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Monday 2 March 2020

EU trade talks begin, and contrary to Remainer speculation a deal is on

UK and EU trade negotiators will meet in Brussels today to begin hammering out a trade deal. Both sides, we’re told, are miles apart. They’re not.  

The EU says it wants the UK to remain wrapped in EU regulations. A looser deal like Canada’s is off the cards, apparently Britain is located too nearby and trade volumes are too big – see below, note it was later revealed the EU Commission had exaggerated the graphics to misleadingly make its point.  

In true Brussels fashion the argument doesn’t make any sense. The greater the volume of trade the more damaging it is when trade barriers are implemented. The EU exports more than it imports, it therefore stands to lose more.

Brussels’ huff has been followed by all manner of mad demands from the member states: the Greeks want their marbles back, the French demand the remains of disgraced emperor Napoleon III, naturally Spain is claiming Gibraltar again.   

But dig down into the published texts and the picture is a lot more settled, which doesn’t make it any less alarming.

In its negotiating mandate, the EU calls for its laws to act merely as a “reference point”.

Boris had already given his word that Britain will retain EU protections so there’s no need for EU oversight. Last week, the government published its mandate, which accepted the principle of non-regression. He is moving dangerously close to Theresa May’s position.  

The future looks clearer, both sides are angry, they will later compromise, the nonsense about the remains of dead leaders and even older bits of stone will be dropped without a whisper.

The big question is who blinks. Will Boris make an unacceptable backtrack by signing a treaty tethering the UK to punishing EU rules or will Michel Barnier perform the volte-face?

The political reality is that Boris has a united pro-Brexit cabinet and an 80-seat majority. The Remain campaign has been routed from Westminster.  The EU’s damaging demands come out of desperation. They’re holding onto old assurances made by Mrs May in the vain hope of getting concessions out of Boris, particularly on fisheries.

That doesn’t mean the EU is going to backdown though. They might be obsessed with legality over there, but that doesn’t mean they are guided by logic.

Besides, it’s still possible that neither side will back down and we get a WTO deal. Here’s hoping.  

Europe faced another migration crisis.

Turkey has signalled it will not stand in the way of the latest wave of immigration sweeping through it’s borders, mainly from Syria.

“What did we do yesterday? We opened the doors,” said Racep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president this weekend.

The flow of migrants is expected to reach up to 30,000 a day.

The EU is tangled in a web of its own making. Brussels opposes Erdogan’s campaign to support rebels against Syrian forces, so responding to Erdogan’s request for EU support on the issue has become troublesome.

Greece has responded by preventing more than 4,000 illegal border crossings and has made 66 arrests. This underlines why multilaterilsm is no match for a national government. Greece has had to uncover obscure EU emergency measure to unilaterally close its border.

Good on ’em, but they would have acted faster and more effectively without the EU, and the problem wouldn’t be on nearly as great a scale.

A weak response from Brussels is bound to infuriate leaders within the EU27. “we’re willing to be kind, but not to be treated like idiots.” Said Matteo Salvini.

Relations between EU Members States are already tense due to difficult budget negotiations (see quote below from Emmanual Macron), they are about to get a whole lot worse. 

And then there’s the Coronavirus to deal with too, Italy is under virtual quarantine.