Brexit dead­lock is deeply wor­ry­ing

Western Mail - - SHARES -

EU BREXIT ne­go­tia­tor Michel Barnier’s ad­mis­sion that talks with the UK are in “dead­lock” will force peo­ple on both sides of the Chan­nel to con­front the pos­si­bil­ity that no deal will be reached by March 2019.

He is adamant this would be bad news, warn­ing that “no deal will be a very bad deal”.

The CBI did not hide its alarm, not­ing that “talk of a dead­lock will be deeply con­cern­ing to many busi­nesses”.

There had been hopes that around this time talks could start on the fu­ture re­la­tion­ship be­tween the UK and the EU. But the EU is em­phatic that a stack of is­sues must be re­solved be­fore that can hap­pen.

The sta­tus of EU na­tion­als in the UK has to be sorted out; find­ing a so­lu­tion to the Ir­ish bor­der is an­other pri­or­ity; and there is pres­sure to nail down the terms of the di­vorce bill.

It is clear that the EU does not want the UK to go into the sec­ond stage of talks able to use these is­sues as ne­go­ti­at­ing cards.

The re­main­ing 27 states need no re­mind­ing of the fi­nan­cial im­pact that Bri­tain’s de­par­ture will have on the union. Will richer states have to stump up yet more cash to fund projects or will poorer coun­tries have to ac­cept a lower level of de­vel­op­ment fund­ing?

Sim­i­larly, Ire­land’s rep­re­sen­ta­tives will have left of­fi­cials in no doubt about the enor­mity of the im­pact that a botched Brexit could have on its econ­omy and on the peace process.

Both Bri­tish cit­i­zens who live in the EU and peo­ple from mem­ber states who have made their home in the UK will want ur­gent clarification about their fu­ture sta­tus. Brexit has in­jected un­cer­tainty into their lives and they will de­mand as­sur­ances their res­i­dency and em­ploy­ment rights are not un­der threat.

EU lead­ers and of­fi­cials will have dif­fer­ent the­o­ries about the UK’s stance in the talks. Is Bri­tain (a) sim­ply re­luc­tant to show its ne­go­ti­at­ing hand, or (b) is Theresa May too weak to com­mit to a deal on such in­cen­di­ary is­sues as the di­vorce bill, or (c) is the UK Gov­ern­ment di­vided on key is­sues?

There are diehard euroscep­tics who would wel­come the UK walk­ing away from the talks process but Lib Dem leader Sir Vince Ca­ble has warned that the “will­ing­ness to en­ter­tain the pos­si­bil­ity of a nodeal sce­nario is ut­terly reck­less”.

Politi­cians in the UK and the EU need to re­mind them­selves that a dis­as­trous Brexit will come with an im­mense hu­man cost in terms of lost trade and wrecked liveli­hoods. This is not the time for brinkman­ship but grown-up co­op­er­a­tion to en­sure that Brexit can be achieved with­out dam­ag­ing any­one’s econ­omy.

The EU should not seek to pun­ish the UK for hav­ing the au­dac­ity to vote to leave, nor should Bri­tish politi­cians in­dulge in ide­o­log­i­cal grand­stand­ing. Europe is in the throes of a time of tran­si­tion and minds should be fo­cused on en­sur­ing that cit­i­zens of all coun­tries are spared suf­fer­ing.

This is a no­ble mis­sion which re­quires good­will and in­tel­li­gence but time is short.

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