Ending Brexit deadlock over financial contributions hinges on a transition deal

The Irish Times is trumpeting “ breakthrough” in the Brexit talks over guaranteeing to preserve free movement of all European Union citizens between Ireland and Britain. But the headline oversells the overall story which dwells on the absence of breakthrough.

.  In truth ” free movement  for EU citizens”  was bound to be the result for the future of the Common Travel Area  although the British have been making a meal of it and should have agreed it months ago, to start the Article 50 process on a more positive note.

The Irish are acutely aware of the disadvantages of being  hitched so tightly to the EU Commission wagon and are looking for any crumbs of comfort they can find.

In the big picture,opinion generally  is split down the middle between pro  and anti Brexiteers  over who  to blame for the lack of progress in the  negotiations, between those who claim  British tactics are based on “fantasy” and the British who have always regarded the  EU Commission as an unaccountable lumbering bureaucracy which is now sticking to an over-rigid agenda.

But it’s perhaps a  perversely good sign that negotiations are getting serious as a war of words is hotting up, with Michel  Barnier for the Commission declaring that the British stance was “ unrealistic and nostalgic  “ and  “sufficient progress” has not be made  for the heads of government to allow  negotiations to proceed to  trade matters when they meet in October.  While from Japan, the UK international trade secretary Liam Fox has declared that Britain will not submit to EU “ blackmail” over the  divorce bill.

All the same, it’s not difficult to detect a slight swing in favour of the British position:   for instance, how can the Irish border question be settled without talking about the substance of trade generally? What precisely is the big problem, when the British want a free trade relationship with the EU which would perpetuate many of the existing trade and standards presently observed by the UK as an EU member?  And how can the size of the divorce bill be decided until we know which EU programmes the UK will participate in after Brexit?

On the other hand the British do seem to want to have their cake and eat it. As one EU negotiator observes” the British position  papers  read as if they’re from someone wanting to join the EU not leave it”  while bureaucracies  home in  instinctively  on  complex jurisdictional questions like the role of the European Court of Justice.

British commentators like the Daily Telegraph’s Asa Bennett   are answering EU criticisms of the UK position papers by turning the tables against them

The EU has yet to publish a paper detailing its position on the Irish border question. Their side can at least claim to have put out something on the totemic issue of the so-called “Brexit bill”, even if it was just four pages of vague waffle and some tables showing off the vastness of Brussels’ bureaucracy.

All that should justify, apparently, the bloc’s demand for as much as – according to estimates – £100 billion.

The way through the present impasse hinges on a transition deal, according to  the excellent Charles Grant of the Centre for European Reform and repeated on Today programme this morning.

If the UK asked for a three-year transition and agreed to pay €10bn a year (roughly what it pays today), that would cover a large part of its share of unspent EU budgetary commitments. That would also ensure no hole in the EU budget in 2019 and 2020, the last two years of the current seven-year budget cycle – which would be a great relief to the European Commission. The other bones of contention – such as Britain’s share of the EU’s contingent liabilities and pensions commitments – could be handed to expert committees, while the talks moved on to the future relationship.

David Davis, the Brexit secretary, and Philip Hammond, the chancellor, back the principles of such a deal. So do some of the EU’s most senior negotiators and the French government. But there are difficulties with the sequencing. The UK cannot make a generous offer on money – which will be controversial at home, even if sold as “buying access to the single market” – without being sure the EU will immediately respond with talks on a free trade agreement and a transition. But the EU will not consider that until it sees a solid offer from Davis.

The sequencing can be fixed with a bit of creativity and goodwill from each side.

However there are different ideas of the length and nature of  transition ranging from two years, to forever. That one can wait. For now it’s progress – any progress – that matters.

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  • Nevin

    “according to the excellent Charles Grant of the Centre for European Reform”

    Brian, I drew your attention to the changing French position earlier but you didn’t respond. I’d suggest you widen your overall perspective.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Like many of us on here, I’ve done a tiny bit of negotiating in the past (in my case in my commercial lawyer days, mainly as a junior attending long negotations led by senior bosses). I’m no expert. But a macro-level observation on the commentary on these negotiations. Obviously we’re all keen to know what way things look to be going, and it’s interesting to speculate, but really I can’t help feeling the commentary is well ahead of anywhere actual developments in the negotations might reasonably be expected to have reached after just a few weeks. What are we, 5 per cent of the way in?

    Big negotiations tend to move in fits and starts. There can be a lot of subterranean movements, invisible until they surface and a whole tranche of items can fall into place. The UK has issued some opening papers, yes a bit vague, but a starter for ten. The UK seems to be taking stick for not having produced finished positions that can be agreed, but to my mind there needs to be several months of exploring each other’s positions on the issues before we start to get a sense of where things may settle, in terms of how to satisfy both sides. Saying what you want is a start, but as you’re going to have to move anyway (both sides), there is no point projecting these as set positions.

    My main issue with Davis and co is that I don’t think they are sufficiently committed to getting maximum access to the single market and being realistic about what it takes to get that. Focus should be on what we want and need as a country and then being patient about how we get there – it will be months and months and not weeks. Don’t expect to see the shape of things yet. In the meantime, it is quite right to keep pressure on May and Davis on the big picture points. The micro-commentary is a distraction and more heat than light. That said, I read it with interest!

  • Georgie Best

    Indeed, it isn’t quite clear what Davis and his merry men want. A proper transition period with payments to secure access to the Single Market would remove much of the need for payments associated with leaving and many of these would net out. The Brexiteers have been talking nonsense for years and now reality is too much of a step for them.

  • Cillian McBride
  • nilehenri

    ‘crumbs of comfort…?’ brexit seems to be more potent than crack cocaine when it comes to the leavers and their delusions of grandeur.
    england wanted a better deal, it is their onus to achieve it, no-one else’s. europe isn’t in the slightest bit perturbed. it’s lose lose lose for downing street.
    ‘vague waffle…’; again, this isn’t europe’s problem. england are breaking the good crockery and expecting everyone else to clean the mess up and pay for new dishes. if the exiters are so sure of their position they should publish solutions instead of blaming everyone else for their lack of progress. if i vote against something you can hardly expect me to support it later just because ‘the other side won’.
    there are no easy options for the english, europe has been decidedly patient with david davis et al up to now, however i believe that as things heat up this position will change.
    europe is not under any obligation to help england or get them out of their fix, no matter how much the dumb exiters complain moan and chatter.

  • Nevin

    So who kicked Macron into line? He was dropped from the EU negotiating team when he suggested giving Greece softer bail-out terms.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Or to put things from the EU’s point of view:

    The Transition deal hinges on breaking the financial deadlock.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Totally agree.

    The problem is quite simply within the UK, if the UK went to the EU and said we’re going to deport EU citizens who don’t have enough points, we’re going to handle the Irish border our way and we’re not going to pay a cent of the settlement, so do your worst.

    The EU would probably do their worst, and their worst will be in the form of trade barriers, exclusion from co-operative bodies, programs and travel benefits. as well as limited single market access. Not extreme punishment, but a sovereign assertion of collective bargaining power.

    The UK should see this first phase as a “Giving” phase, and the second phase trade as the “Taking” phase. Naturally it’s against the Brexiteer’s instincts to give the EU anything, but the consequences above show what the impact of letting those instincts dominate the debate.

    The more progress they make on the first three areas the better the trade deal.

    The UK needs to realize that the EU is not going to provide the UK a better deal on the outside than it had on the inside, any better deal the UK gets comes from making the effort it didn’t want to make as an EU member.

  • Roger

    5/24 months = over 20% of way in if completing deal and ratifying it can happen on same day.
    5/18 months = near 28% of way in if a modest 6 months is permitted for ratification.

    Above percentages ignore pre Art 50 period. Percentages would be higher if they didn’t.

    But I can’t disagree that as outsiders, it’s hard to decipher much. To me, the UK papers and rhetoric don’t suggest it’s going well. So vague, so wishy washy, so far into process.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Negotiations started on 19th June though – let’s call that 1.5 months ago. Let’s call it 15 months from then for negotiation to complete, so it’s about 10 per cent of the way in. Not far anyway.

  • Cillian McBride

    You’re assuming that the Telegraph story is accurate but to me it just looks like more wishful thinking (Dublin/the German car manufacturers etc. will save us…). I’ll grant that that there’s no way of knowing for sure at this stage however.

  • Nevin

    “Also, interestingly, after he compared the Greek deal with the Versailles Treaty, Emmanuel Macron – then Economy Minister under President Hollande – was banned by Germany from taking part in the Greek negotiations.” source. I’d have thought that Germany was the ‘big beast’ to watch, or imagine, during the political manoeuvring.

  • 1729torus

    The UK could have delayed the A50 notification until it arrived at a sufficiently well-developed and supported negotiating position.

  • runnymede

    Brian if you are relying on Charles Grant you are going to get a very skewed picture

  • Brian Walker

    It is indeed a weakness that the British have not spelt out either the elements of transition nor the end game. They would say that’s because the Commission refuse to let them proceed to the next stage. Others would say that’s because the cabinet still can’t agree. But I’ve a feeling we’re getting a bit closer to both…

  • runnymede

    This isn’t quite true Brian. The end game has been clearly laid out as a comprehensive modern free trade deal, a CETA-plus arrangement.

    There is ambiguity about transition, based on the fact that part of the UK cabinet wants ‘transition’ to be permanent and be indistinguishable from the status quo.

    The sensible transition approach is based on WTO article 24.5 which allows temporary zero tariff & customs union arrangements for countries negotiating an FTA. But you can’t invoke that until you start drawing up the FTA.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Ah runnymede, it clearly hasn’t.

    The way the UK comes across is that they are trying to issue an ultimatum to the EU to deliver a CETA-plus arrangement or face the mass deportation of EU citizens, problems on the Irish border and even more hostility over the final payment.

    The UK doesn’t deserve a CETA-plus arrangement from the European Union who have full sovereign control over their own internal market, The UK has made zero effort to get one, and is stonewalling to get a very bad deal.

    This entitlement complex and arrogance is pretty much the UK’s undoing.

    The EU block makes deals with small nations like the UK all the time, when they are willing to see eye to eye.

  • Brian Walker

    Nevin, Charles talks to a lot more than you and me. I know this as an old frequenter of Brussels and Strasbourg myself. Nothing is gospel but we are at the prophetic stage. The remote experts should be just a bit less categorical in their analysis

  • Kevin Breslin

    I think that’s a bit like saying Theresa May dropped herself from the UK negotiating team by sending David Davis to run the Exiting department. Macron is a head of state, his first priority is France not Brexit, I don’t know whether the UK or Brexit comes first with May.

  • Nevin

    Macron wasn’t head of state when he got dropped. It’s my impression that he’ll play second fiddle to Merkel.

  • Roger

    One hopes they’d started prepping before then…They’d had 12 months. They won’t have that sort of prep time again…

  • Kevin Breslin

    Due to typical British Teutophobia, no doubt.

    I don’t think May’s government has driven any wedges between Macron and Merkel, relying on petty stereotypes to make their judgement on this attempt to bypass the Commission is an amateur mistake from the Leave Liars, who are clearly the ones with the biggest divisions.

    The United Kingdom’s attempt to break up the Single Market for bi-national trade deals has one major flaw among many other flaws in it.

    The United Kingdom’s own historical track record in trading with the Continentals and the Republic of Ireland

    The United Kingdom before joining the EEC had not a single independent free trade deal with any other European nation.

    The Germans know it.
    The French know it.
    The Irish know it.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I think much of that 12 months was frittered away. They don’t really know what they want. It’s such a strange and dizzying process – so miuch is being decided on the hoof, not between the EU and us but within the UK. The UK position is far from clear because it is far from decided. I appreciate that must be frustrating for the EU 27. However, that is the reality, the country and the two main parties are divided on it. And there is no point really expecting anything other than shifting sands on the UK side at this stage.

    The interesting thing will be when it looks like the government is starting to really commit to certain unpopular positions for real – when presumably votes in the Commons will be called to stop them. That’s inevitable now given the election result and May’s determination to plough on with a Tory Brexit rather than seeking a national consensus.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Indeed it’s that the cabinet can’t agree – and even if they do, there will surely be votes called in the Commons that will force the government to resile from some of its ‘hard Brexit’ positions. If May insists on proceeding as if ‘hard Brexit’ terms had Commons approval, she risks having a lot of work unravelled not too far down the line. This will be very interesting to watch. And please do keep the commentary going, I didn’t mean to discourage!

  • Nevin

    Kevin, I did mention unequal relationships; there’s no likelihood that Ireland can change what Germany and France have already agreed.

  • Kevin Breslin

    What’s already been agreed to is the European treaties between the EU nation states and the Commission’s role in trade and legal matters.

    European Treaties that the UK wants out of, but no one else in the European Union (including the Irish) is going to abandon any time soon.

    Germany can’t violate them, France can’t violate them, Germany and France together cannot violate them … they are international agreements voted by these countries and the 25 other EU arrangements.

    The Commission is there to arbitrate on behalf of what is agreed in those treaties. Any new Franco-German agreement is subject to the other 25, the next time the EU decides to change their treaties.

    The United Kingdom needs to adopt the basic serenity that it cannot change the European Union from the outside better than it ever could on the inside.

    In legal terms when it comes to changing the nature of the European Union, the Republic of Ireland and Malta have more say than Switzerland or Norway, and they will have more say than the United Kingdom as well once they leave.

    They can give up trying to manipulate Macron or Merkel or Vardakar to put British interests first at the Brexit negotiation table.

    The dereliction of the United Kingdom’s interests comes from the Brexiteers and their xenophobic dogmas. As you can tell I don’t expect anyone in the center of the Conservative government to know the difference between a working factory and a leaky sewage plant.

  • Nevin

    Ireland is simply a minnow in the big beasts’ games – as shown at the time of the bail-out; the UK, though much bigger, can also expect rough treatment in order to keep the ‘ever closer union’ project on course.

  • Kevin Breslin

    In terms of international optics UK doesn’t come across as an economic martyr like Ireland was, just a selfish silly fool with no diplomatic power beyond its shorelines and inflated undeserved sense of self-worth.


  • Nevin

    So what do the ‘optics’ say about the bully-boy antics of the big beasts?

  • Nevin

    I may well have got my impression from the CER website! Burke doesn’t impress as an ‘expert’ on this neck of the woods.

  • runnymede

    Grant is just an EU propagandist

  • Kevin Breslin

    1. People who put EU citizen’s lives in limbo and complain about bullying, forget they are bully boys too.

    2. People who go behind the backs of the small nations of the European Union to try to set up bilateral arrangements with the bigger nations, forget they are bully boys too.

    3. People who expect other nation’s taxpayers to freely pay for your nation’s liabilities, forget they are bully boys too.

    4. People who try to bully the Republic of Ireland out of the European Union to suit the selfish, strategic and economic interests of Great Britain, without any trace of an Irish mandate on this, forget they are the bully boys too.

    Is the UK’s decision to try to bully the EU this way actually paying off … I would doubt it.

    The United Kingdom has literally no political capital and direct political influence in the European Union once it leaves. It seems that they also want to destroy what remaining good will the United Kingdom has with Europe by trying to put British trade at the front of the EU agenda.

    It cannot do it politically, so it’s trying to bully the EU citizens and Ireland in order to retain privilege, something neither will be willing doormats to accommodate.

    Verhofstadt pretty well lays out the sort of double standard the British seem to want from the outside.

    “I was in the room at the time of renegotiation and substantial additional exceptions were offered – a new special status of EU membership, with an opt-out from the core principle of ‘ever closer union’ and an emergency brake on benefits for EU workers.

    “I even offered to work with the UK to develop a new form of associate EU membership, but UK members rejected it, as they argued it would mean losing the UK’s seat at the top table.

    “If this is not showing flexibility, I don’t know what is.”

    Verhofstadt says now UK ministers seem to want to devise a new customs union and seek to recreate all of EU’s structures in order to “benefit from the best elements of the EU, without it being called the EU.” (or maintaining the obligations of that union it would seem)

    He said this was “not serious, fair or even possible” given the negotiating time remaining, which had been “significantly limited by the UK’s own decision to call a general election after the triggering of Article 50.”

    Verhofstadt also slapped down any hopes harbored by Britain of conducting simultaneous divorce and future relationship talks, saying there must be an agreement on the divorce – financial liabilities, the Irish border, and EU citizens’ rights – “before planning a new future together.”

    “This is not a ploy to derail talks, but an inevitable consequence of the Brexit decision.

    “It’s time for UK politicians to be more honest about the complexities Brexit creates and for them to recognize that other governments also have obligations to their own taxpayers.”


  • Marcus Orr

    The British Govt. needs to jettison the “hard-core” Brexiteers and pursue the Norway option – access to the common market through some form of membership of EEA. Not quite free as a bird as you would be if you make a complete radical break, but it would soften the changeover period considerably.
    Problem is EU won’t accept this, I reckon they’ll say no and push hard for isolation / punishment (the EU won’t spin it like that of course, they have all sorts of useful idiots – such as commenter Roger here – who will sell the EU stance differently to keep the UK remainers onside).

  • Marcus Orr

    All French head of states play second fiddle to the German chancellor, the way that Merkel summoned Hollande & the Italian PM to Berlin on June 24 2016 (day after the Brexit vote) was symptomatic of that.

    Many French commenters (see Emmanuel Todd for instance) have admitted as much, that their President is Merkel’s assistant.

    It won’t stop the idiotic “typical British Teutophobia” coming of course, but never mind about that.

  • Roger

    Pretty much agree with all that. Only thing is about “expecting” things. Honestly, the UK has long trumpeted its good governance, stability. Dare I say it, ‘strong and stable’ government. With very good grounds too. This shambles is fantastic car crash tv. I never would have expected any of this 2 years ago.

  • Kevin Breslin

    You are saying typical British Teutophobia doesn’t apply when talking about the European Union?





    You’d think the Brits didn’t need Germany to stop the advance of the Iron Curtain, and you’d think they weren’t their NATO military allies.

    Let’s compare this with reality.

    1. Modern Jews are identifying more with a tolerant Germany over an intolerant Brexit Britain


    2. Germany is the second biggest loser when it comes to EU negotiation positions, it’s forced to compromise to the terms of the other countries.


  • Marcus Orr

    I think that’s quite funny actually.

  • Kevin Breslin

    When are the Brits going to kick the Germans out of NATO then, if they are too evil and clandestine to work with?

    Face it the Teutophobia is based entirely on Brits having a nostalgia for war paraphernalia and the jingoistic past.

  • Marcus Orr

    The British can’t kick the Germans out of NATO.

    NATO is over anyway, the US have pulled the plug on their funding of the EU’s expansion into Eastern Europe (which aids only Germany).


    Read from a Frenchman Kevin on the subject, and learn.
    (and quit the tedious and boring Teutophobia ranting – nice new word by the way).

  • Kevin Breslin

    I’m sorry if I’m generalising here but major political figures in the Leave camp have been openly teutophobic, your argument simply 0.1% isn’t that credible.

  • Marcus Orr

    The Queen giving the Nazi salute as a 7 year old in 1933 (!)
    Oh Kevin, how embarrassing for you, that you dragged up that one from the annals…sad, sad, SAD

  • Marcus Orr

    The poor wee lad Breslin, with his graphics all lined up, the Queen as a 7 year old in 1933 etc. etc, deary me, can’t he do better than that ?????

  • Marcus Orr
  • Kevin Breslin

    Marcus you are a fool…

    1. NATO has Turkey and Albania in the Alliance, that’s going well beyond the EU’s borders. So I don’t get this funding Eastern Europe since there are 21 NATO nations excluding Britain that are funding the European Union, and Eastern Europe anyway. The UK net contribution to the EU is a drop in the water compared to the benefits Eastern Europe gets from the Common Market.

    2. Your whataboutery on France, ignores the political power of the country is virtually identical to Germany’s within the European Union, and sometimes because it has closer diplomatic relations with the rest of Europe.

    Think of the Common Agricultural Policy, Germany is more like the United Kingdom, urban and industrial, yet CAP is more suited to the French, Italians, Greeks and the Spanish, moreso perhaps after Brexit.

    3. The British Teutophobes still love German goods, perhaps they should see the hypocrisy. The Germans aren’t afraid of Brits don’t buying German cars, because the Brits will still buy anything the Germans make at any price.


  • Marcus Orr

    Also, dann bin ich, wie Du sagst, einfach ein Narr.
    Wir haben nichts mehr zu diskutieren.
    Tiens, alors je suis un imbecile, et alors pourquoi fais-tu l’effort d’essayer de discuter à nouveau avec moi ? Je ne comprends pas…
    Well then, I’m just stupid, why bother…

  • Kevin Breslin

    There’s a difference between foolishness and stupidity. I’d never accuse anyone of being stupid, just unwise.

  • Marcus Orr

    Tiens, c’est vraiment gentil de ta part, merci beaucoup.
    Das ist doch super nett von Dir, ich danke vielmals.
    Thanks that’s really gracious of you to say that.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I think (and I’m a Remainer) you’re right about the EU27 actually possibly making life rather difficult for those of us trying to make Brexit as soft as possible. Which they also deserve to be exposed for. It can’t be a wrong position to want to respect the referendum result while keeping as close to the EU as possible. It does seem unfair of the EU if it’s insisting on Britain having some form of pariah status if Britain does seriously try for something closer.

  • Reader

    Kevin Breslin: …or face the mass deportation of EU citizens,…
    Is that really the way it seems to you? Can you name anyone in public life who shares this perception?

  • eamoncorbett

    I don’t agree with you with regard to the EU stance on the Norway model , I think they would accept it as the final outcome ,though not yet .
    “Norway ” would be ideal for this island but Fox , Johnson , Redwood etc won’t contemplate paying into EU to access the single market .
    The only hope of success for this route is ,if it is one of the options put before parliament at conclusion of talks and there is cross party support for it. Too many hard Brexiteers in both major parties for this outcome to succeed .

  • Nevin

    Verhofstadt isn’t a neutral observer.

  • eamoncorbett

    When Germans negotiate they get a little puzzled when their opposite numbers are not sure what they want , it’s just their nature , you can see their influence on Barnier’s statements. One thing Germany will insist on is , Britain can’t be seen to benefit from Brexit , let’s hope this island is let off the hook when they crack the whip.

  • Nevin

    Eamon, I suspect the EU bureaucrats are just providing cover for Germany, operating in league with France. Even Simon Coveney was just echoing Barnier’s comments. It will certainly be interesting to see how the negotiators – and Barnier may just be a figurehead within the team – play the Ireland pawn.

  • Hasn’t splitting the negotiations into two phases made it harder to do the trade-offs of interest-based negotiations as laid out in the Harvard Negotiation Project?

  • Kevin Breslin

    Neither are you. I don’t think he’s wrong though, it’s clear the UK is behaving this way.

  • Kevin Breslin

    Anyone from UKIP, the party who’s former voters the Tories need to stay in power.

    If you don’t believe your “culture” isn’t more important than keeping families together then I would have to ask what type of Brexiter are you?

  • Accountant

    Since when was being nice any part of a real negotiation ? As long as you have confidence that your counterpart will deliver its stated position, the only things that matter are what you can give and what you want to take.

    If EU negotiators take any approach other than trying to optimise the outcome, they will be signing the death warrant for their entire project. Merkel might just give them one more term, but a self-harming deal will see the Mittelstand rise up.

  • Kevin Breslin

    The United Kingdom’s hostility is completely futile in my opinion, it’s a sign that the United Kingdom wants to play to its weakness which in my opinion is UKIP/DUP empty nationalist populism.

    When it comes down to it the United Kingdom government is not going to get a better deal from the European Union from having a UKIP/DUP like temper tantrum at the heart of its negotiating strategy.

    The fact is it’s very clear that the Conservative’s attempts to overplay their hand is adding unnecessary insecurity to the British economy, and their German/European Union competitors are hardly going to be crying their eyes out if they can’t manage to give the British a free lunch for being such a drama queen.

    What would cause the Mittelstand to rise up would be Germany giving the British more than they ever got as European Union members simply because they threatened to undermine German residents in Britain. Frankly, it’s a desperate attempt to provoke retaliation.

    I wonder if Anglophobia would cause the Brits to capitulate the way Brexiteers think Teutophobia would cause Germans to?

    That’s the only thing this Brexit is increasing the market for, Anglophobia.

  • Accountant

    The Germans don’t give a damn how Liam Fox says it, but they too are impatient for the near-comprehensive free trade deal, so they can keep cleaning up at the table.

    Barrier (I typed Barnier, and that’s what my spell checker suggested !) will be sidelined once Merkel is back in and our master will make the call – on hard, Tetonic principles.

  • Kevin Breslin

    So this is the strategy, hoping Germany pulls rank over the European Union to appease the British and undermines the rest of the European Union. Holding German and other EU citizens to ransom in order to try to get a better deal than Norway or Switzerland is pathetic.History will record this as a flawed tactic.


    The Germans make more exports across the rest of the European Union than to the United Kingdom, the United Kingdom should know its place in the queue is Number 2.

    To make matters worse, I crossed the border over into Donegal, and Dublin to Brexit forums and while there is worry the general consensus is that expectations are the United Kingdom are going to corner themselves with a hard Brexit, so Irish industry should adapt to penetrate new markets and diversify.

    It’s very clear the United Kingdom haven’t made any clear commitments to what it wants from a comprehensive free trade agreement other than it wants to be free from the politics of other nations while dumping its own political issues on its neighbours.

    The United Kingdom is only reaping nastiness, that’s only a good idea if they are in the market for creating Anglophobia. Perhaps the worst Anglophobes are the English, this trade negotiation strategy has self-loathing narcissism written all over it.

  • Accountant

    Pragmatism rather than narcissism.

    Post-UK, Germany will provide nearly 50% of the EU’s funding.

    UK and Germany will have strong trading links post-Brexit – it may take a number of years if other countries lean on the Germans, but medium-term a low-bureaucracy Anglo-German trade arrangement is an existential threat to Barrier and friends.

  • Kevin Breslin

    The idea the Germans want to get into the same Brexit straight-jacket as the British is laughable. The Germans wouldn’t exchange their own excrement in exchange for what the Daily Express and the Daily Mail claims the nation wants to offer.

    Plus the European Union already lowers the bureaucracy between Germany and its European neighbours. The fact is the European Union wants to consolidate its 40 years of removing trade barriers across Europe.

    The United Kingdom is the real Barrier generator, and Brexit was sold on protectionist measures from special state aid to state led labour migration controls.

    There is nothing the United Kingdom is offering that is a better offer than what the European Union offers Germany, even if it is choosing to be its major stakeholder.

    Le Pen lost, Wilders lost, AfD lost and the Five Star Movement sold out … Product Brexit is just a dodgy prototype, a No Man’s Sky of the trading world … and there’s no reason why any nation, Japan, United States, China, Ireland, Germany … would go all in investing in what really is nothing more substantial than an old person’s moan along.

  • Accountant

    Germany has no reason to leave its own club, but it will reform it further and further towards its own needs – some of which will be positive modernisation.

    The need for trade blocks is diminishing in our globalised/WTO-observing world and political unions are past their sell-by date for all but the smallest nations (unless, as Germany will, you dominate them).

    The Brexiteers could just about play second equal fiddle to the Germans, but Barrier & co. have assumed proxy German power. I personally would have ridden it out and tried to force reform from inside, but EU is a dog’s dinner of an organisation (Ireland’s views will change as it becomes a larger net contributor to bonkers projects – not all).

    An EFTA deal may be enough, but I think UK is in a much stronger position than Norway or even Canada, so should be able to have most of its cake and also eat most of it (I prefer to view it that we’re just pulling out of the “political project”, but keeping strong economic ties).

  • Kevin Breslin

    This deserves Line by Line deconstruction:

    1. Germany has no reason to leave its own club, but it will reform it further and further towards its own needs – some of which will be positive modernisation

    In case you have forgotten the European Union contains 26 other nations besides Germany, and your previous figure that Germany pays half of the EU contribution was both ad hoc and un-sourced like a lot of these opinions you follow with.

    Let’s talk about reform, when the United Kingdom leaves its own seats in the European Union to one side, do you really think the Germans are going to do a better job looking after Britain’s interests than the Brits themselves.

    Possibly, but that would really be a case that Germany cares more about the British public than the British politicians do. Modernisation as a result of Brexit won’t be because of greater German influence, (every EU nation gains greater influence) but because of lesser British influence … particularly less UKIP and Tory toffs etc.

    2. The need for trade blocks is diminishing in our globalised/WTO-observing world and political unions are past their sell-by date for all but the smallest nations (unless, as Germany will, you dominate them).

    This doesn’t stack up with evidence … trade blocks and customs unions are dominant features particularly for small nations, as a lauch pad for further global trade. The 1960’s arrangement that the United Kingdom was in was only escaped because of foreign nation co-operation in the guise of customs unions and trade blocks. The WTO is simply an upper level, but that doesn’t mean removing sub-layers.

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/e2c71f472df52d4cdab1d4f6bbbce9ef8d99fd6164777510923f5356c8703625.png https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/4ff85d7ebdc416a1cbe36419dc76737b0510ba081bdc6bdbe9396ac97a83ae3f.png

    If anything you said was right, this map would be nearly all grey, rather than relying on reasonably large populated nations like China and Iran to be typical of your example.

    What has passed its sell by date is a British Empire run Commonwealth block where the vast majority of citizens and the biggest economic centre lies inside the Asian Sub Continental region.
    A Commonwealth block would be Indian run, not British run and run in Indian’s interests

    Similarly would an Anglosphere block would be run from North America.

    European Union or at least European Free Trade Association was the perfect fit for the United Kingdom. Without either its isolated like Ukraine.

    3. The Brexiteers could just about play second equal fiddle to the Germans, but Barrier & co. have assumed proxy German power.

    FRANCE are second fiddle to the Germans, and are set to replace the United Kingdom with the Italians replacing the French. So the reform is coming from the inside without the British Eurosceptics stiffling them from happening.

    Barnier is not doing anything that goes against the German national interest, Germany has citizens in the United Kingdom, Germany has money owed to it by the United Kingdom, Germany has a vested interest in the Eurozone border of Ireland being as friction less as feasibly and legally possible.

    The Eurosceptics have two major failures, they cannot change things from the inside because they lack the diplomacy to change things from the inside. They also cannot change things from the outside because they lack the diplomacy to change things from the outside. Either way they don’t have the political capital to put the Germans or the rest of the European Union bar the Germans.

    Even German Eurosceptics like Hans-Olaf Henkel, would question being too generous to the British with the terms of departure given the UK’s lack of concrete commitments to either Europe or Germany in terms of financial contributions and their citizens.

    Appealing to public opinion will simply let the United Kingdom end up like the Greeks, wallowing in their own hubris.


    5. I personally would have ridden it out and tried to force reform from inside, but EU is a dog’s dinner of an organisation (Ireland’s views will change as it becomes a larger net contributor to bonkers projects – not all).

    Democracy is a b**tch isn’t it, all these foreigners getting elected into positions choosing things that you do not like in order to make things happen. Democracy is the worst system that’s ever been tried, except all the others.

    The United Kingdom had 1/8th of the population of the European Union, 1/9th of the MEPs, one of the highest QMV shares on the Council of Ministers, strong diplomatic links with all 27 other EU nations to take advantage of and signed every European Union Treaty that was put to them with the fingers of its Parliament on it … it has a fair share in the European Union’s demerits don’t you think?

    And as for the United KIngdom’s own demerits, surely British people can take responsibility for their own self-made problems and under-achievements too? Nope?

    As I said before the European Union has no reason to give the Brits more on the outside than they had on the inside, and likewise Germany, France and the rest will not make their lives harder with other European nations simply to appease the British who seem committed to making things harder for themselves and others to no net benefits to either.

    5. An EFTA deal may be enough, but I think UK is in a much stronger position than Norway or even Canada, so should be able to have most of its cake and also eat most of it (I prefer to view it that we’re just pulling out of the “political project”, but keeping strong economic ties).

    The UK was in EFTA before and couldn’t work really it. A large reason why it joined the European Economic Community in the first place.

    You say its in a stronger position than Norway or Canada, I honestly would love to see the evidence that it is.

    Norway had 40 years to built its relationship with the European Union nations independently, while the United Kingdom government seems to want to ratchet the clocks back 40 years to appease a UKIP vote demographic.

    To me the United Kingdom doesn’t seem strong, but uncertain and fractured, with no desire to make Brexit easy on itself but choosing a path of highest resistance.

    It’s a total straight-jacket, the only nation who can deliver Brexit for the Brits are the Brits themselves, and given the supporters of Brexit include many pensioners, a lot of old money and many unemployed and disillusioned, I would have to say the Brits have asked too much of themselves to get a good Brexit deal from themselves.

    To quote the Russians, Britain is no more than ‘A small island no one listens to’ these days.

    Once Britain is fed up listening to the Brexiteers who are trying to get Empire 2.0, or Adam Smith’s Invisible Hand Land, they will have the serenity to pick up the pieces of a Broken Britain that the baby boomers had severely failed.

  • Accountant

    My source for the post-Brexit German share is: http://uk.businessinsider.com/http://uk.businessinsider.com/brexit-eu-members-net-contributions-and-net-funding-2016-12-eu-members-net-contributions-and-net-funding-2016-12
    I did also make some back of fag packet assumptions on how the budget shortfall will be absorbed (I assumed countries like Ireland would take more pain than Germany, but they still have a lot to lift – nearly half).

    My other opinions, such as UK’s better negotiating position than Canada and Norway are based on UK’s relative level of trade with EU-Germany and how badly the UK does in balancing this – your only fact/opinion that I fully accept. It is precisely due to this imbalance that one has to give credence to the Brexiteers’ logic – the EU is not working, on any substantive level for the UK.

    That’s not meant to be a blame allocation, just a statement of fact.

  • Kevin Breslin

    My other opinions, such as UK’s better negotiating position than Canada and Norway are based on UK’s relative level of trade with EU-Germany and how badly the UK does in balancing this – your only fact/opinion that I fully accept. It is precisely due to this imbalance that one has to give credence to the Brexiteers’ logic – the EU is not working, on any substantive level for the UK.

    The U.K. government cannot stop the British public from buying German cars and other EU products when it is clear so many other products from outside the EU are on the market.

    From your Bad reasons to leave the EU.

    1. Jealousy of Germany … That’s on the UK. Get over it

    2. Resentful that Germany’s manufacturing is better than the UK. Level playing field (bar the UK’s monetary control advantage) … That’s on the UK

    3. The Brits buy more from the Germans than vice versa … That’s on UK production and consumption.

    Brexit’s Green Eyed Monster is a British problem, if the Brits want to be more like the Germans or one up them they can’t expect Germany and the rest of Europe to work hard to facilitate a problem free trade for the Brits.

  • Accountant

    You are making the Brexiteers case – Europeans will also continue to buy Scotch whisky and London gin despite the best efforts of Barrier.

    While German manufacturing is astounding, the UK economy has outperformed Germany over the last several years and PwC predicts that will continue, despite Brexit, for the next 30 years.

  • Kevin Breslin

    https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/44e788e6cf4b56fa6ca03e1c4bb0b5b07c40cb568913e37621845011693202bb.png I think you are making the Remainers case here by showing a typical British arrogance to trade in handwaves. The Germans export to all kinds of non-EU countries facing all kinds of import tariffs, but they don’t do that using Brexiteer tactics of hot air and windbagging but through a different strategy of hard work.

    The fact that there is a path of resistance to trade is something that the European Union has tried to reduce as much as possible but no further. Even when there was an economic war and hard customs barriers between the UK and the Irish Free State/Republic of Ireland there were goods being sold in each others market. That’s hardly a sign of trading success, but if Brexiteers want to believe Down is the new Up, there’s not much I can say to them.

    The British are just creating trade barriers of their own to reduce their EU market share of no clear benefit to trading beyond the EU, but rather a local market. Limiting diversity by trying to ignore standards from other nations deliberately.


    The PWC report is founded on the most dodgy of theoretical economic assumptions, namely that the UK will not be a more protectionist state after leaving the European Union, but in terms of regulations, customs, and open competition to foreign services … three things I don’t see the Leavers delivering upon in all feasibility.

    “The elephant in the room here is that the findings assume an open Brexit rather than a closed Brexit for the UK economy,” he told i. “While there is a branch of Brexiteers that favour this model there is undoubtedly another that prefer a much more protectionist stance.”

  • Accountant

    What I sense from the Brexit grass roots is protectionism and xenophobia driven by fear and disappointment.

    Much of the Brexit political and economic elite, on the other hand – e.g. Patrick Minford – advocate unilaterally opening the doors and letting everyone dump whatever they want at whatever price we can get, i.e. no tariffs to anyone.

    I expect that, in the post-Brexit panic downturn/recession, this open trade view will prevail over protectionism and the UK will adopt an open, low friction, investor-friendly, trade-based economy.

    I’m not sure how this will help the first, disenfranchised constituency, but I think the self interested UK no-red-tape/wheeler-dealer class will take [back] control.

  • Kevin Breslin

    I have to laugh at your optimism thinking that Brexit will be made a success by the dodgy salesmen who were selling it. Wasn’t Farage let go from two companies who were failures, then went on to brag that his peers in the EUP had never worked an honest day in their lives?

    The dodgy salesmen and libertarians are as much Brexit barrier creators as the openly xenophobic and protectionist Leave voters.

    Tariffs exist for a reason and there’s no reason dodgy salespeople are top be trusted in keeping their word on tariffs.

    Then there are non-tariff barriers from natural, to political to the willingness of people to overcome the natural obstacles and logistical challenges of international trade. Things like free movement to sell your services for example.

    The Leave liars will impose all kinds of red tape in the name of petty soverignty issues, they are in self-denial they are different from the rest of the world in this regard underneath.

    The only thing frictionless about Brexit, is the Leave liars grip on reality even Minford and Gudgin. Both are anti-statist libertarians who can only be employed in the public sector, their careers are based on deluding themselves.

    Just imagine how these Brexiteers are going to feel about lifting Jeremy Corbyn to power in Westminster!

  • Skibo

    EEA membership will give access to the single market but it also means payment to the EU and free movement, two of the main stays of the Brexit movement. How can the Brexiters accept that?

  • Skibo

    Look how long it took to get CETA over the line and it nearly fell at the last hurdle.
    How can they want a comprehensive modern free trade deal when this would require strict adherence to EU rules and these very rules are part of the issue with the English people.

  • Hugh Davison

    ” Tetonic principles”. Do you mean “tectonic”? Damn those spell checkers, eh?

  • Hugh Davison

    But they hate the Germans. It blinds them to reason.

  • Hugh Davison

    God help us. Everybody is making designer gin these days. And whiskey is making a major comeback (relative to whisky).

  • Hugh Davison

    Look at me. I can sneer in three languages, and provide nothing of substance to the discussion in one.

  • Marcus Orr

    The last time you provided substance to a discussion the dinosaurs were roaming the earth.

  • Hugh Davison

    Dinosaurs are still roaming Northern Ireland.

  • Marcus Orr

    Perhaps they are, but that doesn’t stop you from continually missing the point. The poster Kevin Breslin was going on about “teutophobia” which is an interesting new word he has invented to depict supposed “narrow minded” anti-EU people as having some pathological fear or hatred of Germany or the German people.
    In order to show him that I have no irrational fear or hatred of the Germans, I responded in German. I have a respect for German language, culture and traditions and I know all about them. I rather suspect that “teutophobe” name calling Breslin knows somewhat less about Germany, and values its language, culture and traditions less highly than I do. That was of course the reason and point in my responding in that fashion, but don’t worry, you gave me a right good laugh with your response which supposed I was doing it to show off.
    Poor old Hugh, continually missing the point. You’re not really that dim though, are you – perhaps you’re missing the point intentionally ?

  • Accountant

    Very good

  • Hugh Davison

    It’s the way you tell them, Marcus

  • Kevin Breslin

    I can only imagine how disastrous the Tory imperialists are trying to negotiate with Germany behind the backs of the European Union, based on their Leave Liar campaign!

    You must help us against the European Union, You owe us, World War II, World War I, You owe us … We need an ambitious deal, an ambitious deal on our own terms because you need us more than we need you, You owe us World War I, and World War II. We buy your cars! You buy our erm cars! We kind of make the same cars together. A free market deal that frees us from having the maintain the same customs and market rules for a level playing field. That’s mutually the best thing for both of us.

    You can keep your pesky Euro and political Union, but we’re saving face and not getting our comeuppance! Our people have spoken!

    Also can we please have our banking interests back from Frankfurt, Herr und Frau Deutschlanders, Ja bitte?

  • Marcus Orr

    Dear Hugh,
    I would love to be able to have a normal debate or argument with yourself or Kevin Breslin, but I notice that every time that I post almost any comment which is anti-EU in nature, a very snide remark e.g. “go back to your Fuehrerbunker”, “quit the little Englander mentality”, “stop all this anti-French/anti-German sentiment” follows immediately every time from one or the other. To someone who has lived in Germany and France for a reasonably long amount of time in the past, and likes both countries, I find that extremely short-sighted and patronising. But those sort of remarks come every time. Without fail. You don’t like the EU = you are a “little Englander”, a stupid hater of foreigners.
    I would love Hugh, to move once, just once, past that silliness, and have a real argument, on the European Union. Do you think that is possible ????

  • Hugh Davison

    “go back to your Fuehrerbunker”, “quit the little Englander mentality”, “stop all this anti-French/anti-German sentiment”
    Marcus, can you show me a post where I expressed any of those, or anything like it. I have expressed the idea that the English hate the Germans, which was largely true when I was growing up, and which is a driving factor behind Brexit.
    I have no problems having a real argument about the EU (I lived many years in London and in the Netherlands) but to do so in the context of Brexit will invite more noise than signal from many on here.