It’s time for pragmatism to be put before process and idealism in the negotiations

It’s time for pragmatism to be put before process and idealism in the negotiations

Yesterday I had the opportunity to address the European Parliament on the subject of last week’s EU Council meeting in Brussels.

> WATCH: Syed Kamall addresses the European Parliament calling for pragmatism in the Brexit negotiations

It is one of the traditions of the institutions that after major summit meetings, the President of the European Council reports back to the European Parliament to hear what the leaders of the major political groups and the President of the European Commission have to say on proceedings

When I was called to speak in the debate on behalf of the European Conservatives & Reformists Group, my main message was a friendly suggestion for both EU and UK negotiators to start putting pragmatism before process and idealism.

I told Mr Tusk, Mr Juncker and fellow parliamentarians, that as a British MEP who leads one of the largest political groups in the European Parliament, who enjoys good relations with people on both sides of the negotiating table, and who wants a mutually beneficial deal, I fervently hope that we will avoid becoming trapped by the sequencing of negotiations.
There has to be real progress – and to achieve that we may need to take a step back and look at the process as a whole.

Just as there needs to be an understanding from the UK of where the EU27 are coming from, there needs to be an understanding from the EU27 of the United Kingdom’s priorities, needs and goals.

A major reason for the UK joining the European Economic Community more than 40 years ago was due to the trading relationship with other EEC countries. Given that one of the few things Eurofanatics and Eurosceptics and those in between agree on is the importance of trading with the EU, I believe that over the years, trade has remained one of the UK’s main motivations for EU membership relationship and it will be a major factor in creating the UK’s future relationship with the EU.

I suggested that perhaps the more the EU talks about the issues that the UK cares about most, it may find the more the UK is willing to make concessions on the issues the EU27 cares about most. In fact, on the Irish border issue, it is almost impossible to reach a meaningful agreement without knowing what the future UK-EU trade agreement will look like.

My speech was a suggestion that it is now time to put pragmatism first.

Why insist on dwelling on the sticking points when other areas of negotiation, if approached sooner instead of later, can create genuine progress, momentum and good will to bridge gaps?

I ended with the observation that “idealism” may be a wonderful way to view the world, and “sequencing” may appear to be perfectly logical, but it will be “pragmatism” that delivers the solutions we all want to see.