Saturday, October 31, 2020
Home Brexit Watch Brexit Watch 2: Merkel has problems – now make them worse

Brexit Watch 2: Merkel has problems – now make them worse

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NOBODY should want the Prime Minister and his chief negotiator David Frost tripped up when we’re almost on the last lap of the Brexit trade talks. Yet the warning bells are ringing. They should heed them.

The European Parliament have already made clear that they are going to vote down whatever trade deal is agreed, a threat that has never been retracted. So there is nothing to lose. Our boys and girls must revoke the Withdrawal Agreement.

Here is why, as seen from my Swiss vantage point and knowledge of German politics. European commission president Ursula von der Leyen has made a lot of column inches in the British papers over the last few days and noise on radio and TV, most outlets reporting that everything hinged on yesterday’s video call with Boris Johnson. Yet here in Muri bei Bern, where we can watch dozens of channels from Lisbon to Moscow, Ursula kept as near silence as she could. All Angela Merkel said before going into her EU pow-wow was ‘we’re having a meeting about external matters’.


Whatever the number of megaphones aimed at Britain, none is  pointing the opposite way, and no one is asking: now why would Mutti do that, why the downplaying? One would think that she would like all of Europe to know that those perfidious Brits were being threatened with legal stuff before they sneak off on New Year’s Eve. And that your money is safe, well, nearly safe with us.

Having consulted a few members of my informal panel of EU expert watchers on this side of channel, their consensus is that Merkel is still playing for time because she believes she can decapitate the Brexit team – remove Boris Johnson and Dave Frost – and replace them with Gove and perhaps Jeremy Hunt, one unreliable and the other a devout Remain loser.

Thus my weekend storm warning to our PM and his negotiating team was this – do not extend the October deadline. For it is David Frost’s head that the EU and Germany want almost more than Johnson’s blond mop. They are not going to shift over their ‘level playing field’ pitch because it isn’t one and never was. This particular playing field is a ramp at a steep angle in Germany’s favour. But it was only to find last night that Boris has bottled it again and extended the talks by a month.

Likewise with fishing, nothing is set to change. No wonder the fishing lobby are yelling foul with no increase in their catch in 2021, and by 2022 the French and Dutch yet again pleading for special treatment. If you don’t believe me take a pleasure flight down the French coast and look at the fishing ports packed with dozens of fairly new boats for harvesting our waters. There is no way that Macron can or will give way on fishing.  

The point that Peter Foster misses is that David Frost and Boris Johnson do not have to do anything more. Our exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is ours under the UN Law of the Sea Convention from midnight on New Year’s Eve. 

But Boris and Frost had to chop their feet off. What they need to understand fast is that Merkel’s big problem is money and her second, associated, problem is the portending collapse in German exports to Britain. Boris Johnson and Mr Frost  should not help her with either. What they should be doing is the opposite – trying to make her problems worse.

The question is how to do this? It is not so difficult to answer:

First, they must revoke the Withdrawal Agreement for the reasons recently set out by expert commentators. Otherwise we remain tied even in the event of a No Deal.

Second, they should spend that £39billion on the Royal Navy. It needs it urgently.

Third, (the British public should) boycott all EU-produced trucks and cars in retaliation for the Germans making sure the EU does not treat our car industry’s imported components as British.


Merkel is fighting a war on two fronts. We Brits are the northern front, the southern front is an hour up the road from our home. Her main interest is to get her hands on all those lovely hard Swiss francs, trillions of them for the taking. Yesterday’s Der Bund was all about the southern front. You’ll find the tactics sound all too familiar. The journalist faithfully records Merkel’s last ‘appeal for reason’ as he reports that the EU is expecting Swiss commitment to the Framework Agreement. He writes that Brussels no longer wants to be held up by Switzerland. It looks as though it won’t be. For he reports the pressure mounting on all sides for Swiss compliance including from its National Councillor, Eric Nussbaumer (SP), President of the Swiss delegation.

                   
From Der Bund: 

‘”People have sensed that mutual reliability is inevitable,” said Nussbaumer, and spoke of an opportunity to rebuild trust that has been lost in recent years . . .

‘According to the Swiss delegation, it was also clear that the EU expected the Federal Council to make a fundamental commitment to the draft framework agreement. A clear expression of will to sign and submit the draft to Parliament was expected in Brussels. Only then would the EU be prepared to discuss the clarifications. Otherwise, the EU would run too great a risk of being held up and ending up with no result . . .

 ‘The delegation was also told that the EU did not want to offer its hand to renegotiate the draft Framework Agreement. It was expected that the Federal Council would not open any additional construction sites apart from the three points announced in writing in summer 2019: wage protection, state aid and the EU citizenship directive. Otherwise the damage to Switzerland’s credibility will be great. . .

‘A similar tone was set at the meeting of EU ambassadors this week. It was now the moment to conclude the Framework Agreement dossier. Individual member states urged the EU Commission to exert pressure on Switzerland. Lack of progress on the Framework Agreement would have to have consequences in other dossiers.’

Back in the UK, if Boris Johnson wants to make himself look a fool that’s his own business. When he makes the whole country look stupid that’s our business. Only a fool and an idiot fouls his own nest. There is no point in Brexit unless we make a clean break. Only then can we do what any sovereign country does – whatever is best for its own people.

Unless they decide to stick it out – by they I mean  Boris Johnson, Michael Gove, David Frost, and revoke that absurd hold-up called a Withdrawal Agreement – they and we are dead meat.

Mutti doesn’t need our money, she wants those trillions of Swissies.

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Adrian Hill
Adrian Hill. Former soldier and diplomat, afterwards member of CBI Council and author.

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