Conservative bickering determined UK’s future after Brexit, says Barnier | Michel barnier
Britain’s future after Brexit has been determined by ‘the squabbles, cheap shots, multiple betrayals and thwarted ambitions of a number of Tory MPs,’ said EU chief negotiator in his long-awaited agenda.
The UK’s first problem, writes Michel Barnier in The Great Illusion, his 500-page account, was that they started “talking to themselves.” And they underestimate the legal complexity of this divorce and many of its consequences. “
Soon, however, the talks turned to the infighting of the Conservative Party and, in the end, they turned to âpolitical hackingâ¦ They will go at any length. The current Downing St team are not up to the challenges of Brexit or their responsibility for wanting Brexit. I just don’t trust them anymore.
Published in France on Thursday and in English, under the title My Secret Brexit Diary, in October, the book is a detailed account of the four years of Barnier, a former French minister and European commissioner who said he intended to “Play a role In the country’s next presidential election, passed as the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator.
Like its author, it is above all courteous, measured and precise: a sober, down-to-earth story – and, for those who have followed the twists and turns of Brexit, largely familiar. But that makes his disagreements and rare outbursts all the more forceful.
At the start of the process, Barnier writes, he vowed to “pay attention to my words, stick to the facts, the figures, the legal fundamentals – in short, leave little room for emotion and feeling, profit from objectivity â.
He does not always succeed.
David Davis, he writes, was “warm, earthy and very sure of himself”, Dominic Raab “almost messianic”. Theresa May was “direct, determinedâ¦ and rather rigid, in her figure and in her attitudes”; Boris Johnson quite simply “baroque”.
He admits to being frankly “stunned” by the Lancaster House speech in which May drew the UK’s first red lines. âThe number of doors she closed, one after the other,â he marvels on January 17, 2017. âI am amazed at how she revealed her cardsâ¦ before we even started. to negotiate.
Putting an end to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, putting an end to free movement, leaving the single market and the customs union, ending payments from the EU budget: “Have the consequences of these decisions been been thought through, measured, discussed? Does she realize that this excludes almost all forms of cooperation that we have with our partners? “
May’s proposed timeline – canceling a 44-year partnership via Article 50 and agreeing on a future relationship, all within two years – also seemed “ambitious to say the least, while it took seven. years of intense work to negotiate a simple FTA with Canada â.
Barnier admires British officials, Olly Robbins in particular, praising them as “worthy, competent and lucid”. But he doesn’t envy them, he writes, as talks finally begin that summer after the disastrous bet of the snap elections in May.
âThey have above them a political class which, in part, quite simply refuses today to recognize the direct result of the positions they adopted a year ago. And he is wary throughout the British strategy, which seems to him to boil down mainly to “offer little and take a lot”, procrastinate and procrastinate.
Her sympathy extends to May, “a courageous and tenacious woman surrounded by many men busy putting their personal interests before those of their country.” In the end, writes Barnier, the prime minister “has worn herself out, in a permanent battle with her own ministers and with her parliamentary majority.”
He never saw the usefulness of Brexit, he admits, and, visiting a capital for a week in a marathon effort to forge and maintain the unity of the EU27, in the short term gives the notion of ‘Great -World Britain â. âI wonder what, so far, has kept the UK from becoming ‘Global Britain’, other than its own lack of competitiveness,â he writes. “Germany has become ‘World Germany’ while being firmly inside the EU and the Eurozone.”
Brexiters in general and Nigel Farage and his Ukip supporters in particular, Barnier writes, had simply behaved “irresponsibly, towards the national interests of their own country. Otherwise, how could they call on people to make such a serious choice without explaining or detailing the consequences? “
The post-Checkers resignations of Davis and Johnson in July 2018 prompt the reflection that Johnson had always “treated these negotiations strictly as an internal matter, and according to the logic of his own Brexit battle” anyway, while their replacements, Raab and Jeremy Hunt, arouses little enthusiasm either.
âThere is something about her look that surprises me,â writes Barnier de Raab. “He is undoubtedly motivated by his mission, but I am not sure that we will be able to go into the details of the negotiations with him, take into account the facts and realities.”
European ‘Brexit fatigue’ is starting to set in, Barnier writes, in the long months leading up to Theresa May’s May 2019 decision – after a series of humiliating Commons defeats and an inevitable extension of talks – to step down, and Johnson’s triumphant arrival at No.10 two months later.
“Although his posture and his jokes leave him open to this, it would be dangerous to underestimate Johnson,” Barnier writes. But Johnson, too, “pushing forward like a bulldozer, obviously trying to make his way”, seemed to the negotiator hampered by the same fundamental issue of Britain’s Brexit.
When one of Barnier’s 60 members of the team explained to the new British Prime Minister the need for customs and quality checks at the Irish border, Barnier writes, I got the impression he took awareness, in this discussion, of a series of technical and legal controls. problems which had not been explained to him so clearly by his own team â.
As late as May 2020, Barnier records his surprise at the UK’s continued demands for “a simple Canada-style trade deal” while retaining the benefits of the single market “in countless sectors”. There remains “a real incomprehension, in Great Britain, of the objective consequences, sometimes mechanical, of its choices”, he writes.
With a no-backstop withdrawal agreement finally obtained, Britain’s formal exit from the EU on January 31, 2020 leaves the negotiator “torn between emotions. Sadness, of course: Brexit is a failure for the EU. It is also a waste, for the UK and for us. I still do not see the need for it, even from the point of view of the British national interest.
The transition year talks on a future trade deal were also a roller coaster, starting with David Frost’s direct announcement that London “did not feel bound by the political declaration it had just signed.” four months ago. Rather, it set the scene.
Next come the Home Market Bill (“a flagrant violation of international law”) and the “theatrical”, “almost infantile”, “derisory” threats from the UK to evade EU demands on level playing field, “a psychodrama that we could have done without”.
Until the end, writes Barnier, the British team kept the Europeans busy by submitting a final legal text on the fisheries subject on December 23, “full of traps, pseudo-compromises and attempts to turn back the clock. “.
In an inauspicious postscript, he warns that while he was “proud to be part of the EU’s unity and solidarity” during the Brexit process, and happy that Britain left with a functional agreement rather than without one, the block must now be vigilant. .
The British âprovocationsâ on the Irish protocol will continue, he warns, while the British government, âin an attempt to erase the consequences of the Brexit it has provoked, will try to enter through the windows in the single market of which it slammed the door. . We must be attentive to new forms of cherrypicking. “
Nor does he expect London to wait long before “trying to use its new legislative and regulatory autonomy to give itself a sector-by-sector competitive advantage.” Will this competition be free and fair? Regulatory competitionâ¦ will it lead to social, economic and fiscal dumping against Europe? We have the tools to answer them. “
Barnier’s final warning, however, is directed at the EU itself. âThere are lessons to be learned from Brexit,â he wrote. âThere are reasons to listen to the popular sentiment that was expressed then and continues to be expressed in many parts of Europe – and to respond to it. It will take time, respect and political courage. “