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
    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.
    • Debs

      In David Davis,s white paper speech he said “we will be full EU members right up until the day we leave and intend to be good members ” This does not fill me with confidence and I can see things dragging on and on.

      Decisons in the EU take donkeys years so we need to be prepared to walk.

      As far as Sir Ivan Rodgers is concerned ,I watched the select committee and he is the perfect apparatchik for the EU.

      All I heard is its all too difficult , oh woe is me.

      No wonder we never get anywhere when someone like him is meant to be our representative.
      What did he get his knighthood for.Hes not exactly Francis Drake.

      • Andy

        The Fascist EU are not treating us as ‘Full Members’. No Article 50 notification has been given – the Referendum was an internal UK matter – and yet the UK, the second largest contributor to the EU Budget, is regularly excluded from EU Summits and meetings. And yet our Government has not sued the EU in the Courts. Why not ? The EU can’t have it both ways.

        • Debs

          Couldnt agree more but we’ve always been treated like second class citizens by the EU. I dont know why we gold plate all the directives when other countries ignore them.

          I really hope we don’t cave into some ridiculous demands .

    • Ravenscar

      There is no reason on Gods green earth, why the UK needs to dicker with Berlin via Brussels. The EU soviet, without Britain – the EU is toothless and to all intents closed, defunct, with Italy facing almost immediate default and or leaving the €erozone, the collapse of their precious ‘le grand projet’ approaches impending existential crisis. Thus, the Brussels Nomenklatura can impose nothing it has no cards to deal and the idea of the UK paying a further €50 billion is just like lala land – in the real world they can go and sing.

    • Andrew Mitchell

      The EU is an organisation that simply refuses point blank to listen to its member countries and is utterly dumbstruck when it comes to listening to the peoples of these countries, they know that one of the main reasons we voted to leave is because having the free movement of people is too much, not only do they know this was one of our reasons for leaving but, they also know its the main reason other countries are thinking about holding referendum of their own, but still they point blank refuse to listen to these shared concerns, and this arrogant, ignorant, rude manner will end up the downfall of the EU, I give it less than 10yrs before the EU will be no more!

    • dred

      Wasnt this Sir Ivan Rogers the advisor David Cameron had before his failed E.U. renegotiation.He had obviously gone native and instead of looking at things from the UK`s side was all for the E.U. .

    • MrVeryAngry

      ….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… And they wonder why everyone thinks the EU is undemocratic?

    • Andy

      Personally if I was in the room when they passed the ‘exit bill’ across the table, I would look at it, laugh, tear it up, get up to leave and tell them to telephone when they are prepared to be sensible and grown up. WTO is far better than what we have now and we shouldn’t be frightened of it. The EU has a huge amount to lose and we should make it painful for them.

      • 3aple

        Apart from being one of the few countries making a net contribution to the EU, we also buy £49bn p.a. more from the EU than they buy from us. They are also now admitting how important access to the Eurodollar funding of the EU via the City is to them.

        So if they want to play hard ball, who is likely to suffer most?

        P.S. I also remember learning at business school (though years ago) that BMW made 7% of its world sales to the UK, but made 30% of its world profits from the UK. Though that’s probably Mercedes and Audi nowadays.


        • Number 7

          To use a sporting vernacular, when the EU bowl a hardball the immediate response should be to play a positive response. Hit the ball over the tree on the boundary.
          To put it another way, cut or payments by c50% (in order to cover the amount of money we get back) and still demand full representation as a full member of the EU. In the mean time, set John Redwood and Jacob Rees-Mogg on them.

        • Sir_Hugo_Baskerville

          We hold the whip hand (and let there be no backsliding over the return of our fisheries).

          “About a fifth of all cars produced in Germany last year, or around 820,000 vehicles, were exported to the UK, making it the single biggest destination by volume.”

    • geo

      take a hard line with the EU while aggressively pursing world trade deals- low tariff/low tax
      restrict poor uneducated people flocking here to simply suck up tax money and worsen poverty (Germany had to spend 20 billion euros last year on its 1mil “syrians”)
      the italian banking crisis will only get worse pushing the EU to crisis,
      the apparatchiks in brussels will increasingly get panicky they wont even get a trade deal with the UK so stuffing all those countries who export more to us than they import,
      faced with complete meltdown of german trade with the UK = loss of income just at a time the germans need it most will mean the Bundestag will put pressure on the eu to do a deal …
      result: we look to secure an advantageous deal while trading to the rest of the world. remainers scare tactics of isolation – buried. little englander slurs – buried. dying eu – monkey off our backs. the UK becomes trade hub again (low tarifs/low tax). standard of living rises

      theres an economist whose name eludes me (will edit post if I can remember it) who goes into great detail of the above. all it takes is some balls and so far May looks to have some.

      • Andy

        I don’t know why we need to threaten to make the UK into a European Singapore – we should do this anyway. I agree, pursue free trade deals aggressively. I also think we should offer some bi-lateral deals to countries like Poland. X number of visas for example. After all the EU is not a State and immigration is a matter between sovereign states.

    • geordieboy

      Sir Ivan should take a two year holiday. He resigned therefore no verbal or any other input.

    • EppingBlogger

      There is no provision in the Lisbon Treaty for any exit fees. Regrettably there is also no provision for us to get our money back from the huge surplus funds there are slushing around anonymous bank accounts and loans to unidentifiable organisations and individuals. We could and should require all UK based organisations to give a full account of EU funds which have passed into and out of their bank accounts and how much they still hold on Independence day.

      I trust the promised White Paper from HMG will refer to the analysis recently published by Civitas. Also others which identify how the small cost of tarriffs on UK business exports to the EU customers could be refunded, subsidised or otherwise supported from the tarriffs HMT will collect from their sales to us. There should be a further large credit to our accounts.

      The only way the exit negitiations will become complex is if the governbment allows them to do so. Just stick to the simple message: we want to cooperate, we want to have two way free trade and we will initially grandfather all existing EU law into ours pending its revision. Except we will change the CFP, CAP and all aspects we believe should never have been part of the EU: EAW and criminal law, shared embassies, purple passports and other symols of colonial status, etc

      • Big Les

        Perhaps we should just cut our losses and stop throwing good money after bad?
        That would put a gust of wind up their collective chuffer…. no more cash from the UK as of NOW.
        Let’s just GET THE FUCK ON WITH IT.

    • ScaryBiscuits

      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.
      It’s irrelevant what sentiments the other side has. As Adam Smith said, it’s not the goodwill of the baker upon which we rely for our daily bread but his self-interest.
      The PM has made her position clear, that no deal is better than a bad deal, and as long as she sticks to that it’s hard to see how the UK can lose. This is because, as John Redwood has pointed out, defaulting to WTO rules is still significantly better for the UK than the status quo so anything that the EU offers us has to be better than that, i.e. significantly better than the status quo. The option of them delivering us some sort of punishment beating, to encourage the others, just isn’t available to them. Comments to the contrary, by Guy Verhofstadt and others, need to be understood as either deluded in believing they can persuade us not to leave after all or wishful thinking.

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