EU Pulls a Stunt, British Media Fooled

I’m going to call bullshit on this:

European Union leaders have unanimously agreed on the guidelines that the bloc will follow when negotiating with the UK over its exit from the union.
The talks to approve the guidelines were chaired by European Council President Donald Tusk on Saturday. The special summit, which was attended by the leaders of the 27 member states, took less than 15 minutes to unanimously agree upon the guidelines, which Tusk issued last month.

Now obviously all 27 members didn’t have just 15 minutes to review the guidelines – they’d have been given a copy well in advance of this meeting – but I’m still calling bullshit on the claim that everything was agreed within 4 minutes. There is no way, none whatsoever, that representatives of 27 countries can agree anything in such a short space of time, it’s just not possible.

What has happened, and I’ve seen many, many meetings like this in my professional career, is that those attending the meeting have simply given their assent or refrained from voicing any objections. However, only somebody spectacularly inexperienced in high-level meetings would believe this means there is no disagreement and huge rifts aren’t going to open up later.

This whole thing was a PR stunt: the agreement was simply to act as if they are in agreement, and the entire British press has fallen for it. In that respect it has worked, but I suspect in the months to come the EU will wish it had spent more than 4 minutes thrashing out a sensible negotiating position from which to manage Brexit.

If – and this is a big if – the UK’s negotiators are halfway competent and the politicians in charge of Brexit are not a bunch of spineless charlatans who prioritise their own interests above those of the people they supposedly represent, the EU is there for the taking. They’ve walked straight into a hornets’ nest over Northern Ireland already: May should get Enda Kenny on phone immediately and ask if Ireland wishes to resurrect its claims to the province, and if so to formally announce it.

(By the way, can somebody answer something for me. I was once told ascension to the EU meant relinquishing any territorial claims against another member state. So how is it that Spain can continue to claim Gibraltar?)

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20 thoughts on “EU Pulls a Stunt, British Media Fooled

  1. Anyone who thinks the EU is going to negotiate a good deal for anyone other than the negotiators (ie not their constituents) hasn’t watched the opening sequence to The Third Man.

  2. “If – and this is a big if – the UK’s negotiators are halfway competent and the politicians in charge of Brexit are not a bunch of spineless charlatans who prioritise their own interests above those of the people they supposedly represent, the EU is there for the taking. ”

    Agree, however I think it’s very doubtful the UK has any politicians in suitable positions who are not spineless, craven, fearful, halfwits.

    “They’ve walked straight into a hornets’ nest over Northern Ireland already: May should get Enda Kenny on phone immediately and ask if Ireland wishes to resurrect its claims to the province, and if so to formally announce it.”

    Yeap, call the bluff and see just how much backtracking follows.

  3. Anyway, time to bring the troops home from places like Estonia. If the Germans want to pick a fight with Russia they can do it without our lads.

    P.S. Do we still have troops in Germany? Bring them home too.

  4. WKPD: “The 1993 Options for Change defence cuts resulted in BAOR being replaced by the 25,000 strong British Forces Germany (BFG) in 1994.”

    25,000: home as soon as we have a new government. Ditto any of our troops in the Baltics, Poland, Romania etc.

  5. Surely MI6 must have plenty of dirt on Merkel. When does that get used?

    When is her election?

  6. dearie me

    October, I think. Trouble is, her opponent is even more stupid.

    O/T
    Anyone else remarked on the fact that the UK police seem to get to the Islamists before they commit their crimes, while the French and Belgians only manage after?

  7. “May should get Enda Kenny on phone immediately and ask if Ireland wishes to resurrect its claims to the province, and if so to formally announce it.”

    And get them and all of their top people over to the UK and fly them over on a Chinook.

  8. Personally I read it as a show of disgust at May’s giving in to the xenophobes in her own party and refusing to have affirmed the rights of those EUers living in the UK (btw for the Little England brigade, the rights of UK nationals living in post Brexit EU states are set in best Brussels stone, always have been). T’was fairly obvious that that was crossing a line so red that every EU fear about Brexit would be confirmed. I think Tusk even hinted at such…isn’t the status of EU nationals at the top of the agreed list of things May will have to back down on if she wants a trade deal (and as far as I can see very few in the EU are that bothered, that container ship of cheap British tin trays and glass walking sticks has sailed)?
    Yes I think you’re right about it having been staged managed, the 27 couldn’t decide on whether to order still or sparkling mineral water in 4 minutes flat. A point was being made. Whether May understood remains to be seen. Just the fact that the 27 didn’t visibly disagree should concern her.

  9. You’re quite right of course, Tim. States on the way in must settle any territorial disputes with existing members. I expect a lawyer​ could point out that the rules say nothing about territorial disputes with states on the way out. In any event, EU law is like the Pirate Code, as Cpt. Barbossa says, “it’s more a sort of guideline.”

  10. While we are asking questions:

    We take it as given that the UK, a net contibutor, will have to keep paying right up to the last minute. If a net recipient were to leave, I wonder, would the EU cheerfully stump up untill the last minute? Because if, say, Hungary left and the EU cut them off, the UK would have a perfect excuse to do the same.

  11. Agree, however I think it’s very doubtful the UK has any politicians in suitable positions who are not spineless, craven, fearful, halfwits

    Given that this is a job requirement, so do I.

  12. Personally I read it as a show of disgust at May’s giving in to the xenophobes in her own party and refusing to have affirmed the rights of those EUers living in the UK (btw for the Little England brigade, the rights of UK nationals living in post Brexit EU states are set in best Brussels stone, always have been).

    Yes, I think the reciprocal rights of the EU citizens should have been agreed right away. But perhaps it’s not all about xenophobes: the EU has proven time and again to not uphold its own end of a deal, and perhaps May thinks this is the area over which she has the most leverage. Once Britain agrees not to kick all the French out of London, the EU will probably start dragging its feet and playing silly buggers. The EU cannot be trusted, which is going to make negotiations very difficult.

  13. States on the way in must settle any territorial disputes with existing members.

    Okay, so why isn’t Spain being slapped down over Gibraltar while Britain is still a member? And why were they not slapped down before? Because the EU rules are highly selective, that’s why.

  14. “and perhaps May thinks this is the area over which she has the most leverage. ”
    Which damns her and us in the eyes of every EU politician pretty much, probably even Le Pen. It was never something that required a moment’s negotiation. May’s using it as leverage ( I agree with you on that) shows just what sort of person as leader we had and will I expect continue to have.
    And I say that as the husband of an EU national who has lived in the UK for the past 15 years and whose kids have both nationalities- and no I’m not married to that silly Dutch woman who couldn’t be arsed to fill in the residency forms (was in the papers recently).

  15. The Blocked Dwarf

    Maybe you should ask Merkel; since, when May raised it with her last year, she blocked any agreement, insisting that nothing would be agreed either before Article 50 was triggered or outside of the formal negotiations.

  16. the rights of UK nationals living in post Brexit EU states are set in best Brussels stone, always have been

    Where has this been stated exactly? I thought Tusk had refused to discuss such rights and vice versa until after Article 50, despite May asking. Which surely means they were not set in stone?

    Plus, the “best Brussels stone” is very flakey indeed. As Tim points out, the EU cannot be trusted on any deal, for example the rebate that Blair gave up on the promise of CAP reform.

  17. >So how is it that Spain can continue to claim Gibraltar?

    Portugal still claims Olivenza, too. It’s not the only example.

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