Much has been speculated about the atmosphere that may be greeting Theresa May and other senior British politicians, as they enter into rooms filled with other EU leaders post-Brexit vote.
Some imagine the recently appointed Prime Minister being put into the corner like some sort of left out child, whilst the big kids whisper what’s to come. An article in the Telegraph has recently suggested that EU leaders have threatened to hold future negotiations in French.
Presently, the overarching stance of the senior leadership of the EU council is that Britain must be made an example of. The repercussions from the decision to leave the EU must hurt enough so as to send a message to others.
Whilst the ‘Brexit means Brexit’ mindset of Theresa May has now been mangled beyond recognition by the surrounding cabinet, other EU members have now taken the opportunity to take us to task.
That all comes before the recent high court judgement ruling, giving parliament the right to scrutinize the Brexit process. This will of course be appealed by May’s government, and the result of this, which is currently playing out, remains to be seen. May’s government vows to appeal this, whilst remainers breathe a sigh of relief, as they finally feel a ‘hard Brexit’ may be avoided.
It is a term intended to keep everyone alert, to prepare the country for what can only be the most significant economic event in 21st century Britain. It’s already the punchline for most political satirist commentators and anybody looking to quantify the cost of Britain potentially leaving the single market. Helping keep these slogans alive are the EU leaders who look to keep Mrs. May on the back foot, and ensure our island learns its lesson well.
Francois Hollande, President of the French Republic since 2012, has taken the stance most commonly referred to during these times as ‘firm’. In a dinner with EU commission officials in Paris, in October, Hollande insisted that they “must go all the way with Britain’s will to leave the European Union”.
This, it seems, means that Britain must succumb to all possible compromises as a result of its choice. He proclaimed, to the audience of 150 members, that “There must be a threat, there must be a risk, there must be a price. Otherwise we will be in a negotiation that cannot end well.” This was in defiance of May’s statement that she would refuse to rulings of the European Court of Justice.
“Britain has decided on a Brexit, I believe even a hard Brexit. Well, we must go all the way with Britain’s will to leave the European Union,” he told the dinner attended by the EU commission president, Jean-Claude Junker, and the EU’s top Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier.
There must be a price
Loss of trade with the European Union is one thing EU leaders now to seem to agree is at stake, however many are also concerned more with the EU principle of free movement. It certainly appears to be a focus of Theresa May’s exit process; in July she gave assurances to UK citizens living abroad that EU citizens rights in the UK would be protected as long as the rights of Britons were guaranteed. Whilst 1.2 million UK citizens currently live abroad in EU countries, over 3.2 million citizens from other EU member countries live in Britain alone.
Angela Merkel is one EU leader who is adamant that Britain will not be granted single market access without leaving the current free movement rules in place. In a statement she has said that if Britain were allowed exceptions “you can imagine how all countries will put put conditions on free movement with other countries. And that would create an extremely difficult situation.” This is a statement which appears to be agreed upon resoundingly within EU circles. Markus Kerber, the leader of Germany’s largest industry group, said that the concept of Britain limiting immigration but still wanting access to the single market could be “problematic, to say the least”.
President elect Donald Trump acquired the scorn of the UK public when he touched down in Scotland in June, after he gave his opinion that Brexit was a ‘great thing’ and how great it was the UK had ‘taken back their country’. This of course, was in Scotland, whose majority voted to remain in the EU.
Manfred Weber, the leader of the largest centre-right group of politicians currently in the European parliament, gave a warning to the British government today, to stay out of the EU’s post-Brexit business today. He then gave some open criticism of Boris Johnson, citing his lesser-know qualities of “unbelievable arrogance” and stating that Britain would have “no say” in the long-term future of the EU.
So it seems that EU leaders will ensure the UK has a tough, or at the very least, uncomfortable exit from the union first established in 1993. Now it remains to be seen just what ‘compromise’ means, and more importantly, how it feels.
Dan Cody is Editor-in-Chief at No Majesty.