Tuesday 6 March
Although the EU is yet to make an official response to Theresa May’s Mansion House speech, we now know Brussels holds it in typical disdain.
Deputy to Michel Barnier, Stefaan De Rynck made the journey to the London School of Economics, a Remainer stronghold last night to lecture students on how disastrous democracy is.
His comments were predictable, swatting away May’s call for the UK to remain tithed to certain agencies on the grounds that there was no precedent, a point acknowledged by the prime minister in her speech (not that we’re a fan of the idea at all.)
As for mutual recognition: “The EU has moved away in the wake of the financial crisis from mutual recognition of national standards to a centralised approach with a single EU rulebook and common enforcement structures and single supervisory structures.”
De Rynck is on strong ground here, although the link made between centralised regulation and the financial crisis is factually incorrect. In the early days of European integration, the elites assembling in Brussels devised ways of creating a super-state as rapidly as possible – back then, no-one pretended the mission was not to create a federal Europe. Bureaucrats fell upon the idea of member states recognizing each others’ standards as equivalent. For the time being at least, this would cut out the need for all those thousands of regulations that would later hit the statute books, blighting British businesses. Brussels bided its time, striking when the western side of the Continent experienced its first post-war downturn in the mid-80s with a new treaty and heaps of regulations.
May is not only pushing against the grain of history but limitless euro-federalist ambition too. If Britain secures mutual recognition, the more moderate forces on the continent will have a platform to argue for less regulation coming out of Brussels and more common sense. Juncker and co. will do everything to thwart such an outcome.
De Rynck’s comments were otherwise dubious, to say the least. He claimed EU businesses are more concerned about protecting the single market than the prospect of diminishing exports to the UK. If that is the case, it is only because Mrs May has made no attempt to threaten imposing tariffs on EU goods by taking the WTO route – the prime minister would arguably get her mutual recognition arrangement were she to go down such a path.
And no Q&A with an EU Commission official would be complete without a serving of outrageous hypocrisy. “Negotiations are not about crushing an opponent, negotiations are about respecting an opponent, and understanding … I shouldn’t even use the word opponent … respecting the other party and understanding the other party,” commented De Rynck.
The negotiations have barely progressed, Britain is £40bn down, having also pledged unreserved military support and an open border in Ireland. The EU has offered nothing in return. Sounds a lot like one opponent trying to crush another to us.
In other news, Jacob Rees-Mogg has issued a warning to the PM over Britain’s decimated fisheries. At Mansion House, Theresa May made little reference to Britain’s fishing waters, leaving ample space for another huge compromise in the EU’s favour.
Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster programme, Rees-Mogg said: “It’s very important that the British fishing community is protected in Brexit.
“They were very badly let down when we joined in 1973, and they shouldn’t be used as an easy negotiating offer in this round.”
Must read: The Telegraph has a fascinating scoop on the nominally Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s snub to a Royal Commonwealth Society launch event in Washington DC last month. The Cabinet Office has taken charge of next month’s inter-ministerial meeting of the fifty-three member states spanning all five continents because the FCO is thought to be too fixated with hanging onto Europe.
Later today: David Davis follows Philip Hammond’s largely uneventful appearance yesterday before the Commons Scrutiny Committee. Time: 2 pm, you can watch it here.