Michael St George’s selection from the past week’s Brexit-related headlines.
NB: (£) denotes article behind paywall
Facing New Crises, Macron Repackages Old, Bad Ideas – National Review
Never slow to perceive, in the comfort blanket of pan-European integration in which his assumption of French joint-‘leadership’ is more wishful thinking than reality, a distraction from France’s economic sclerosis and ongoing political crisis, Macron sees in Covid-19 yet another opportunity to deepen the former, via financial aid funded by mutualised debt.
Not for the first time, however, he overlooks the same fundamental flaw which plagues the euro: that a currency union not backed by a fiscal union contains not only an inherent structural design flaw, but even the seeds of its own potential failure. Predictably, Macron’s idea is being resisted by the same quartet of Germany, Austria, Finland and the Netherlands who fear being saddled with the lion’s share of contributions.
After weeks of ineffectual dithering, the EU is finally moving towards some kind of aid package. Delaying Brexit for an extension to transition could see Britain on the hook for a substantial contribution, so should be avoided.
The future will be won by nimble, innovative nation-states – Global Vision
As several earlier TCW articles in our Brexit Watch series have noted, in the early stages of the Covid-19 pandemic, the EU was paralysed by a combination of institutional atrophy and indecision. That led to individual member-states’ democratically elected governments, even the Franco-German alliance, moving swiftly to take whatever decisions they deemed in their best national interests, including abandoning Schengen and closing borders, by-passing and not even bothering to consult Brussels in the process.
Not only is this a genie which won’t easily be put back in its bottle; it will have effects on member-states’ post-Covid-19 recovery strategies. A reversion to centralised, Brussels-dictated, one-size-fits-all regulation of everything from business practices to product specifications would deprive the weaker EU economies of the flexibility they are going to need, particularly after their differing exposure to the economic and fiscal costs of coping with coronavirus. From Britain’s perspective, that must strengthen our case for rejecting the EU’s demands for equivalence or any ‘level playing field’ in our post-Brexit trade relationship with the bloc.
The Brexit Fight goes on – Get Britain Out
One under-reported feature of the Brexit trade talks resuming by video-conferencing is that, with the Department of International Trade seemingly having curtailed its activities considerably with the Covid-19 pandemic, the UK-USA trade talks which were previously running in parallel with the UK-EU trade negotiations apparently remained suspended.
Given the obvious advantages of not only keeping trade talks with the USA going but also of publicly demonstrating that continuance to the Brussels negotiators, it’s regrettable that they did not resume at the same time, and they should be benefiting from equal emphasis.
EU leaders ‘must intervene to break Brexit trade talks impasse’ – Telegraph (£)
In contrast to Barnier’s recent typically petulant and disingenuous outburst of frustration towards Britain for insisting that it will neither request an extension to the Brexit Transition period nor accede to the EU’s demands for close regulatory alignment and continued access to UK fishing waters, this latest intervention from the Prime Minister of Latvia is intriguing.
What Krisjanis Karins appears to be doing is suggesting that EU member-state heads of government in effect take over the direction of negotiations from Barnier and reach a deal with the UK that is satisfactory to both parties, in contrast to Barnier’s intemperate supranationalist intransigence. Karins seems to be recognising, in a way which apparently eludes the more ideological Barnier, that in responding to Covid-19 the EU has a bigger problem on its plate than Brexit.
The UK spokesman’s reported remark about EU negotiators being ‘simply not used to this dynamic of the UK standing up for itself’ certainly rings true. If the reading of the Latvian PM’s intervention is correct, then our UK negotiators should have no hesitation in fomenting and exploiting a potential division between Brussels and EU member-states to further Britain’s interests.