BREXIT appears to be coming together as the UK yesterday published its approach to trade with the EU post-Brexit. Yet, with complications and scuffles between Brussels and London still rife, even pro-Remain Alastair Campbell predicted the EU would make it difficult for Britain as the exit day approached.
In the face of the coronavirus outbreak, Brexit appears to be taking form. On Tuesday, the Government published 13 documents “setting out our approach to our future relationship with the European Union“, including its outline of a free trade agreement – which “draws on previous EU agreements” with the likes of Canada, Japan and South Korea.
It proposed a separate agreement on fisheries, on law enforcement, and in technical areas covering aviation, energy and civil nuclear cooperation.
Its approach, the UK said, was based on “friendly cooperation between sovereign equals” and “represents our clear and unwavering view that the UK will always have control of its own laws, political life and rules”.
Yet, Michel Barnier, the EUs chief negotiator, was quick to shout down the attempts at moving the Brexit process forward.
He said the EU is not prepared to “copy and paste” aspects of existing agreements with other countries or do sector-by-sector deals “rooted in past precedents”.
It came as Michael Gove, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, revealed there were “significant differences of principle”, and it “remained difficult to reach a mutually beneficial agreement”.
Mr Barnier has claimed the UK’s demands are “not realistic”.
In a bid to break the deadlock, the UKs Brexit negotiator, David Frost, delivered a four-page letter to Mr Barnier, highlighting several areas where his team believed Brussels was not acting in good faith.
Mr Frost, in three bullet points, summed up where he thought the EU had contradicted itself.
He explained the UK found it “perplexing” that the EU was continuing to make “unbalanced, and unprecedented” demands but argued “rapid” progress could be made if the bloc was willing to offer terms similar to those found in free trade agreements (FTA) it had already ratified with third countries such as Canada and Japan.
He said: “Overall, at this moment in negotiations, what is on offer is not a fair free trade relationship between close economic partners, but a relatively low-quality trade agreement coming with unprecedented EU oversight of our laws and institutions.
“It does not have to be like this.
“I remain convinced that it would be very straightforward for us to agree to a modern and high-quality FTA and other separate agreements, like those you have agreed with other close partners around the world, and that we could do so quickly.”
The most recent exchange over the discourse of the process is yet another blockade in the road to Brexit.
An unlikely character to predict the EUs unwillingness to make the Brexit process smooth is former Labour spin doctor, Alastair Campbell.
Alastair Campbell was among a number of Remainers behind the Peoples Vote campaign, that sought to put a second Brexit referendum to Britons.
And, immediately after the Brexit vote was announced, he set up The New European newspaper – a publication to cater for Britains Remainers.
Yet, for all his support of the EU, during his 2016 Oxford union address, Alastair Campbell revealed matter of factly how the bloc would make negotiations tough for the UK as part of their strategy.
He said: “One of the great powers in Europe, weve come out on our own.
“Were almost projecting this at the moment as though this is like an amicable divorce.
“Its not, its a resignation.
“We have decided as the British people to resign from membership of the European Union.
“Thats a completely different approach.
“This idea the European Union is going to make it easy for us, forget it, just forget it – I think were in very tricky waters.”
Last week, answering a question from Labour about the Governments discussions with the EU, Mr Gove said there remained differences between the UK and EU.
He said there were considerable different understandings most notably on fisheries and the so-called “level-playing field” rules.
Mr Gove told MPs: “The EU essentially wants us to obey the rules of their club, even though we are no longer members, and they want the same access to our fishing grounds as they currently have, while restricting our access to their markets.
“It remains difficult to reach a mutually beneficial agreement while the EU maintains such an ideological approach.”
But, the minister was hopeful in his answer, explaining he believed the bloc would offer a certain “”flexibility” in reaching an agreement before the deadline.