As I expected, the rhetoric on the continent is changing. Yesterday the President of the European Parliament challenged the pre vote rhetoric of the Commission by saying ” The UK should not be treated as a deserter but as a family member who is still loved but has decided to go in another direction”. The EU leaders are urging Mrs May to speed up the UK’s plans for exit, and saying they want to get on with it.
I agree with them. It is in the EU’s interest to sort this out quickly, and definitely in the UK’s interests. It need not be a difficult negotiation. We have no wish to negotiate over our borders, our money or our laws with 27 other countries. We just need to take back control. They want to integrate their economies and political systems more, to sort out their banking troubles and tackle slow growth in the Eurozone.
There remains one prime outstanding issue. Will the rest of the EU want to carry on exporting to us tariff free, or do they wish to go over to the relatively low average tariffs under WTO rules? The UK will be quite happy not to impose new tariffs, and to continue to accept the rules and regulations over products and services for our trade with the rest of the EU, so we are not seeking any changes to all that despite being in substantial deficit with them.
There is a good case for early exit, early legislation on borders, and early cancellation of our subscription to spend at home. Any changes the other states want to their trade arrangements with us could be debated after we have retaken control of all these other important matters. The UK could live with MFN status as the USA and China do in their very successful trade with the EU, though of course we think it is in their interest even more than in ours if we continue with current tariff free arrangements.
The EU naturally would like us to carry on paying money in and accepting free movement. Once they realise this is not on offer, they then have a simple decision to make. How many barriers do they want to trade, up to WTO permitted levels. The sooner they decide that the sooner we can decide whether to accept their proposals or simply walk away. We do not want the Foreign Office telling us the negotiation is difficult, will take time, and requires us to give in over free movement.
Long delay is costly. At £10bn a year net contribution (probably rising) that would amount to a massive £38bn over the balance of this Parliament which we could spend to good effect at home. Delay in placing sensible controls and a fair system of work permits globally could also lead to substantial additional UK costs to provide the level of housing, transport, health care and education we would want to offer to recently arrived workers on low incomes.
A successful negotiation should be a simple and quick one concentrating on the only area where the EU has a role in future policy, over trade terms.