February 2, 2017

Prepare to play hardball with Brussels

Prepare to play hardball with Brussels

Despite the ease with which the Government has secured Parliamentary approval to move ahead with Brexit negotiations, David Davis should be under no illusion as to the difficulties ahead, says Rory Broomfield.

After the former permanent representative of the UK to the EU, Sir Ivan Rogers, appeared in front of the European Scrutiny Committee yesterday, the headlines were all about how Brexit will be a “humongous” task. He laid out his view on the path ahead, and suggested there will be name-calling, heavy leaking of information and a verbal “fist-fight” from the EU side.

Sir Ivan, a card-carrying bureaucrat, made clear his belief that the EU would impose a £50 billion bill to leave the EU.

The sum of money demanded by the EU will supposedly be for the UK’s membership fee (for years after the country has left) and potentially more for other liabilities. It is a ridiculous request and, if they do demand it, they shouldn’t get it. It does though highlight the type of stance Michel Barnier, the European Commission’s head negotiator, and Guy Verhofstadt, the European Parliament’s head negotiator, will take. It means that the UK needs to be ready to get awkward. Certainly, more awkward than Sir Ivan was during his time – minus the disgraceful way he handed in his resignation as head of UKREP.

In Tim Shipman’s book ‘All Out War’, it was suggested that Sir Ivan was too dismissive and status-quo. Indeed, you couldn’t help but wonder that if he had taken a different approach then maybe the “four baskets” Sir Ivan referred to in his evidence to the European Scrutiny Committee – i.e. promises that Cameron wanted – wouldn’t have been so empty.

But it might not have all been Sir Ivan’s fault. Cameron (his political master at the time) so desperately wanted a deal that maybe the man in the grey suit wasn’t given the right incentives to bat for Britain in the way that would have achieved the desired results. Nonetheless, Sir Ivan was a Treasury stooge for many years and was effectively a Cameroon who, together with Cameron, failed to deliver when required (and despite the best efforts of others).

However, now UKREP has a new head, Sir Tim Barrow, who can approach things differently and certainly has a lot of elements within the EU to play with.

During the evidence session before the European Scrutiny Committee, its chairman Sir Bill Cash commented that the EU’s legislative process is still ongoing, with the EU still sending his Committee 1,000s of documents a year to review. As we are still a member – and paying for the dubious privilege – we are entitled to a seat at the table and to make it as hard as possible for the EU to get their way, if they keep on playing hardball (and we don’t choose to rollover).

Playing hardball won’t always be easy, however. During his testimony, Sir Ivan suggested that the mood in Brussels and Strasbourg has changed since the Brexit vote and that the 27 other member states in the EU don’t listen to the UK like they once did (if they ever did). Further, Sir Bill Cash referred to evidence received by his committee suggesting that nearly 70 per cent of decisions in the EU are made before they get to the European Council – where the heads of each member state’s government sit.

This means the obvious democratic deficit at the heart of the EU, which the UK will be unable to fix in the next two years as it leaves, may work against us. It is vital that both the UKREP team and David Davis’s team come prepared – and, if necessary, be ready to act more forcefully in giving other members as much of a headache both in the lead up to, at forthcoming Council summits.

Indeed, the UK also has MEPs and alliances in other countries. The UK needs to bolster these relationships and to gain leverage over those looking to roadblock any good deal. This can happen both in the Parliament and in other EU institutions.

There have been calls for the UK to embark upon negotiations in good faith and looking to get the best deal for the EU as well as the UK. This is all very nice but I doubt that this sentiment is reciprocated on the other side. Instead, the EU is shaping up to play hardball, and the government needs to be prepared.

It’s important the UK negotiators act quickly to get UKREP onto the front foot where it doesn’t just articulate things the UK will not want to continue with after we’ve left, but is also prepared to scupper things in the meantime while we are there.

If the EU institutions and other member states are not going to respect the decision of the British people, then we need to make sure they know the consequences. I wholeheartedly back the government’s position of wanting to achieve a global Britain and Theresa May’s 12 point plan. On this issue both she and the Government have excelled thus far. However, we’ve got to realise that this is do or die and, if the EU are going to take us for fools, that our response as a nation is meaningful.

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Rory Broomfield
Rory Broomfield is Director of The Freedom Association and the Better Off Out campaign. He is an authority on the EU and has written a number of books including his latest, co-authored with Iain Murray, Cutting the Gordian Knot: A Roadmap for British Exit from the European Union. He has previously worked in the City of London and in Westminster for a number of Members of Parliament, including the current Prime Minister, Theresa May; the current Chairman of the 1922 Committee, Graham Brady; and Sir Richard Shepherd.
  • Nockian

    No article ? Maybe it’s spread to comment central ?

    Central banks don’t work any better than any other kind of soviet style producer. They produce too many tractors when we need more ploughs. This is because banking isn’t independent, it isn’t laissez faire capitalism that is being practised, but the soviet style economics of central planning. It is not, per se, the fault of the central banks, anymore than it was the fault of the Russian tractor factories for under/ over producing as a result of state diktat. Unfortunately we have a mixed economy, which is 50% socialistic and has been expanding for several decades-most of us now give over 60% of our earnings to government directly (it’s probably a bit more depending on inflation and inflexible tax bands).

    The answer is to get the state out of commerce, then the central banks will either survive or collapse within a laissez faire banking system, but first we must begin to accept the truth, that we cannot continue to sustain such a gargantuan welfare system and its associated government. If we want to produce more, we need to be taxed less, we must save not spend.

  • ratcatcher11

    If everyone saved and did not spend there would be a massive worldwide slump, so it is obvious there has to be spending. Making things for sale is thus important, services alone cannot sustain an economy. One of the biggest problems is Keynsian economics that are basically tax, print and spend socialist policies. We do not need the government to build a railway we need a private company to build the railway which will compete with air travel fairly, not by taxing air travel to make it it less profitable. Thus the governments air taxes should be scrapped and private companies encouraged to re open rail lines closed by Beeching. This is the development we need not government spending 90 billion of money on an HS2 line built from somewhere to nowhere and never stops to pick up passengers.

  • Debs

    Expansion of economies cannot go on forever no matter what so called monetary policy is. You dont need to be an economics expert to realise it.

    All I know is governments and banks seem to be constantly coming up with schemes to leave we the lowly tax payer with less of our money.Forget about the trumpeted tax cuts ,everything else is going up accordingly except real wages of course. Dont even mention the Green scam or the cheap labour scam.

    Bail ins and cashless society are two more scams I have seen trailed in various media outlets over the past few years. Gradually our hard earned money is being prised away from us to fritter away on who knows what.

    They wonder why Trump got elected.

  • Nockian

    The market will raise rates eventually, regardless of wether the central bank wishes it or not. The problem is that we have all become mesmerised at central bank control, when, in reality, at this stage they have little at all. They cannot raise rates to normal, because, firstly, we don’t know what normal looks like (it could already be normal) and secondly any increases will create an avalanche effect-let’s face it, no one but the wealthiest wants to bring down countries governments through a collapse in public spending leading to actual anarchy on our streets.

    The bogey man of fractional reserve is a myth that has permeated libertarian consciousness, in a free market banks would have to take risk or they would, by any definition, not be free market. Banks are not currently lending to private individuals because capital requirements are already so high-they have become zombified businesses that look like they function, but are like the shops we set up as kids with funny money and plastic fruit. The market is broken as far as banks are concerned, they are no longer part of it.

    Fixing the problem cannot begin by looking at the central bank, nor the main banks. It’s far too late to consider than anything can be done at this stage, we are so far beyond normal that we aren’t looking at a functioning banking system at all. It would be like bleeding the radiators to solve a broken boiler.

    The problem we have is at its heart a simple one. It’s the problem that labour refused to accept when the banks blew up. We have an unsustainable welfare system and an over sized government. We have to tackle our public spending first of all and I see little sign that any current, nor perspective government is prepared to give the public the awful news about the reality.

    Even the great Tory saviours have flunked out of the monetary boiler rooms. The situation is dire, there is no fuel left, we have been ripping up the ships timbers to maintain the illusion of tranquil sailing progress, but eventually the ship will sink for lack of substance. There is no monetary policy that can save us, all we are going to get is an ever growing war on cash, savers and anyone who tries to make a profit. We are going to end up in the late stages of a soviet style melt down whilst spinning mirrors to pretend it isn’t happening.

    We all know what’s going on, we can offer solutions, make sympathetic noises and talk up any temporary progress, but the reality of the situation is now apparent. We have to do what every debtor must eventually conclude; that our spending has unfortunaly exceeded our earning capacity and all those red letters mean some drastic rethinking is required. We are going to reach the end of the road, not by a sudden explosion, but the drift into monetary authoritarianism which will result in ever greater protectionism and falling living standards. We are in great danger of losing the West to the East and ending up as country cousins of a world of declining freedoms and the rise mysticism.

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