Muddled thinking seems to rule in those who condemn it. To me muddled thinking is the idea that we need to negotiate returning control over our money, borders and laws. There are some in the government machine and in business who seem to think the UK should be willing to negotiate over taking back control. They need to grasp that this is very muddled thinking. You are not taking back control if you need someone else’s permission, and if you compromise on that control.
We are told we need to hang on to the knowledge and skills of those who have handled our EU negotiations in the past. That too is muddled thinking. How does it help to adopt the techniques which gave us such a poor result to Mr Cameron’s bid to get the UK a deal we could live with to stay in the EU? It was quite obvious that the bare minimum to get a majority for stay would be to stop free movement and to gain full control over our benefit system. The wise advisers persuaded Mr Cameron not to even ask for the end of freedom of movement, and helped him water down the benefit changes until they were minimal. We should learn from this. The EU will pocket any compromise you offer, and then expect you to make a further sacrifice.
The way to negotiate this issue is straightforward. We need an Ambassador who understands that the UK should not negotiate at all over taking back control. We have the right to do that, and the public voted to do that. The issues we can discuss relate to our future relationship with the rest of the EU after we have left. We can discuss future trade and future collaborations. There is no need to have a lengthy negotiation about trade. There are two ready made models. Carry on as we are, or shift to WTO most favoured nation. We offer them this friendly choice, and they can decide which they want. They are likely, after much grumbling and posturing, to opt for the tariff free version as they have so much more at risk than we do.We have a profitable and successful trade with the rest of the world based on WTO tariffs and rules.
As the outgoing Ambassador rightly says, good advisers tell truth to power. That is why more of us need to explain to our Ministers that negotiating the Cameron way will end in a poor result. The Prime Minister should not set out any compromises over money, law making and borders, because it is our right and necessity to take back control. The new Ambassador needs to understand this. He or she would add value if they have good contacts and are liked by the other member states, and if they grasp that the art of negotiating is to narrow the areas that need negotiating at all.
During our long membership of the EU there have been too many in government and business who have advocated giving in. They are all too ready to offer compromises in what we wanted, without insisting on real change in the EU demands. Let’s not make that same mistake on leaving which successive governments often made when staying. As someone who does not want to be Ambassador to the court of Brussels, who had to handle all too many EU negotiations as Single Market Minister, I can assure you it was always wrong to offer a compromise we did not like.