News & Politics

Britain Has to Be Willing to Break with the European Union Altogether

British Prime Minister Theresa May attends a news conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel during a meeting at the chancellery in Berlin Wednesday, July 20, 2016, on May's first foreign trip after being named British Prime Minister. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

In Britain, the debate about Brexit (Britain leaving the European Union) is still taking place. It’s clear that Article 50 of the EU treaty will be triggered before the end of March 2017, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing left to talk about.

Most Brits, the government included, want a free trade deal in goods and services with the EU. That would be logical considering that the European Union and British economies are, to quite a large degree, intertwined.

However, as Hugh Bennett — deputy editor of pro-Brexit website BrexitCentral — explains in a recent article, this doesn’t mean that Britain should beg the EU for such a treaty:

Theresa May’s overall negotiating strategy is actually remarkably clear: to secure the most comprehensive access to the European market that is compatible with controls on free movement of people, an end to the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice, and the ability to make our own free trade deals across the globe. Strategic industries like financial services will naturally have more strategic importance attached to them.

Any and all further details are subject to negotiations with the EU and its 27 other member states. It is painfully obvious that it is not in the gift of the Government to start making unilateral declarations about what concessions it needs the other 27 member states to grant it.

That is why the repeated attempts to try to force the Government to do just that are so absurd. The “Planners” have failed to grasp the fundamental fact that the Brexit negotiations are going to be conducted with the EU, not with Remainer MPs and a handful of Liberal Democrat peers. If Theresa May is forced to reveal her hand in full, it will not be MPs holding the Government to ransom, but the EU’s negotiators.

This is cloud cuckoo diplomacy. There could not be a better way of throwing away all of our leverage and handing the EU all the cards in the negotiations.

The basic rules for any negotiation — let alone one as complex as the negotiations about Brexit — is: never show your opponent all your cards. Britain is now in the very real danger of putting it all out there. At the moment Prime Minister May does so, she can be darn sure she’ll get the worst deal possible for her country. Because that’s how the European Union rolls — states that don’t do what Brussels wants are slowly strangled to death.

As Bennett writes at the end of his piece:

Rather than Britain obsequiously begging for a deal the EU does not want to give, it will place the onus firmly on the EU to make us an offer we cannot refuse – to stop the UK walking away and leaving them with nothing. They would be mad not to.

That’s exactly it. Britain has to muster the courage to tell the EU to take it or leave it. If PM May doesn’t have that courage, she’ll only end up damaging her country. And that’s a scenario Britain can simply not afford.