The EU’s negotiating tactics are shockingly “dishonest”, said Daniel Hannan in The Sunday Telegraph, a very right-wing publication. For three years, Brussels’ negotiators have refused to consider British proposals for a bespoke Brexit deal, on the grounds that that meant “cherry-picking”. Michel Barnier has maintained that, if the UK didn’t want to keep free movement or stay in the customs union, its only option was a free-trade agreement like that struck with Canada. Fine then, said Boris Johnson, when he took over: “Canada it is.” But now, with trade talks set to begin in earnest next week, Eurocrats have “shamelessly” backtracked: Canada suddenly isn’t available.
Actually, when they said Canada, what they meant was, “Canada plus an obligation to let Brussels set some of your rules in perpetuity” – over state subsidies, and employment, welfare and environmental standards. Which would undermine the whole point of Brexit.
Arguably, it’s Britain that’s being disingenuous, said Sebastian Payne in the Financial Times. The EU has always been clear that the UK cannot have exactly the same deal as Canada because of its proximity to the bloc, and the volume of trade between the two. Understandably enough, it doesn’t want a big competitor with an unfair advantage on its doorstep. The EU and the UK have already made firm commitments on such a “level playing field”, in the “joint political declaration” signed last October. The British position is a “fantasy”, said Will Hutton in The Observer. No state has total freedom to make its own laws. The closer the trade deal, the greater the need for “common rules”.
An abyss is yawning between the two sides, and disagreement about what a “level playing field” means is only the start of it. The EU also wants any trade deal to be dependent on allowing EU fleets continued access to British waters. Britain, for its part, wants its services industries to be given privileged access to Europe. Additionally, the EU wants the return of “unlawfully removed cultural objects” – thought to be a reference to the Elgin Marbles.
In short, it seems likely that “the talks will blow up shortly”, said James Forsyth in The Spectator, and sooner rather than later. “It is only once the two sides have realised just how far apart they really are, that the serious negotiations can begin.” (The Week 22 Feb 2020)
My comment: Putin, whose fingerprints (and roubles) are all over Brexit and who wants nothing less than the break-up of the EU, must be watching all this with huge enjoyment, a massive grin on his face. He may be unlikeable, but you have to credit him with being ten times smarter than anyone in the British government ( plus it’s supporters).
Why has this anything to do with Epicureanism? Because a giant cloud hovers over the future of nothing less than the United Kingdom itself. What a mess! Any sentient being, observing this mess has a deficit of peace of mind, and no faith at all in those who are dictating the future.
Oh, and by the way, the Elgin Marbles are glorious, but cleverly worked reproductions to fill the huge hall at the British Museum could be made indistinguishable from the originals. I suggest Barnier is requested to pay for replicas, which, yes, should be in Athens.