Barnier on Brexit: “Keep paying the subs”


Yesterday I attended a meeting at which Michel Barnier, the EU’s appointed Brexit negotiator, presented the current status from his point of view — and I had the opportunity to respond.  On the plus side, he was measured and reasonable, insisting that his stance would be neither aggressive nor revengeful.  And he set out his stall in clear and organised terms.  But he also came up with a few propositions which might cause some consternation on our side of the Channel.

He said that his three tasks were to negotiate the UK’s withdrawal; to agree a future relationship; and to agree also a transitional relationship.  Many Brits will bridle at the term “transitional deal”, but both Barnier, and the parliament’s Brexit spokesman Guy Verhofstadt, insisted that any such deal must be short-term.  Verhosfstadt spoke of “sunset clauses”.

Barnier said that his key principles would be “the unity of the EU 27” (we can have no problem with that); and the “Fundamental Four Freedoms” (again, we can have no problem – provided he means amongst the 27, and not the UK, as I made clear in my response);  and the third principle: Member-States must enjoy better terms that third countries (i.e. the UK post-Brexit).  Our view is that being out represents better terms than being in, but let that pass.

He went on to mention four key areas of concern.  First, the status of acquired rights, with respect to EU citizens currently in the UK, and of course vice versa.  I believe that given a degree of goodwill, this should not represent a major problem (although so far Merkel has declined to confirm this to Theresa May).

Secondly – the sticking point – future financial commitments.  Barnier argues that the UK has entered into future commitments with the EU, in the EIB, structural and agricultural funds, the Horizon Research programme, foreign aid and other matters, which will require us to continue to contribute to Brussels for years after Brexit.  I responded that we had entered into these commitments as an EU member-state within an EU framework, and any such commitments were clearly null and void after Brexit. “We have a saying in England” (I said), “You must cut your coat according to your cloth, and let’s face it, you’re going to have less cloth”.

On the EU side Brexit is often referred to as “a divorce”.  But as I know to my cost, divorce involves splitting the assets.  “The EU has substantial real estate and other assets”, I said. “You would be astonished and affronted if the British government demanded payment for our share of these assets on Brexit.  We are equally affronted by your demands to continued contributions after Brexit”.  That said, I would not rule out joining some EU programmes after Brexit – perhaps Erasmus and Horizon – but it must be on a purely voluntary basis, and at a price that represents fair value.

Thirdly, the issue of borders, and Barnier cited Gibraltar, the Cyprus RAF base at Akrotiri, and Northern Ireland.  As I see it, Gibraltar and Cyprus revert to the status quo ante.  Northern Ireland does represent a problem in terms of the border, but I believe that with goodwill and creative thinking a satisfactory solution can be found.

And fourthly, climate policy, which Barnier seems to believe needs to be “negotiated”.  I in return insisted that climate policy for the UK after Brexit would be entirely a matter for a sovereign British government.  That government could decide to stick to EU policies and targets, but I hope it will not, and especially that it will not give the EU any say or status in UK energy policy.

Equally, I insisted that immigration and fisheries (within our internationally-determined territorial waters) were not matters for negotiation.  A sovereign British parliament would decide.  Again, that does not preclude a range of agreements to be negotiated voluntarily, for example visa waivers on immigration, or access for foreign fishing boats to our fisheries (at a price).  But it does preclude the EU having any say in those areas.

Barnier said that if Britain wanted to control immigration then it could not be part of the EU Customs Union or Single Market, and would have to settle for a free trade deal.  I responded that this was very positive news, and was exactly what we (i.e. most of the Leave side) wanted.

In addition to exchanges with Barnier, I also crossed swords with Manfred Weber, the German MEP who leads the EPP Group.

Manfred Weber, EPP “We negotiated with David Cameron earlier this year and offered the UK a very generous package of measures covering various items including reduced welfare benefits for EU immigrants”.

RFH, EFDD (somewhat later):  “I’d like to respond to Manfred Weber.  You said the renegotiation you offered to David Cameron was ‘generous’.  It was no such thing.  It was trivial and derisory.  It did not start to address the legitimate concerns of the British people.  It brought derision on Cameron.  And it could well have been a significant factor in the Brexit vote.  The British people thought ‘Well if that’s the best they can offer, we’re better off out'”.








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21 Responses to Barnier on Brexit: “Keep paying the subs”

  1. Ian Wragg says:

    Roger. When we leave a large slice of the EU budget leaves with us. The EU has year on year expanded its remit and suddenly it will have to retrench.
    They will fight tooth and nail to preserve their funding stream. It’s to be hoped our political class tell them where to go.

  2. KennieD says:

    Well replied as usual Roger.
    “The British people thought ‘Well if that’s the best they can offer, we’re better off out’”. Precisely, and the more this goes on the more people reach the same conclusion. Let’s just get out and then, if they want a free trade deal, we can all talk about it. If they don’t want a free trade deal, then the EU industries can talk about that to Merkel & Co.
    It will be worth getting straight out of eu immediately just to put an end to BBC & Sky ‘News’ forever bringing on “experts” and other whingers to remind us ignorami of all the difficulties.

  3. Shieldsman says:

    There was no generous agreed package. full stop. The temporary measures were subject to our remaining in the EU and being passed by the EU Parliament. Certain of Manfred Weber’s fellow MEP’s made it known that they would not allow it to be passed.
    The representatives of the Member States, acting in their capacity as members of the Council, will proceed with work on these legislative proposals as a matter of priority and do all within their power to ensure their rapid adoption.
    At the time we had: Martin Schulz said after the meeting he had told Cameron he could not guarantee the assembly would give its blessing to a U.K. welfare reform proposal that has become the key sticking point in negotiations on Britain’s EU membership.
    “To be quite clear no government can go to a Parliament and say this is our proposal, can you give a guarantee about the result?” Schulz told reporters.
    The Parliament president said that in a democracy, making such a pledge was “not possible” but added that he was confident the assembly would find a way to support Cameron’s call
    for reform — as long as it does not involve a treaty change.
    On 11th April in Graf Lambsdorff: EU ‘clearly went too far’ in Brexit concessions.
    The European Council agreed in February to a number of reforms proposed by Britain to try and counter the risk of the UK leaving the bloc in a June referendum. Alexander Graf Lambsdorff spoke to EurActiv Germany about the historic vote.
    Alexander Graf Lambsdorff is Vice-President of the European Parliament and an MEP with the liberal ALDE group.
    Before the European Council summit in February you warned that the planned “emergency brake” would be discriminatory and put a nail in the coffin of European freedom of movement. Did the Council go too far in its concessions to the British government?
    On this issue, it clearly went too far. We are talking about one of the four fundamental freedoms of the internal market, which from a liberal point of view is the most important part of European integration.
    Those in favour of an emergency brake on the free movement of workers, will see that sooner or later others will come up with the same idea regarding the free provision of services, the free movement of goods and the free movement of capital – destroying the internal market as we know it.
    For the emergency brake to come into force, the EU directive on free movement has to be modified, which can only be done with the consent of the European Parliament. Should the Parliament use this opportunity to amend the Council’s proposal?
    I’m sure that I will certainly not agree to a change of the directive, as it would restrict one of our basic fundamental freedoms. I assume that many in my group, as well as my colleagues in the EPP and S&D group will feel the same.
    So we had both the President and the Vice-President of the European Parliament saying that even if we voted to remain in the EU there was no guarantee that the emergency brake would be allowed.

    On another topic – will the lights go out? Winter Power Crunch Fears As UK-France Energy Cables Are Severed During Storm Date: 29/11/16 Emily Gosden, The Daily Telegraph
    Britain’s main power link to France was partially severed during Storm Angus and will not be fixed until February, National Grid has revealed, exacerbating fears of a power crunch this winter.

    As a result of the disclosure Nissan sells its cars to the EU through a Swiss registered Company, the following is worth a read: –…/Folien-Abkommen_en.pdf
    The major bilateral agreements Switzerland–EU.
    Free movement of persons
    • Entitles Swiss and EU citizens under certain conditions to choose their workplace and residence freely within the territories of the Contracting Parties. • Leads to mutual, gradual and controlled opening up of labour markets through transitional arrangements. •
    «Accompanying measures» to protect employees (ensuring compliance with pay and working conditions in Switzerland)
    • Important growth effect: Swiss economy is dependent on foreign workers.
    • Better opportunities for Swiss nationals in the EU. Entry into force: 2002
    Initiative «Stop mass immigration»
    •Adoption on 9 February 2014 with 50.3% of the votes and the majority of the cantons
    •Core elements according to the new Art. 121a Cst
    1. Switzerland autonomously regulates immigration.
    2. a) Restriction of residence permits through annual quantitative limits and quotas
    b) The right to permanent residence, family reunification and social benefits may be limited.
    3. a) Quantitative limits and quotas must be geared towards Switzerland’s overall economic interests.
    b) Businesses must give Swiss nationals priority when hiring staff.
    4. No treaties of international public law that infringe the article
    5. Details to be defined at the legislative level
    Finding a solution on the free movement
    of persons
    • The new article of the Swiss Federal Constitution on immigration, Article 121a, is not
    compatible with the Agreement on the Free Movement of Persons (AFMP).
    • The AFMP must be renegotiated within three years in order to adapt to the new Swiss immigration system.
    • If within three years there is no implementation at legislative level, the Federal Council will have to implement the new provisions on immigration as per ordinance

  4. MIKE MAUNDER says:

    THE E.U. HAS A STRANGE VIEW OF US LEAVING. Going straight to any payments to be made. If there were items that we agree upon with the E.U., then an individual, one off agreement could be made, as is normal between Nations, and has more to do with geographical location than any- thing to do with our once being an E.U. member. No further payments should be made to E.U. after Article 50 is signed, otherwise money already paid, and used for the excesses of setting up the well overblown station of the E.U. would have to be drawn into negotiations. – Surely this is something neither side wants to be involved with. Regarding people living in the other’s land, this can only sensibly be taken as a reciprocal matter between us, and needs no negotiating. As for Cameron’s arrangements. – Is there any signed agreement with change made to any Treaties ? I thought everything that Cameron brought back from the E.U. was just verbal ! The Trade balance between us is so uneven, that we should invite them to negotiate for access to our market, and again a reciprocal agreement would be sensible. Your answers to these people Roger, seem to be spot on. – It is a pity that our Government is only interested in their own views and can not take on board any other help and assistance.

  5. Very well done Roger – you are one of my Brexit heroes. Keep up the good work. By the way, do I detect a return of the German arrogance of old that led to so much trouble in the past? Mmmm

  6. Dung says:

    I echo the praise given above for Roger’s responses to the EU’s provocative proposals, he socked it to them but good hehe.
    I become more and more convinced that Article 50 will lead to an endless morass and that instead we should repeal the communities act and get the hell out pronto. We can negotiate the rest from the stance of an idependent democratic country and at our leisure ^.^

  7. davidbuckingham says:

    All great stuff Roger – thank god you’re there in the maelstrom. I have a slight detection of new Ukip momentum with Paul Nuttall – something I never thought I’d think post Nigel – with estimates of 130 odd Labour seats up for a Ukip grab. No way of telling if that’s good news or bad for ‘Maggie’ May – good news for us though. Nuttall has his own renewed desire and ambition, lack of baggage (hopefully) and instant connection/synergy/empathy with the no-nonsense North. Nigel I’m sure will continue to make waves in his own brilliant way, and find many new independent ways, free of party encumbrance. Get the feeling Ukip aren’t a spent force any more. Maybe one or two might return to the fold.

    • Hugh rose says:

      Actually I dont think that many really left – even if they did, they are just waiting in the wings to rejoin when they see cohesion

  8. davidbuckingham says:

    BTW – there’s still too little emphasis on the fact that 170 or so nations in the world operate happily as independents. That’s the norm, not Transnationalism. The perspective is too often confined to little europe rather than global. The flat-earthers think we drop off the edge leaving the EU. I also wonder if more criticism and exposure of the oppressive Brussels kleptocratic regime needs to be aired. Soviet dissident Bukovsky has drawn parallels with the totalitarianism of the Soviet Union. Why would he lie? Remainers are generally allowed to ignore Brussels’ ugliness and deep-rooted failure. As well as frequently conflating it with Europe, the EU is considered the rational sensible way to go, open-minded towards the world. The Brexit vote described as anti-Westminster and closing off from the world – quite incredible and totally Orwellian reversal of meanings.

  9. Ex-expat Colin says:

    Noticed at G. Fawkes the other day:
    “Peter Bone has tabled a Bill to implement Theresa May’s promise to trigger Article 50 by the end of March”

    Just wondering what actually happened..if anything. Nothing mentioned amongst the MSM dribblers?

  10. Shieldsman says:

    Reports are that the Brexit Secretary is considering paying for continued participation in the Single Market.
    It should be noted that Switzerland is not a member of the EU or the EEA (Single Market). Its relationship with the EU is conducted through Bilateral Agreements as mentioned above.

    In September 2012 David Buchan wrote Swiss and Norwegian lessons for the UK – Participation in the single market has a financial price. Both Norway and Switzerland pay a share of EU
    programmes on research, education and so on in which they take part, and from which they benefit. But neither gets any direct return from their payments to the eu ’s aid and cohesion programmes. These payments amount to €1.79 billion from Norway over 2009-14 and just over €1 billion from Switzerland over 10 years. They can both afford this: they are two of the richest countries in Europe.

    The Swiss people voted to exercise control over migration into their Country and are in dispute with Brussels.

    • Dung says:

      David Davis actually said he was willing to contribute to the EU in exchange for ACCESS to the single market, that is not acceptable at any price.

  11. catweazle666 says:

    Well said Roger.

    Keep up the good work!

  12. Ex-expat Colin says:

    Well they stung Wilders 5k Euros…his performance in court is worth a prize of 15k or more I reckon. Seems you are a racist if you talk about Moroccans? The ones causing trouble that is!

    Europe is asking for it alright.

  13. Ex-expat Colin says:

    You know all the talk about small business that support the car industry…like in the W. Mids. An old one went bust yesterday nearby:
    “Chris Pole, joint administrator and partner at KPMG, commented: : “Like many suppliers in the manufacturing industry, Smethwick Drop Forge has been affected by difficult trading conditions which has ultimately resulted in the directors taking the difficult decision to close its operations and place the business into administration”.

    Wouldn’t be cost of UK energy by any chance…oh, Brexit?

    Thats along with Canadian Wind Turbine (Endurance) fitting company up the road the other day…pffft! Can’t fit those here as wind performance makes things “challenging”.

    90 odd jobs gone on both.

  14. Terry Medcraft says:

    If we cannot get an agreement on trade with the EU quickly the UK will have to trade under WTO conditions. Is that a problem? WTO tariffs are 3% I believe.Surely we can live with that. It also applies to EU goods exported to the UK. So the UK makes more money from imported goods due to the inbalance of trade.

    • catweazle666 says:

      Sounds good to me!

      Further, while we still remain in the Single Market it appears we are obliged to maintain open borders, pay subscriptions to the EU and are unable to make trade deals with states outside the EU.

      No contest really.

      • Terry Medcraft says:

        I understand the UK cannot just leave the EU, there are procedures and processes to go through but, not being allowed to make trade deals with non EU countries shows what the EU is all about.
        The EU commissioners are afraid of losing power, especially Germany. The EU is a cosy undemocratic cartel. It needs to be dismantled.

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