Todays Telegraph reports on some remarks made by Germany’s former industry spokes-body president who allegedly expects: ‘Britain to unconditionally surrender to EU demands’ when David Davis makes a speech in Berlin next week. This voicepiece is a typical EU tool for leaking official policy without it appearing to come directly from the ‘horses mouth’. It is clear that Germans have no sense of understanding about what we are about and language like this is an immediate red-rag to a bull occasion. If there is any phrase more likely to raise British ire than this I cannot imagine what it might be. It may, of course, be a deliberate provocation by certain Germans to try and push British opinion toward making concessions, after all, Mrs Merkel has taken a particularly rigid and uncompromising stance against Britain’s Brexit intentions.
The risk in this provocation - if that is what it is - will be Britain’s literal surrender to EU terms in order to get assurances on a trade deal. Unthinkable, impossible, no- way, we might all utter in astonishment at such a thought - negotiation isn’t the same as surrender. But are we being fanciful ? Let us consider where we are on Brexit...
There may have been some marginal progress on citizens rights and possibly on the Irish border questions but there has been no agreement upon Britain’s financial liabilities to the EU beyond the €20 billion Mrs May offered in Florence. The EU are after a substantially higher payout - anything between €60-100 billion - and then with no guarantee of a trade agreement that is in keeping with Britain’s expectations. After six rounds of negotiation, therefore, there has been minuscule progress on marginal issues but nothing substantive on the key issue - money. Nor has there been any progress on any transitional period beyond March, 2019 and whilst this favours EU bureaucrats (for we would still be paying our full whack into Brussels’ coffers during such a period) it has a variable benefit to Britain (certain business groups would like to have an assured period of acclimatisation on Brexit before actually fully implementing it but much of British business would see no material benefit from transitional terms).
In short, negotiations have been close to totally useless thus far. A harsh verdict some of you might say but it is nevertheless the reality. We have made no tangible progress in the negotiations since Article 50 was invoked - and the clock is ticking.
So, if you were a partisan politician in a slender majority government leading the negotiations and leading the country (hesitant use of the word ‘leading’) and desperate to remain in power, what would you do ? The trade deal is the Holy Grail - that is the sole objective of the government. But it is nowhere to be grasped and nobody in the EU even wants to talk about it. So where would you head from such a position ? To me, the unthinkable could be the outcome. If surrender has the dangling carrot of trade discussions attached to it then I can see our weak and flabby team - and therefore a correspondingly weak and flabby government - accepting the challenge. If they did, they would couch it all in terms of success in ‘achieving’ trade talks but in truth they would have handed the EU every scrap of leverage over us that they could as well as a huge amount of money. This would amount to a political betrayal of the British people on a scale never before seen (the State has managed to betray many people in many countries over the years but I cannot recall a potential one of such magnitude being inflicted upon Britain itself by its own government). This possible outcome results from weak leadership, weak governance, weak negotiating, weak strategic thinking and weak commitment to the best interests of the nation topped by an obsession with maintaining the Conservative Party’s power base in Westminster. We had a golden opportunity to negotiate with experience, knowledge and powerful argument by using a negotiating team from across the political spectrum and being inclusive of our wisest minds from academia and business and led by someone who actually believed in what he/she was doing. But we’ve lost the momentum on that option and are unlikely to get it back at this now late stage.
What we are seeing is a desperate government, riven by internal and external chaos, that is so afraid of not making Brexit being seen to work that they are very much now on the spot over whether to succumb to an offer from the EU that will damage this country beyond all imagining (it is not just a matter of money, it is to do with our national pride, dignity, values and even our history - we have never, ever surrendered our nation to blackmail or threat in a thousand years of trouble and strife). But our government isn’t strong, it puts personal position above national interest and it is vulnerable to demands from other governments and institutions that will never be to our advantage.
The only remaining hope is that The Daily Telegraph has mis-reported this plot ! God help us...