Michel Barnier: I can’t negotiate with myself

With negotiations set to start next week, it’s still unclear as to who Michel Barnier will be negotiating with or even what the goal will be.

A year on from the referendum vote to leave the EU, we are pretty much in the same place. This time, however, rather than shock at a marginal vote to leave, there is shock at a general election that has resulted with a hung parliament. There is speculation again about whether we’re headed for a hard Brexit or soft Brexit. The truth is, Britain still does not know what Brexit means or even what it wants. Still divided but probably also fed up of it all too.

And if being in the same place after a year wasn’t bad enough, we’re also three months into a two-year negotiating period. Theresa May triggered Article 50 at the end of March and there is no pausing the clock. In an interview with the Financial Times and other European newspapers, the EU’s lead negotiator Michel Barnier said “time is passing, it is passing quicker than anyone believes because the subjects we have to deal with are extraordinarily complex”. He added that he couldn’t negotiate with himself. Well, he’s not wrong.

Here’s more from Barnier’s interview as quoted in the Financial Times:

I’ll say it clearly: there’s no spirit of revenge, no punishment, no naivety either. And there is truth. Truth on what Brexit means, what leaving the EU signifies by its consequences.

The citizens have the right to know this truth.

And some valuable advice to UK politicians on building unity…

Unity doesn’t fall from the sky. You must build it every day. We’ve built it together for six months; it wasn’t easy.

On Brexit, Britain’s approach has been catatonic. Time to wake up

Responding to a twitter thread from EU law expert David Allen Green about how complicated Brexit will be, David Bowden described the approach to Brexit by politicians as “catatonic”. Sounds about right!

We’ve had little more than slogans and more avoidance of what the reality of Brexit’s consequences are from UK politicians. Meanwhile, the EU has managed to get 27 countries into a unified position on Brexit with a detailed and comprehensive set of negotiating guidelines.

Businesses have already begun making and implementing contingency plans in fear of a “no deal” scenario – generally meaning moving part of their operations away from the UK. And whilst talk continues about whether it should be the economy or immigration control that is prioritised over Brexit, figures from the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC) show there’s been a 96% drop in nurses from the EU registering to work in the UK since the referendum. Immigration control may be less of an issue because as a country, we’re no longer that appealing to people.

Oh, and the latest inflation report is out this morning with UK inflation has risen again to 2.9% in May. As the Independent’s economics editor Ben Chu points out, this is already higher than the Bank of England’s projections for the last quarter of this year. We’re still in the second quarter.

So should the economy or immigration control be prioritised in Brexit talks? Surely, the answer is obvious.

Image: © World Trade Organization
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