A German confused: On January 18th we had one of those tediously formal debates in Straz to review the results (such as they were) of the Dec 15th European Council meeting. Not surprisingly, Brexit was on the agenda. The first speech on behalf of the political groups was given by German MEP Manfred Weber, the leader of the EPP Group. He’s a perfectly agreeable guy, but he seemed deeply confused over the UK’s Brexit plans, despite the admirable clarity of Theresa May’s speech yesterday. I tried to intervene and ask a question under the “Blue Card” rule. But the newly elected President of the parliament, German MEP and former Commissioner Antonio Tajani (whom I have quoted so often) decided that in the interests of timekeeping he would take no Blue Cards in the debate.
A poor second-best, but I decided to write to Mr. Weber later. I thought you might be amused to see my e-mail.
Today you spoke in the debate on the outcome of the European Council of December 15th, and you made some comments about Brexit. You said that the EU was at heart a Common Market, and you understood that Britain wanted to leave this Common Market, but then to agree a new trade deal that effectively brought it back in. You added that therefore you could not understand whether Britain wanted to leave the EU or not.
I am sorry that you found our Prime Minister’s speech of yesterday so difficult to follow. For myself, I thought it had exemplary clarity. She said that we will leave the EU. We will leave the Customs Union and the Single Market. We will be a fully independent country (like most countries in the world). We will not be subject to free movement, or European Law, or the European Court, and we will not pay into the EU budget (unless voluntary agreement is reached between the UK and the EU on specific and limited programmes). She also made it clear that as an independent country we would seek to negotiate a free trade agreement with the EU.
You will be aware that the EU has existing free trade agreements with close to fifty countries around the world. And apart from the special cases of Switzerland and Norway, none of these agreements involves free movement, or EU budget contributions, or subjection to the European Court and European law. I believe that Mrs. May envisages a broadly similar deal for the UK.
Do you clearly understand that these countries with which the EU has free trade deals – Korea, for example – are not in any sense members of any common market, or of the EU Single Market, or of the EU Customs Union, or indeed of the EU itself? You know, for example, that there is no free movement agreement between the EU and Korea? Do you in fact understand the difference between a Free Trade Agreement, and membership of a common market? And if you do, why do you feel any confusion about the UK’s position?
Best regards. ROGER HELMER MEP www.rogerhelmermep.co.uk