sexta-feira, 21 de outubro de 2016
EU set for ‘dirty Brexit’
EU set for ‘dirty Brexit’
Senior EU diplomats told to prepare for no agreement with the UK after two years of talks.
By TOM MCTAGUE 10/21/16, 6:10 PM CET Updated 10/21/16, 7:07 PM CET
Forget hard Brexit or soft Brexit. European officials have been instructed to prepare for a “dirty Brexit.”
Theresa May had hoped to use her first European Council meeting to prepare for smooth divorce negotiations early next year. But EU leaders were not in a cooperative mood.
The U.K. prime minister’s confrontational Conservative Party conference speech hung in the air for much of the summit. Promising to bring in immigration checks for EU workers, among other things, had poisoned the atmosphere.
Beforehand, the prime minister’s aides were happy that she’d been given a slot over dinner to address her partners, claiming it as a minor victory.
In the end, European Council President Donald Tusk did not call the prime minister to make her “information point” (EU-speak for an update) until just before 1 a.m. — some five hours after they had all sat down for dinner.
The response was cold and united. They listened in silence and did not respond — the diplomatic equivalent of hanging up the phone.
“The basic principles and rules, namely the single market and the indivisibility of the four freedoms, will remain our firm stance” — Donald Tusk
British officials insist the reception was perfectly cordial, pointing out there were no responses to Mark Rutte, the Dutch prime minister, after he gave his own “information point” earlier on Ukraine.
At just after 1:30 a.m., Tusk appeared, bleary eyed, to explain the silence. “There will be no negotiations until Article 50 is triggered by the U.K., so we did not discuss Brexit,” he said.
Yet he couldn’t resist setting out the EU’s equally hardline position — no restrictions on free movement of people as well as goods, capital and services within Europe’s single market. “The basic principles and rules, namely the single market and the indivisibility of the four freedoms, will remain our firm stance.”
In other words: say what you like about taking back control of immigration, May, we hold all the cards in this negotiation.
Behind the scenes, EU officials have been given equally firm instructions.
Senior diplomats have been told to prepare for the possibility of no agreement being struck at all after two years of talks, two EU diplomats told POLITICO. On Thursday, David Davis, the Brexit Secretary, said that without a deal, the British economy could fall off a “cliff edge.”
The diplomats said Didier Seeuws, the Belgian official appointed by Tusk to head his Brexit task force, had been told to prepare for all scenarios. Speaking on the sidelines of the summit, one senior diplomat said: “Seeuws’ unit is also working on the scenario of a ‘dirty Brexit.’”
Both diplomats said British officials had sought to assure their EU partners that despite the tough talk at the Tory conference, all issues were still on the table and no decisions had been taken on Britain’s negotiating position.
However, it seemed clear to European governments that by insisting on immigration control and ruling out the continued jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice after Britain leaves the EU, May had boxed herself into a “hard Brexit.”
Michel Barnier, the former French foreign minister appointed to head the exit negotiations on behalf of the European Commission, has made clear on his first visits to national capitals that the talks will cover only a narrow four-point agenda of separation issues and, by implication, not the broader question of the future EU-U.K. relationship.
Barnier had said his mandate would cover, first, what he called “the check” — the amount Britain will have to pay to cover its share of continuing EU program payments and other liabilities such as EU staff pensions; second, the status and rights of EU nationals in Britain and British nationals in the EU; third, the administrative disengagement, including the future of EU agencies based in Britain; and fourth, “special situations” such as arrangements for Northern Ireland and Gibraltar.
“I recognize the scale of the challenge ahead. I am sure there will be difficult moments. It will require some give and take — Theresa May
Conspicuously absent from that list are issues which the British see as central to their interests such as access to the EU’s single market and so-called passporting rights for U.K.-based banks and financial services firms, as well as any transition arrangements before tariffs would apply.
At her post-summit press conference Friday afternoon, May struck a firm but consensual tone. A deal would be struck if EU leaders acted in good spirit, she said.
“I want a mature, cooperative relationship with our European partners. I recognize the scale of the challenge ahead. I am sure there will be difficult moments. It will require some give and take,” she said.
“But I firmly believe that if we approach this in a constructive spirit, as I am, then we can have a smooth departure and build a powerful new relationship that works for both the U.K. and for the countries of the EU, looking for opportunities, not problems.”
She added: “That is in British interests and it is in the interests of all of our European partners, too.”
But May could not resist playing to the gallery back home, throwing some red meat to the British press looking for evidence of diplomatic strife.
The prime minister said she had “not been backward in coming forward” speaking up for the U.K. during the two-day summit.
She also took a dig at Barnier over a suggestion that the Brexit negotiations would be conducted in French. “We are going to conduct these negotiations in the way that means we are going to get the best deal for Britain,” she said, guaranteeing excitable headlines in the U.K. press Saturday. Barnier later clarified that he was not seeking to impose French as the sole lingua franca.
Whatever the warm words or icy silences, in Brussels this week the two sides took their positions: Britain in one corner – everybody else in the other.
The risk of a “dirty Brexit” is rising.
Paul Taylor contributed to this report.