At a conference in London, I listened to a Welsh member of the European Parliament’s statements on Brexit this afternoon.
A number of points are worth noting on this MEP’s remarks:
The first point is the intention that has already been stated elsewhere of standing against the whole world to make Brexit a success, and this triumph requires the support of the entire British population.
[Comment: no objections from the floor]
The second point is the belief that Europe needs and will always need the United Kingdom to operate effectively (for example, the UK plays a very active role in Brussels in improving directives).
[Comment: this is a very UK-centric view, but fits with the previous point. The jilted lover is always convinced that he/she cannot be lived without, but this impression is usually blown out of proportion]
The third point is the conviction that the UK can make a much greater contribution to the world economy than it currently does as it will be able to embark on contracts unhindered (without Brussels’ oversight) and negotiate any agreements it wants.
[Comment: this is the argument that Brussels has hampered the UK’s trading capabilities, but this has never been proven. This case was put forward during the referendum campaign as if it were an obvious truth, but is in no way a scientifically-based analysis.
There is also the argument that the UK can expand in areas far from Europe and take advantage of growth in countries in Asia, but this is an illusion. Any country, be it the UK or another, trades primarily with its neighbors: this is a very useful and rational illustration of a country’s trade (gravity model). The UK is looking back longingly to the days of the Empire in this respect, but history does not repeat itself, unfortunately]
The fourth point is the view that the divorce proceedings are one-sided: the UK must put forward a solution to a problem (rights for EU citizens living in the UK, etc.), and Europe as represented by Michel Barnier is free to accept this proposal or not.
[Comment: This makes sense to me and there is nothing shocking or scandalous about it]
The last point is the opinion that Michel Barnier does not have a real mandate to negotiate and that the implementation of a fresh agreement with the EU (after the current agreement between the UK and EU has been unpicked, and not before) will be bedlam, as each country will want to negotiate directly with the UK on the industries or economic sectors where each has individual interests. The united front represented by Mr. Barnier is apparently indeed just that…a front put on for as long as it takes to break the current contract and after that, European unity will go up in smoke.
[Comment: this is all taking things a bit far. Implementing specific agreements on certain sectors (the wings of certain Airbus models, to take the example mentioned by the speaker) does not mean chaos among European countries, who clearly have no reason to make the whole exit process attractive]
Negotiations are still going on as the different parties seem to have very different expectations, but as I explain in my weekly column for Forbes (click here), an agreement must be reached.