Remainers should not endorse EU position at every turn

One of the things that frustrates Leavers and broad neutrals about harder line Remainers is that Remainers appear to back the EU position in the Brexit negotiations so readily.

It is absolutely reasonable to point out that no one is in fact responsible for delivering what Leave voters wanted. It is further entirely fair to add that the UK seems peculiarly unprepared and it is a simple fact of life that it has very few negotiating cards. It is important to point out that you cannot, in fact, have your cake and eat it.

Nevertheless, promoting all of those lines is not the same as supporting the EU negotiating position at every turn. It is essential for all of us that the negotiations come to a satisfactory conclusion and merely saying “I told you so” does not assist that process.

It is worth challenging the EU’s position as well as the UK’s. If we look at the EU’s position, how sensible is it, really?

My own view is that some of it is very sensible. The door has been left open to the UK remaining in; there has been a far more realistic acceptance that any final Brexit deal will be lose-lose (the EU does not deny that it will lose too if the UK proceeds to leave); and there has been a recognition that the UK is important to Europe in general for many reasons.

On the other hand, some aspects of the EU position are less reasonable and arguably outright bizarre. Firstly, there has been no sense within the EU institutions of questioning what they have done to make their second biggest member head for the exit door. Secondly, it is odd to make the details of an “exit bill” so prominent so early, as this surely depends somewhat on what the UK’s future relationship with it; and thirdly, similarly, the exact requirements for the Irish border depend again on what the UK’s relationship with the Single Market and the Customs Union, among other things.

Therefore, the EU’s positions and priorities are far from perfect. On all of our behalves, regardless of how or if we voted in the referendum, we do need to challenge both sides fairly to drive the best possible outcome for us all.


6 thoughts on “Remainers should not endorse EU position at every turn

  1. Alan Burnside says:

    Ian… the EU preconditions are designed to prevent progress on negotiations. They are trying to wear UK down so that our political process will degenerate into chaos necessitating new elections and a democratic reversal by parliament of Brexit. Alan



  2. Edward McCamley says:

    What a moan.
    The British were invited to join the European Coal and Steel Community, and its successor, the Common Market. They contemptuously rejected both offers and set about undermining both initiatives.
    They then decided to join the Common Market in order to, as they averred, to provide some experienced leadership. When de Gaulle rejected their applications, the British – press and politicians- poured buckets of filth on him.
    Heath took them in, at the same time as a former colony (Ireland) and little Denmark. Then we had the first referendum. Since then it has been objection after objection, and opt-out after opt-out. And all to an unremitting chorus of anti EU bile.
    Now, post second referendum and a flight into political and economic fantasy, you are asking the EU negotiators to be understanding of continuing British, or, more accurately, English contempt.

  3. My view is that the British and Northern Irish do not have a clear picture of what they want. Ask a leave voter what he or she wanted you will get everything from nothing at all to do with the EU to formally leave but have similar set up to Norway or Switzerland. Ask a remain voter and you will get everything from dev-max to ever-closer-union.
    I think the government is not being fair to the demos by taking the result saying we can interpret this however we want.

    The vote should be followed up with a Single-Transferrable-Vote Referendum. Put 5 Options together:
    A. WTO Rules, start from scratch.
    B. Turkey style loose relationship
    C. Norway style close relationship
    D. Associate Membership / Dev-Max retain MEPs that could still vote on looser union issue but not on closer union ones.
    E. Full Membership

    A 5 option vote would trigger a technical discussion in the UK and could give it a direction to go.

  4. J.H. says:

    I have to disagree with the three ways in which you suggest the EU position is being less than reasonable or even bizarre. I thought you were going to go with the EU stance on the reciprocal protection of rights for EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU after Brexit, where indeed some of the EU’s positions are a bit way out there. For instance there is nothing wrong with wanting current EU citizens residing in the UK and those arriving before Brexit to have their rights protected since they were likely planning their lives around the expectation that these rights would not be suddenly yanked from them). However pushing for children who are not yet born and won’t be born until after Brexit to be able to join their parents (if I haven’t misunderstood the position) is stretching it. As is the having the ECJ maintain jurisdiction over EU citizens rights after Brexit – the UK government is actually correct there in that it would be unlike any other situation in the world. Besides if in the withdrawal agreement, the UK agreed to that but later didn’t like it they could repudiate the agreement and bring everyone back to square one in terms of enforcement of EU citizens’ rights. EU citizens rights in the UK should be respected and they should be allowed to remain until they are eligible for settled status and citizenship or until they decide to leave permanently, but staying on after Brexit means they are taking their chances that these rights will one day be taken away especially as they live in a country that wasn’t traditionally euroskeptic but had secession from the EU as being part and parcel of euroskepticism there.

    As to the three points you raise:

    1. Why should the EU institutions question what they have done to make their second biggest member head for the exit? That’s unreasonable given that the UK is the ONLY country where support for leaving the EU was ever supported by sizable pluralities or even majorities in various polls over the years. Even at the height of the Greek crisis, where opinions of the EU were at an all time low in Greece, solid majorities of 60-70% supported not just continued EU membership but maintaining eurozone membership. This indicates that Greeks had a problem with how the EU and its institutions were acting, rather than having a problem with membership of the EU itself or being opposed to the very existence of the EU. In such a case EU institutions should rightly question what they are doing to earn such disapproval, but with the UK what would be the point?

    2. The details of the exit bill should have nothing to do with the future relationship as they pertain to a default position – one where there is no free trade agreement or where an FTA is negotiated and later renounced. From what I have read it pertains to pensions as well as to the UK’s commitments based on the multiannual financial framework (MFF), which determines the ceilings for each annual budget and guides spending for multiple years (especially as in some annual budgets, spending is for items with a 3-4 year time frame). So in essence this would be the UK paying over the money it would have done had it remained a member for the duration of the MFF and upon which other members and various grant recipients would have been planning around. This is so as to ensure that there is no disruption upon leaving, which is sensible. Any financial arrangements from a future relationship will depend on what that relationship is but the UK hasn’t been clear on what it wants in that regard, so why bundle those entirely separate financial relationships together? For instance if the UK after Brexit then decided to join the EEA via EFTA then it could argue that some of the funding it paid over as part of the withdrawal agreement would have been paid by it anyway as an EFTA-EEA member so it shouldn’t have to spend that portion of the funding twice. However what if the UK decides it only wants to trade with the UK under the basic WTO auspices? Then the money due for the MFF and pensions would have to be paid anyway, except if the EU left it for the outline of future arrangements it could have been left holding the bag as the UK figured out what it wanted.

    3. With regards to the Irish border, I also see that as the EU looking for a default arrangement no matter what future trading arrangement the UK decides it wants. For instance the German enclaves that have been in customs union with Switzerland before the EU existed would be an example of such an arrangement as that arrangement stood before the EU came about and then still remained even after Germany and the EEC as a whole signed free trade agreements and later the famous Bilaterals with the Swiss. And those arrangements would remain even if the EU or Switzerland abandoned the Bilateral Agreements. The EU hasn’t said it, but in essence the only way to square the circle of avoiding a hard border in any kind of default relationship between the EU and UK would be for the default position to be that Northern Ireland is kept in customs union with Ireland (and therefore the EU) even if the UK decided not to form a customs union or have an FTA or EEA-like arrangement with the EU. They would be nuts to spell it out openly, but it might be the arrangement that the UK eventually proposes out of desperation as the clock runs out.

  5. J.H. says:

    Well, just as I noted, the EU’s position is basically that the NI/Ireland border issue is what they want as a default arrangement:

    “It is the responsibility of the United Kingdom to ensure that its approach to the challenges of
    the Irish border in the context of its withdrawal from the European Union takes into account
    and protects the very specific and interwoven political, economic, security, societal and
    agricultural context and frameworks on the island of Ireland. These challenges will require a
    unique solution which cannot serve to preconfigure solutions in the context of the wider
    discussions on the future relationship between the European Union and the United

    So whatever is proposed for the Irish border “cannot serve to preconfigure solutions” for a future relationship between the EU and UK negotiated after the withdrawal agreement (such as EFTA/EEA membership, a regular FTA, a DCFTA or a customs union).

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