Expect lots more leaks from Brussels – but we must hold our nerve during the Brexit negotiations

Expect lots more leaks from Brussels – but we must hold our nerve during the Brexit negotiations

So, what can we conclude from the not-so-subtle leaking of Theresa May’s dinner with Jean-Claude Juncker last week?

It was interesting, firstly, that the detailed account appeared in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), a German newspaper. This suggests the source (almost certainly Martin Selmayr, Juncker’s German Chief of Staff, who was present at the dinner) but also the target: Selmayr is an avowed federalist who really dislikes the UK and, despite his nationality and origins in Angela Merkel’s CDU, he does not always see eye-to-eye with her or the German Government.

The Commission is desperate to keep control of the negotiations and sideline member states. So this one-sided account of how ‘unreasonable’ the Prime Minister and her team are is probably aimed at hardening German Government opinion, as well as causing mischief during our election campaign here in the UK.

What has been particularly disappointing, even whilst accepting that we are in full election mode, is the willingness of the usual suspect Remoaners to leap to the defence of the Commission against our own government.

If it is the case, as they constantly assert, that they accept the result of the referendum, then surely the argument boils down to what kind of deal we will get with the remaining 27 EU member states following our departure? Surely, they would want the Government to get the best possible deal? Obviously not, in the case of Nick Clegg and Sir Keir Starmer, who have been taking to the airwaves to denounce Theresa May for not immediately capitulating.

Having spent the last six months loudly complaining in the Commons and Lords about the fate of EU citizens in the UK, you might have thought they would today be condemning the EU for refusing to agree a quick deal on reciprocity over citizens’ rights, as the Prime Minister wants. It appears that it is actually the EU that wants to hold these people ‘hostage’ until the end of the talks – but not a word of criticism of the EU has passed the lips of Clegg and Starmer. And that amply demonstrates their true motivation.

Unfortunately, I fear that this tawdry episode indicates what is going to happen over the next two years and the Number Ten team is going to have to adapt.

Everything in the EU leaks like a sieve, simply because of the number of different players involved in the process, so expect lots of one-sided ‘strategic briefing’ and leaks. However, I also think it indicates that the EU side is slightly unnerved by the Prime Minister’s insistence that she will walk away from a bad deal.

I still think an eventual deal is very likely, for the simple reason that one is clearly in the overwhelming interest of both sides. But the road to it is likely to be extremely rocky indeed. We must hold our nerve and give our full backing to the PM and her team.