Why the EU27 should give the UK the option of revoking Article 50

Michel Barnier and David Davis

An intervention is needed to call halt, or at least create a pause, in this damaging cycle.

The government is locked into a Brexit death spiral of its own making, and is hurtling willingly towards a catastrophic no-deal scenario. Like any friend who goes off the rails, it needs an intervention by friends and family to get it out of its cycle of harm. An overt offer from the EU27 for the UK to revoke Article 50 may be the intervention that it needs to do this. It may also be in the EU27s interests to extend such an invitation.

As it stands, there are only 12 months until an exit deal must be agreed, as it must also be agreed by the European Parliament. After five rounds of negotiations though, and despite some technical progress, none of the initial three separation issues have been solved.

Each of these issues requires serious movement on the part of the UK to unlock negotiations. The movement on citizens’ rights is not yet sufficient. Despite Theresa May’s overtures in her Florence speech, the UK is still unwilling to seriously discuss its financial liabilities, let alone agree to actually meet them. Despite all agreeing a border would be bad, it is now obvious there is no real solution to the Ireland/Northern Ireland issue that does not involve either a real border, or Northern Ireland being in the customs union or a direct equivalent of it.

The EU’s position on these issues is well justified. Significant “concessions” from EU27 on these would not help EU citizens in the UK, UK citizens in the EU, or the people of Northern Ireland and Ireland. Rolling back on the principle that what is committed at 28 is honoured at 28 would simply open a pointless bidding war. There will not then be “sufficient progress” for next week’s EU Council to agree to opening talks on the future relationship. It’s now possible that there never will be.

Throughout this process, the UK government has shown itself to be a disunited, unreliable negotiating partner. After invoking Article 50 it took nearly six months to agree on the need for a transition period, and it has still not agreed internally on what it wants this to look like. The government has not agreed internally on any of the three issues listed above, or the future relationship it wants. The Tory party cannot even agree whether it wants a future relationship, or a deliberate no deal.

With this level of disunity, it is a genuine question for the EU27 as to whether the UK government could actually deliver any agreement it did manage to make.

It’s also worth remembering that the EU27 did not ask for any of this to happen. Yet the government and sections of the press are positioning themselves at every turn to ensure that the EU27 is blamed for failures. This developing “blame myth” is important. If it takes hold it could make it politically impossible for this or any future UK …read more

Source:: New Statesman

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