A welcome end to EU sabre rattling
SINCE the referendum, we have had nothing from Brussels but endless aggressive threats. At every opportunity, grief-stricken eurocrats have warned of the brutal punishment Britain will face for daring to depart from their cosy club.
With the help of hysterical Remainers – and the BBC echo chamber – their doom-mongering became the received wisdom. Britain, on bended knee, would have to accept whatever terms the EU deigned to offer.
Well, what a turnaround! As European Council President Donald Tusk set out his draft negotiating position yesterday, all the posturing and sabre rattling disappeared in a puff of smoke and – heavens above! – the tone was reasonable and sensible.
As well as promising the EU would not take a ‘ punitive approach’ and declaring Brexit should be ‘as smooth as possible’, he acknowledged the remaining 27 states would have much to lose from failing to agree a deal.
As he made plain, EU ministers want a ‘close partnership’, particularly on trade but also – in a vindication of Theresa May’s decision to play the security card – on crime and counter-terrorism.
Most significant of all, gone is the rigid insistence that trade talks will not take place until every detail of the divorce is concluded and Mrs May agrees to sign a £50billion cheque.
Instead, there are signs of compromise, with the door left open to discussions on trade starting in the autumn, and clear common ground on an early deal for EU migrants here and expats on the continent.
Yes, the message was not all sunshine. The idea Britain should agree not to cut tax or red tape as a condition of open trade will cause dismay, as it is one of the great potential benefits of leaving.
But most alarming of all is the attempt to use the future of Gibraltar as a negotiating card, in a clear sop to Spain. The idea that different rules could apply to Gibraltar than to the United Kingdom is ludicrous and the EU is naive in the extreme to think ministers will budge one inch.
But overall Mrs May and Brexit Secretary David Davis will have grounds for cautious optimism. In Mr Davis, we have as dogged, intelligent and tough a politician as you’ll find in Westminster, who knows the murky back corridors of Brussels like the back of his hand.
Yes, there may be crises ahead. But for those who, like the Mail, have argued for decades that the EU as an institution simply doesn’t work, this has been – with the triggering of Article 50 – a great week.