10 added that any attempt to force Britain to follow EU state aid laws or social and environmental regulations would be categorically rejected. In Brussels Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, insisted that such “level playing field” provisions were a prerequisite to any agreement. “We will not conclude negotiations at any cost,” he said. “The trade agreement will be associated with a level playing field, or there won’t be any agreement at all.” (link, paywalled)
Oh please, Michel – do walk away! Please stand on your ‘level playing field’ while we go to trade with whomever we please. Furthermore, I hope No10 has taken due note of what M Barnier said next:
“Responding to a newspaper report the Government would “ensure we restore our economic and political independence on January 1, 2021”, Mr Barnier argued they had already achieved that with Brexit. The Frenchman said: “That is not true, the economic and political independence of the UK does not need to be negotiated.” (link)
So we are actually Out, M Barnier? Interesting, that, especially in view of this comment in the DT:
“The EU still seems to treat the UK like an exiting country trying to negotiate the terms of its withdrawal. It has not quite clocked the UK has already left. […] The UK will approach these talks as the constitutional equals of the EU, not some subservient entity.” (paywalled link)
Indeed so – and M Barnier has apparently confirmed that in his remark quoted above. The ‘hot expression’ of “proximity” has again been rolled out, but the far more damaging one is the demand for ‘dynamic alignment’. This summary is noteworthy:
“In their instructions to Michel Barnier, they demand a “level playing field that will stand the test of time”, with the EU’s own standards used as a “reference point” to assess how compliant the British have been in their “robust commitments”, with “mechanisms to ensure effective implementation” overseen by a “governing body” which can demand “higher standards over time”. If the UK tries to break free from the EU’s strictures, these “disruptions of the equal conditions of competition” would be punished “quickly” with tariffs. In other words, the EU – encouraged by hardline nations such as France – is pushing dynamic alignment in all but name. Mr Barnier was studious in its defence this afternoon, declaring that the EU would not strike a deal “at any price” and remained “wedded” to its purported principles.” (paywalled link)
It is, as the intervention yesterday of France’s EU Minister, Ms de Montchalin made clear, all about France – well, they are rather ‘proximate’ to the UK – and about what France wants. Some commentators have hinted that M Barnier’s strings are pulled by M Macron, not by Ms vdLeyen …
Writing in the DT, Asa Bennett observes that Johnson’s Greenwich speech on our negotiating policies seem to have gone in one EU ear and out the other, no attempt at understanding having been made, to the contrary:
“European leaders have taken that as an invitation to propose just what he ruled out: Britain being compelled to follow reams of EU rules. That is hard to square with Mr Barnier’s pious insistence today that he would show “respect” to his British counterparts as “we have to listen to each other”. (paywalled link)
We’ll see how respectful M Barnier is going to be. Interestingly, Johnson picked up on that suddenly so important word ‘respect’:
“Boris Johnson has told the EU to show Britain “respect” after accusing Brussels of offering the UK a more “onerous” trade deal than it has other countries. Downing Street also said Britain’s fishing waters were off-limits in the trade negotiations, which will begin next week, as clear battle lines were drawn between the two sides.” (paywalled link)
I am grinding my teeth when I read M Barnier’s supercilious demands about ‘standards’, be it in working rights, agriculture and environment – as if we were a country just creeping out from behind some wall, having slept through 40 years of stellar development in the EU, needing Brussels guiding hands and the ECJ shackles for when we don’t comply!
Fisheries though will be the one item where there will be blood on the floor immediately because Brussels insists that this point must be sorted by July 1st else there won’t be any more talks (paywalled link). Obviously, in regard to agriculture, the chlorinated chicken had to be mentioned yet again:
“The EU is demanding that the government agree to give European fishing fleets the same access to British waters as they have at present. Britain is insisting that this will be a sovereign decision outside of the trade talks and any quotas can only be agreed on an annual basis.The EU is also demanding that the government agree to “health and product sanitary quality in the food and agriculture sector” in a move that could restrict the UK’s ability to strike a free trade deal with the US and potentially ban the import of products such as chlorinated chicken.” (link, paywalled)
So no import of chlorinated chicken … The cloven hoof is in plain sight: should we give in on this, Brussels can then make all sorts of unreasonable demands on other items in trade talks we hold with other nations.
We’ll have to wait and see if Mr Johnson’s ‘robust response’ (link) will mean anything once the negotiations begin next week. Meanwhile, there’s one final quote from M Barnier’s press conference. It must have been quite an event – ‘lectern-bashing’, writes Joe Barnes. It demonstrates that, actually, Mr ‘Cool EU ‘ is floundering. Like all emperors, he’s got no clothes but puffs out clouds of meaningless words to hide behind, like these:
“The eurocrat launched into a tirade after complaints the bloc had insisted on placing a linkage between any free-trade deal and fisheries. He argued a fisheries deal with Japan and South Korea would be pointless, but for Britain an absolute necessity. He said: “It’s difficult to imagine there being a fisheries agreement with Japan or South Korea, no? That’s why these agreements aren’t the same. The free-trade agreement and the various models of free-agreement that we’ll be discussing with the UK as of Monday will be tailor-made and within the specifics of an free-trade agreement there will be fisheries as one issue, it’s a matter of trade too.” (link)
Jolly good, Michel: if fisheries is just one issue then why insist it must be dealt with first, before anything else? It couldn’t be, could it, that the wannabe Napoleon demands it because he is scared of his fishermen as he cannot afford a hot summer around the Channel ports?
I wish our Remain Brussels correspondents got a grip and stopped looking at the EU as if everything was perfect there and we were just hapless blunderers. Britain-bashing has become their default position in culture, education and the media so it’s no surprise that our Remain establishment still prefers kowtowing to Brussels and Barnier.
Time to tell them that they are singing from a French song sheet and to tell them that we have a long tradition of standing up to that lot across the Channel. Why am I again reminded of the napoleonic empire and our fight against that usurpator, on the High Seas and the Dry Lands …