One of the few upsides of watching the slow sinking of HMS Brexit is that it’s produced some great barbs. For instance, the Irish Times pointed out:
In fact, the view at EU level is that Britain has been trying to serve a reheated casserole of ideas that London has persistently dished up – and Brussels has consistently sent back…
The topic of discussion then was the Irish borer, but the Government seems to be using that tired, failed approach in another area where it is refusing to acknowledge the EU’s stance, that of trade.
EU leaders, almost with a single voice, starting the very morning after Brexit, made clear that for the UK to have the benefit of access to the single market, aka “frictionless trade,” it had to accept the four freedoms, one of which is free movement of EU citizens. That means no immigration restrictions on them.
The Government’s insistence on imposing EU immigration restrictions is hypocritical, since before the Brexit vote, the UK had more non-EU immigrants than EU immigrants. Moreover it appears that some EU immigrants who are departing now, such as low-level workers in the horse racing industry, are being replaced by other immigrants, and not UK nationals. I’d welcome reader input as to the responses they are seeing to EU immigrant departures.
The EU has rejected the idea of mutual recognition, which in the case of traded goods, would amount to the EU having to negotiate a whole new set of “a lot but not exactly like” EU regulations, and along with that, a whole new supervisory and dispute settlement regime too.
The EU very clearly said that any post-Brexit relationship with the UK would have to fit within the parameters of arrangements it already has with other countries. What the UK is asking the EU to do is so out of line that it’s tantamount to walking into a Chinese restaurant and ordering a souffle. The UK has already suggested a limited form of mutual recognition as a possible solution for the Irish border and it was shot down, pronto.
It appears that the great compromise that May is trying to get her cabinet to accept is rewarmed mutual recognition.
The Spanish foreign minister, Josep Borrell, shot down the idea that May can serve up any scheme that achieves her fond desire to have the borders work the way they do now. He contends that the EU will hold to its position, and won’t let country be part of the single market without accepting the movement of people
Towards the end of his interview with the Guardian, Borrell also made clear the issue of Gibraltar isn’t going away either.
From the Guardian:
Theresa May’s plan to protect British industry by keeping the UK in a single market for goods without respecting the free movement of people after Brexit will be rejected by an “angry” France and Germany, despite some sympathy within the EU to Downing Street’s cause, Spain’s foreign minister has said.
The new Spanish government would also block such a political fix, Josep Borrell told the Guardian, ahead of both a summit of leaders in Brussels and a summer tour by the prime minister of EU capitals during which May hopes to convince leaders of her economic case.
Of those member states who might see value in a deal on single market access for goods without free movement, Borrell said: “They will not win the battle. They have not enough power. Germany will say no, France will say no, Spain will say no.”….
He added: “I don’t think France or Germany will accept that. They are quite angry with the United Kingdom. Because of all this mess, all the trouble created, all this time lost on negotiations. When we should be discussing eurozone and immigration, we are discussing what to do with someone who wants to leave. It is really a very bad allocation of intelligence, resources and money.”…
“Brexit is not a political problem but it is a pain in the ass,” Borrell said. “Brexit is considered a past problem. We know they are leaving, it is a matter of how. Brexit is just implementation.”
Borrell said that he expected negotiations would wind up being extended at the 11th hour, but that assumes the two sides are negotiating. He did not address the scenario that the two sides reach an impasse over the Irish border and talks break down entirely.
Gibraltar is still a bone of contention:
He added that negotiations with the UK over Gibraltar were continuing, with Spain insistent that the transition period after Brexit, in which the UK stays in the single market and customs union until December 2020, would not apply to the Rock unless an agreement on the territory’s future was found.
Borrell said that while the issue was not a Spanish priority, Madrid wanted “an agreement that protects the interests of the people living around Gibraltar”, and that action was needed to stop it acting as a tax haven.
Since it only takes a qualified majority, and not a unanimous vote, to approve a Brexit deal, Spain lacks the votes to hold out on Gibraltar. But I wonder how hard Spain will push if the other elements of an exit pact fall into place.