By Louis Mertens
The ability to compromise has never been a strength (or a weakness- if that’s how you see it) of a strong Conservative Government.
But in the years since German enlightened self-interest and numerous expansions of the union, the European Union has become much less receptive to aggressive bargaining tactics and much more self-assertive.
In the years of Margaret Thatcher and her famous “I want my money back,” speech it was easier to negotiate concessions from the EU, but Cameron had no luck in 2015 and now EU politicians are biting back, accusing Britain of “trying to move the goalposts and do away with the referee,”.
David Davis, Brexit Minister, has reportedly been holding meetings with politicians from Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Latvia and Estonia in order to find more sympathetic allies following the brick wall (rather ironically) put up by other members of the EU.
He describes it as “merely a talk with old allies,” but it is unclear whether Davis is simply making a start with reconnecting Europe with a Britain outside the EU, or whether the Government is trying to weaken the EU upon exit.
There has already been accounts of senior UK cabinet ministers who purportedly plan to, what can only be described as, bribe eastern European states in the hopes of acquiring a trade deal.
On the other hand the white paper updated on the 2nd February, suggests that Britain may take one eye off Europe and look for stronger trade deals elsewhere, rather, the white paper puts it “the importance of other markets outside the EU has been increasing”.
The Czech minister for EU Affairs, Tomáš Prouza, accused the UK of trying to cherry pick favourable negotiations and, Elmar Brok, a German MEP went one step further and threatened the UK with making “a big fuss over Scotland, or Northern Ireland,” hinting that the EU might attempt to split the United Kingdom by offering its own concessions to Scotland and Northern Ireland.
In what seems like a continued game of ‘tit-for-tat’ the Government’s White Paper highlights South Korea, China, Brazil and Mexico as countries it may seek to build stronger economic ties with following the conclusion of the UK’s exit from the EU.
Theresa May also looks as if she’d rather be shaking hands (or holding hands) with Donald Trump than Jean-Claude Juncker as exports to the US currently dominate compared to any other individual nation in the EU.
Furthermore the lack of stress in the white paper on an economic relationship with the EU maybe intended to give the impression that Britain has the better hand with regards to economic bargaining power; whilst on paper Liechtenstein is the fastest growing market for UK exports of goods and services, there is no mention of a continued relationship with the EU member micro state following Brexit.
It would seem a good Brexit deal is more of the cherry on the cake, than the cake itself.