Négociation sur le Brexit

Non negotiation

Thus spake, Michel Barnier, the chief negotiator for the EU on Brexit, in a US news documentary*: https://youtu.be/3SP9mhof9Es

Barnier-DavisThese are his first words about Brexit in the 8-minute film – he revealed everything we need to know, and should have learnt by now, in that single sentence.

He went on to say that all the problems resulting from Britain’s decision to leave the UK are the responsibility of the UK, “no one else”. He’s right that the decision to leave was the UK’s, not the EU’s, so that decision is indeed where all the problems stem from. That may be the origin but all the problems cannot fairly be laid at Britain’s door. Many problems have arisen from the EU’s response to the UK’s decision which, while loudly denying it, he effectively admits by default.

Barnier translatedSoon after Junker appointed Barnier to the role – declared by some to be ‘an act of war by the EU against Britain’ – it was reported that he wanted the negotiations to be conducted in French. That didn’t happen but it probably isn’t the reason for his intransigence, just an expression of pique that English has supplanted French as the language for conducting EU business, ever since its enlargement to the East. Although his mandate may be the main reason, the language issue may help to explain his obvious enthusiasm for sticking it to the British.

Barnier fingerThe EU has given Barnier and his team a mandate [1], which amounts to offering nothing for a future relationship except pain and punishment; a status which has the UK trapped in regulations with which it will have to obey with no say while still paying into the budget [2]. This is not even in their own interest, as a confederation that bangs on about bringing growth and well-being to its citizens. The EU is driven by fear that other member states might want to listen to their voters who, with some exceptions, are not enthusiastic about their countries belonging to this outfit.

Barnier emphaticBarnier confirms our interpretation immediately with, “we don’t want to compromise”. He attempts a feeble softening of this with “…on who we are” but that explains nothing and fails to soften the absence of compromise. Who they are is deeply ingrained in the EU treaties (which substitute for a constitution – rejected as such by the members who then swallowed it under a new title).

The next obvious question is who does the mighty Michel mean by “we”? Had he been elected he might claim to speak “for the many, not the few”. Most EU citizens do want them to compromise: the Germans want an end to bailing out the South; the South wants to end being bullied and impoverished by the wealthier North; the East wants to be left to decide their own laws; and much, much more. “We” therefore means the EU priesthood and they must compromise sooner or later, if not on Brexit then certainly for Italy. They promised to do whatever it takes to save the euro but there are few ‘whatevers’ remaining – compromise must come and it will. Remainers beware, you are not backing continuity and pragmatism but blind faith.

Barnier uncertainIn a statement of the obvious Barnier said that he has “no certainty” about how Britain’s future relationship with the EU will work out. We can take this to mean that he does not yet know whether or not the UK will bow to all the EU’s mandated demands. It seems odd to declare this since if there was a genuine negotiation under way then no one could be certain of the outcome; his uncertainty arises, not from that obvious state but from the usually more subtly disguised fact that it is not a negotiation that is going on. The truth has an uncanny way of revealing itself through the devious attempts of over-confident protagonists to egg their puddings.

Barnier waitingHe declared again, as he has so often, that “We are waiting for the British to have clear positions and choices”. He has to keep repeating this or people will notice that Britain has offered clear positions and choices on many occasions, only to have them squashed by the EU because they haven’t conformed to the mandate. [3]

In a meeting with the Brexit steering group of the European Parliament (shown in the documentary) about future customs relationship between the UK and the EU, Barnier said, “The British have been moving forward with several ideas. … They have two proposals which are being debated with British ministers. Neither of those proposals are operational or acceptable to us.”

Barnier dit nonThis flatly contradicts his claim that the EU is waiting for the British to have clear positions and choices, which the British clearly are doing on this issue, as on others. What he is saying is that whatever Britain proposes will be rejected, indeed has been rejected in advance of any formal proposal.

What remains mysterious is why so many people continue to accept the EU’s declared interpretation of the Brexit situation when their own words clearly show that they are not sincere.

[1]       Deadlocked Mandate

[2]       Transitional Agreement

[3]       The Windmills of Your Mind


*The documentary is on Vice’s website here (video is YouTube): https://news.vice.com/en_us/article/xwmaj7/meet-the-man-negotiating-brexit-for-the-500-million-eu-citizens-that-remain


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