Monday, October 26, 2020
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Mark Ellse: Like a starchy golf club, the EU has just expelled its best member

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I’m sorry, have I missed something? I keep hearing about the UK negotiating with the EU terms for leaving that marvellous organisation.

David Davis says, ‘It may be the most complicated negotiation of all time.’ Liam Fox refers to EU nationals as ‘one of our main cards in the negotiations’. Theresa May, who very clearly retains authority over Brexit, tells us that ‘formal negotiations will commence by the end of next March’.

Abroad, the tone is similar. Hollande warns that the ‘UK will pay a heavy price for Brexit’. Schulz threatens veto if he ‘doesn’t get what he wants’ and Juncker says that the EU must be ‘unyielding’. Tusk has recently rejected the possibility of early negotiations and said that the ‘ball’s in UK’s court’.

The attitude that one detects, on both sides, is that the UK is the supplicant, in receipt of the kindness of our lords and masters on the mainland. But surely, things are the other way round.

The EU, as a consequence entirely of its own bureaucracy, incompetence and the thoroughly offensive manner of many of its mandarins, has failed to convince UK voters that membership is a good thing. As a result, the EU has lost its second biggest net contributor. Not only that, the EU has got itself in a mess, potentially losing access to the markets of the world’s fastest growing major economy.

The EU is like the golf club whose committee, by being generally difficult, has lost one of its wealthiest members, the chap who paid for the recent extension to the clubhouse and who buys the wine for the Christmas party. The EU is certainly not in the position to castigate the leaver, particularly since the voters in many of the other member countries would also vote to leave, were they given a chance to air their own views.

Methinks attitudes should change on both sides. Our government needs confidence and resolve. Avoiding the petulant language of so many EU functionaries, we should quietly remind them that the UK always seeks amicable arrangements with other trading nations. So, whether before or after we trigger Article 50, they may negotiate with us. We are perfectly happy to listen to the concessions they seek from us in protecting their future access to our free market.

(Image: Sebastien Bertrand)

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Mark Ellse
Mark Ellse is a physicist and author. He is a former headmaster, independent school inspector and A level chief examiner.

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