Opinion Editorial

Thursday 21 June 2018

EU remains firm but fair on Brexit

In the end, a pragmatic solution will have to be found.
In the end, a pragmatic solution will have to be found.


The European Union's chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, has systematically dismantled the United Kingdom's latest paper on its withdrawal from the EU and has stated, 10 months from Brexit, that more "realism" is required from the UK. On the British side, chaos rather than realism remains the order of the day. There is cause more than ever for deep pessimism as to the outcome of the process and, therefore, growing concern that the UK seems to be heading for a catastrophic withdrawal that will be damaging in the extreme to the interests of this country.

As is the case in most negotiations, hard decisions are taken at the last moment. There are now two weeks before the June European Council meeting. In all likelihood, a solution will not be found before then. The last moment will be the following October, when a solution to the withdrawal agreement will be required. The omens are not good that a solution will be found by then either, although every effort must be made to do so, particularly from the UK side.

The position adopted by the EU is hard but fair, and blindingly obvious in its simplicity. As Mr Barnier has said, in all of the UK papers the EU has received there has been a request to maintain the status quo, a form of continuity, which he has described as "paradoxical" seeing as the UK itself has decided to leave the EU. But the UK seems to want to maintain the benefits of the current relationship, while leaving the EU regulatory, supervision, and application framework. That circle can not be squared. For example, the EU can not be expected to reopen, renegotiate or re-ratify existing agreements in order to keep the UK in the customs territory after the transition.

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