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I still don't understand why even ostensibly pro-EU commentators buy the line that the EU are being difficult and/or trying to punish the UK. It looks to me like the EU are in damage limitation mode, trying to get a deal that causes as little damage to the EU and, as a secondary concern, the UK.

This means offering the UK the best deal they can consistent with the principles of EU law and treaties - thus Barnier's brilliant stairs graphic that shows the best deals the EU can offer given apparent UK insistence on various "red lines" (otherwise known as shit May decided to say to keep some group or the other on her side for a week and then doubled down on because she confuses inflexibility with strength).

by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Sun Jan 21st, 2018 at 10:23:28 PM EST
It is easy to argue that the EU has a vested interest in offering a bad deal in order to avoid encouraging other separatist parties and also in the hope that a bad deal might encourage the UK to change its mind once the "have cake and eat it" promises of the Brexiteers are thoroughly demolished.

But I think the fuller explanation - which you have averred to elsewhere - is that the EU is an incredibly rule bound institution with very specific Treaty derived competencies which define very precisely what it can and can't do or offer to the UK. Unlike the UK government, it can't make up policy on the hoof.

Specifically it can't offer a deal which:

  1. Might fall foul of an existing Treaty or require a new Treaty to be enacted by all member states
  2. Provide the UK with benefits it might then have to offer all other trading partners under WTO rules.
  3. Undermine hard won trade deals already signed with other trading partners
  4. Might fail to gain the support of the EU Commission, Parliament, and at least a weighted majority of the Council some of which might in any case be already minded to oppose a deal for somewhat separate reasons - e.g. Gibraltar, military bases on Cyprus, treatment of eastern European migrant workers, prospective corporate tax competition, regulatory arbitrage, GFA in N.Ireland...

The UK has already ruled out all the EU's preferred options: continued full membership, membership of Single Market and Customs Union, Norway, Switzerland, Canada FTA, Japan FTA etc.

Sure, the EU can discuss a "bespoke" deal, because all those arrangements are in some sense bespoke. But they all took a very long time to negotiate and ratify.  If the UK wants any deal any time soon, it can't stray too far from an established template.

I think part of the problem is that UK commentators believe their own propaganda about an all powerful Brussels bureaucracy which can ride roughshod over member states - as they claim it has done over the UK. The reality is that the EU only has those powers specifically delegated to it by member states (including the UK) by unanimous consent. That doesn't include being very generous to third parties: ask other independent states about how easy it is to do business with the EU...

Index of Frank's Diaries

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Sun Jan 21st, 2018 at 10:52:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
EU eyes quick Brexit transition deal, trade pact to take time
The draft negotiating guidelines echo an agreement among the 27 other EU national leaders in April that Britain would remain bound by essentially all EU rules in the transition but without a say in making them. [...]
Britain cannot put new bilateral trade treaties with other countries into effect during the transition period as the EU insists Britain go on collecting EU customs duties as if it were still a member, the official said.

Diversity is the key to economic and political evolution.
by Cat on Sun Jan 21st, 2018 at 11:12:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I still don't understand why even ostensibly pro-EU commentators buy the line that the EU are being difficult and/or trying to punish the UK.

It's part of the Brexit narrative: EU is a racket and since the Britons want to escape to freedom, the Eurocrats want to punish them, out of sheer spite and to terrorize the other hostages members.

The myth of nasty Continentals is so powerful that even pro-EU commentators can't help buying into it, as you noted (why can't you tolerate our intolerance?).

by Bernard on Mon Jan 22nd, 2018 at 08:48:16 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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