Richard North, 23/09/2017  

I'm going to run this post through as my overnight post, having started it as a live blog through Mrs May's Florence speech - billed as possibly the most important event since the referendum (or perhaps not). As to the title of the post, the diminutive form of Florence (when it's a girl's name), is Flo, pronounced "flow". In that sense, therefore, one could say that Theresa May is going with the flow.

In another sense - recalling the fatuous slogan coined by William Hague, "In Europe but not ruled by Europe" - if the previews on the transition process are correct, we are about to be: "Not in Europe but ruled by Europe". Having rejected the Efta/EEA option on the basis on the tired old canard, "pay, no say", the Muppet tendency has driven the Prime Minister to accept precisely that - the worst of all possible worlds.

And so it's started. Britain has always stood with its friends. We may be leaving the EU but we're not leaving Europe - paste in extruded verbal material. Perhaps it is just as well that, as this point, the ever-useless Winhost server crashed, saving me from making instant comments that I might have regretted.

It is almost as if anything Barnier said yesterday never actually happened. He might just as well have been speaking into the void: Mrs May has filled the airways with vacuity that failed to address satisfactorily (or at all) any of the substantive points. Has she not understood that, until ther has been "sufficient progress" on the Phase One issues, the EU is not even prepared to discuss transition?

Essentially, May has conceded nothing on the payment of the RAL. Continuation of payments to the end of 2020 under the current MFF period was in any case a given, so she has made no attempt to deal with the bones of the financial settlement. On "citizens' rights", the EU demand that the ultimate guarantor of any agreement should be the ECJ has been ignored, and no attempt has been made to define a solution for the Irish question.

In short, all the issues that were left unresolved prior to Mrs May's speech, causing the impasse, are still unresolved. Mrs May seems to think that wafting into Florence and speaking in lofty terms about a "New Economic Partnership" is somehow a magic wand that can unlock the talks. She is going to be mightily disappointed. 

One struggles to understand what was in Mrs May's mind and that of her advisers when she was writing this speech, the text of which is now on the No.10 website. Were they aware of the Barnier speech? Did they even read it? And, already, Barnier has responded. It is about as measured as we could expect, diplomatically stating that "Prime Minister May's statements are a step forward but they must now be translated into a precise negotiating position of the UK government".

On the Irish question, he then observes that the speech "does not clarify how the UK intends to honour its special responsibility for the consequences of its withdrawal for Ireland". And then, as regard the financial settlement, he tells us that the EU stands ready "to discuss the concrete implications" of Mrs May's pledge. "We shall assess", he says, "on the basis of the commitments taken by the 28 Member States, whether this assurance covers all commitments made by the United Kingdom as a Member State of the European Union".

Given in the latter event that she has not mentioned the RAL, it is hard to see that the Member States could be satisfied with what's on offer.

However, it is in the response to Mrs May's reference to the transition period that Barnier really puts the boot in. "Today, for the first time, the United Kingdom government has requested to continue to benefit from access to the Single Market, on current terms, and to continue to benefit from existing cooperation in security", he says.

He then adds: "This is for a limited period of up to two years, beyond its withdrawal date, and therefore beyond its departure from the EU institutions. If the European Union so wishes, this new request could be taken into account". 

However, Barnier then says: "It should be examined in light of the European Council guidelines of 29 April 2017: 'Should a time-limited prolongation of Union acquis be considered, this would require existing Union regulatory, budgetary, supervisory, judiciary and enforcement instruments and structures to apply'". 

And here it comes- the coup de grâce: "The sooner we reach an agreement on the principles of the orderly withdrawal in the different areas – and on the conditions of a possible transition period requested by the United Kingdom – the sooner we will be ready to engage in a constructive discussion on our future relationship".

In other words, he simply reiterates what he told us in Rome. When the Phase One issues are sorted, then the EU will be prepared to look at other matters - and not before. The May speech is already dead in the water. Her "offer" hasn't even survived long enough for her to get home.  She has completely wasted her time - and ours.

comments powered by Disqus

Brexit - the first year - New e-book by Richard North
Brexit - the first year - New e-book by Richard North
Buy Now

Log in

Sign THA
Think Defence

The Many, Not the Few