Angela Merkel has made the Brexit negotiation process a lot easier for us

Angela Merkel has made the Brexit negotiation process a lot easier for us

This morning (Tuesday) the Prime Minister is making a major speech on Brexit. Of course there has been fervid speculation that Mrs May will outline the shape of her negotiating position, only a week after the German Chancellor warned that the UK cannot ‘lead negotiations as a way of cherry-picking’ as this would be ‘disastrous’ for the other 27 EU members.

This should delight Theresa May. When Mrs Merkel went on to state that ‘entry and access to the single market are only possible on condition of keeping to the four fundamental freedoms’, she was creating a negotiating platform that can be beneficial to both Britain and the EU. By giving such a clear statement of intent, Mrs May can now outline her position based on three fundamental principles: control of borders, money and laws.

Once both sides have established that basic premise, the real bartering can begin over trade. Indeed, one might interpret Mrs Merkel’s statement on the single market as a clear indication that trade, along with co-operation on security, are the only things left to discuss after Article 50 has been triggered.

The fact that the German Chancellor seemed to suggest that you can only ‘access’ the single market by signing up to the ‘four freedoms’ is clearly absurd and plainly wrong. The US, China and Switzerland all export more to the EU than UK, despite not adhering to the four fundamental freedoms – at least not all at once.

Both leaders can now begin to look tough in front of their respective audiences, whilst negotiating a trade deal that is mutually beneficial to both. We know that Britain will be the single biggest market for EU countries after the UK leaves, and we know that the UK has a £61bn trade deficit with the EU. Sober and pragmatic heads will see the mutual benefit of trading with each other as freely as possible, without the UK having to be under the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice.

Leaders can then agree on the broad principles of free trade with reference to major sectors such as the services sector in the UK, the automotive industry in Germany and agriculture in France. It will then be up to officials to work out how an equivalence regime for services will be implemented. This will ensure Britain does not lose a large market for its services, and the EU doesn’t lose access to capital in the face of difficult times for over-leveraged European banks. In theory, this should be easy, as the UK’s current regulatory regime is better than equivalent – it’s identical.

It will be up to officials and civil servants to build on what is already a relatively quick and cheap customs clearance regime at ports, to allow for a seamless movement of French imports into the UK and the constant flow of car parts moving across borders.

This seemingly equable negotiating platform will no doubt seem overly simplistic, not least because there are a huge variety of sectors across the EU. Surely, negotiations will be tougher than simple agreement across only the major sectors? Yes, but there is no reason why at the heads-of-government level European leaders cannot simply agree to continue to trade as we currently do across all sectors, again with the mechanics worked out by officials and civil servants.

Having a close ally – and trading partner – on its doorstep, the EU will continue to benefit from our highly profitable consumer market, access to the world’s number one financial centre, and send its students to some of the best universities in the world.

It is little surprise, however, that the whole process has been bogged down in the UK, when Parliament is so overwhelmingly pro-Remain. The obfuscation and over-complication has come from the Remain side since our vote to leave the EU. One would have thought that after nearly every major piece of economic data since 23rd June has put paid to their predictions of economic catastrophe, the more intractable Remainers might have had a little more humility.

In an act of sheer audacity, after being proved so incredibly wrong about impending doom, they are now attempting to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat by using every parliamentary and legal process for Britain to stay in the single market, with its four freedoms. This is tantamount to remaining in the European Union and an egregious betrayal of the referendum result.

Now, however, Mrs Merkel has cleared the land, and it is easier for Mrs May to implement the result of 23rd June. If the Prime Minister clearly outlines her three fundamental principles and stacks them next to the four immovable pillars of the EU then we have the chance to build a new and exciting relationship with our European neighbours and the British Prime Minister will not have to cherry-pick in negotiations.

(Photocredit: Philip)