So many critics of Brexit in the UK have dominated the debate, that it has been mainly about the UK’s position. More interesting and more useful for us as a country is to explore what is and should be the EU’s position? How easy will it be for the 27 to agree one? How quickly will tensions emerge between the member states who need goodwill and trade with the UK, and some in the Commission who want to make a political point that no country should be allowed to leave?
The aim of the EU is pretty clear. In their make believe world they want to try to make the terms of exit difficult so the Uk suffers on exit. There is of course no way they can do that. All they can do is damage the member states who remain. Their problem is the UK gets such a poor deal out of the EU that leaving even without an agreement is much better than staying in. On leaving we save our big net contributions, we get back control of our own laws, and will be the winners from the modest tariffs on our exports against the much bigger tariffs on their sales to the Uk under WTO rules. We will be free to lower tariffs with the rest of the world, to buy cheaper food from emerging market countries helping them and us, and be free to regulate and promote business as we see fit.
The EU of course talks in a contradictory way about Brexit. It both argues it is better to stay in, and argues if we leave more might want to leave! So which is it EU? Is it so good in the EU that any other country would be mad to leave? Or is it so bad that once we have dug the escape tunnel others will want to use it? One of these propositions must be wrong, or possibly both. Their cruel and unpleasant rhetoric about punishment, like their many threats to us all the time we were in the EU, makes it less easy for them to strike a good deal for their member states.
The member states are altogether friendlier and more circumspect. No member state government has said it wishes to impose WTO levels of tariff on our exports to them, because they know it will be more damaging to their exporters. They not only sell us more in total than we sell them, but the rest of the EU sells much more of the agricultural goods and cars that can attract higher tariffs, whilst we sell many goods and services that remain tariff free under WTO rules. Most of them understand that their many exporters to the UK do not want the EU and their government getting in the way of an important trade.
Of course the EU would like us to make contributions into the budget, but no other country outside the EU and EEA does and there is no need to do so to trade with them. If they want us to contribute to export to them why not they pay to export to us? Of course they would like us to continue to generate lots of jobs for their unemployed workers. That is something we wish to limit. Of course they would rather we accepted all the same laws and rules as them. There is no need for us to do so for all the trade we do at home and with the rest of the world.
I want us to be friendly and generous in our offer for after exit. We should tell them we want to stay friends, to maximise our mutual trade, and carry on without tariffs and new barriers. They also need to know there is no way we can or should offer to let them control our migration policy, or to carry on placing levies on our budget. I suspect the member states will welcome our friendly and helpful approach, but if they don’t it will still be good news for us.