This is another in our series of posts reviewing our comments on major themes regarding the European Union. Each brief comment is followed by a link to the post to which we refer. The linked posts are presented in chronological order.
A. In March 2017 the EU issued draft guidelines to their negotiating team, following the UK triggering Article 50 of the Treaty of European Union. These guidelines went on to become directives and then a mandate, thus constricting the role of the negotiators and closing down any likelihood of a compromise withdrawal agreement.
The President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, had observed that after Brexit no other country will want to leave the EU because “Britain’s example will make everyone realise that it’s not worth leaving”. We have noted more than once that although J-C is as slippery and devious as anyone at times he lets out something resembling the true aim of his organisation. We also noted that not worth leaving is not the same as well worth staying.
Divorce Guidelines (03/04/2017)
B. The linked post below was the fifth and final of our series in which we extracted evidence from ten EU documents. Overtime Lords was the first, Democracy or Institutional Strengthening? the second, Ideology the third and Propaganda, Deceit and Lies the fourth. This post focuses on the Brexit negotiations and why we believe that while the UK was negotiating the EU was not; it has a different agenda.
Key documents referred to in the linked post are the early draft and directives prepared for the EU’s negotiating team. Items E and F below bring the discussion up to date, at least until the draft withdrawal agreement was published (this will be the subject of a later themed post).
In due course the guidelines became directives and then a mandate, which is why we have argued (see C and D below) that what took place were not truly negotiations, since the outcome was a foregone conclusion, for the EU at least. They then nagged the UK to come up with its response and will continue to do so until the UK response matches their mandate, which is now the withdrawal agreement.
C. In the linked post below we show evidence that the EU was not negotiating in good faith, as Donald Tusk proclaimed at the time. This was game-playing to cover the fact that they were not negotiating at all, they were simply waiting for the UK side to agree to its mandate, which the UK Government did in the end, by agreeing to the withdrawal agreement, which in turn was roundly rejected by the UK Parliament.
By the date of our post the two sides couldn’t agree whether progress had been made in the discussions (non-negotiations). David Davis said that progress had been made; Michel Barnier said ‘non’.
Meanwhile the Government claimed that it was preparing in case there would be no deal, but the effort being put into those preparations was regarded as inadequate as the Chancellor didn’t want to spend much money in case a good deal was forthcoming. Merely saying this made it less likely that a good deal would be concluded and that a bad deal was the most likely outcome. Too much preparation in case no deal could be reached was thought, by the Government, to make that outcome more likely.
The UK Government was also too ambitious in its expectation that the future relationship with the EU could be agreed before a withdrawal agreement had been reached. The EU dismissed that expectation out of hand.
Negotiating – really? (17/10/2017)
D. The UK Parliament was to be presented with a petition asking why Britain didn’t leave the EU right away. We heard nothing further so assume that the petition failed to reach its target number of signatories. Had it done so, and thereby triggered a debate in Parliament, perhaps some of the current leave/remain divisions in Parliament would have surfaced sooner and, again perhaps, might have been handled better.
The Department for Exiting the European Union put out a statement, which included this; “The country voted to leave the EU, and the Government is clear that there must be no attempts to remain inside the EU, no attempts to rejoin it through the back door, and no second referendum”. The Government is no longer so firm on these declarations.
The next declaration now looks rather sick: “The Government has already introduced legislation to ensure the UK exits the EU with certainty, continuity and control.” We suppose that ‘stuff’ must have happened since then.
Negotiating Petition (20/10/2017)
E. ‘Supplementary Directives’ were issued early in 2018, to update the previous divorce guidelines (see A above). The Guidelines were precursors to these Directives, which gave the EU negotiating team under Michel Barnier a mandate to achieve specific outcomes..
The term “negotiating directives” is an oxymoron. When negotiators are given a mandate they are not authorised to negotiate, which involves being prepared to compromise.
The Directives set up a transition period, between formal withdrawal, under Article 50 of the EU Treaties, and an agreement on the future relationship between the EU and an ‘independent’ UK. The transition period is retained in the recent withdrawal agreement, which has been accepted by the UK government and will trigger Brexit if it is ever agreed by the UK Parliament; it also has to be agreed by the European Parliament.
Much else that was foretold (‘told’ literally) in the Directives has come to pass in the withdrawal agreement (lower case because it has not yet been agreed by all the relevant parties). What also continues to be repeated, relentlessly, is that the UK is expected to state its position clearly (see October ‘Dead’line). This was, and remains, a front put up by the EU to give the (false) impression that there is room for the UK to vary the terms of departure; in fact they make it clear enough that the variation is between ‘take it’ and ‘leave it’.
Transition: Negotiating Directives (1) (08/02/2018)
F. The linked post continues our critique of the Directives, picking out selections on which we comment.
The EU document starts with the oxymoron referred to above, “Supplementary directives for the negotiation of an agreement…” and continues in the same vein. The Directives confirm that the original guidelines and directives were not modified at all during the Phase 1 ‘negotiations’. And we can confirm that they are retained in the withdrawal agreement that came most recently.
Despite the UK Government’s expectation that the future relationship between the EU and the UK after Brexit would also be discussed at the negotiations, this was bluntly rejected by the EU, who insisted that the terms of an “orderly withdrawal” would have to be agreed first. This despite the obvious – and clearly stated – logic that the terms of a withdrawal agreement cannot be finalised with at least some agreement on what is to follow withdrawal.
Deception was maintained: “the negotiations may seek to determine transitional arrangements which are in the interest of the Union”, but there was no “may seek” about the discussions, which were subject to the mandate and exclusively in the interest of the Union.
The Directives made it clear that, during the transition period, the UK would (will) not have representatives in EU institutions and will not be able to participate in decision-making.
Our post concluded with ‘We should be worried;.
Transition: Negotiating Directives (2) (11/02/2018)