The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

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Matching the Inconsolable with the Irreconcilable

The reaction of Tusk and Macron at Salzburg is the matching of the Inconsolable with the Irreconcilable.

French President Emmanuel Macron said Brexit had been "pushed by certain people who predicted easy solutions". He added, "Brexit has shown us one thing - and I fully respect British sovereignty in saying this - it has demonstrated that those who said that you can easily do without Europe, that it will all go very well, that it is easy and there will be lots of money, are liars. This is all the more true because they left the next day, so they didn't have to manage it."

Being "désolé" is no excuse for bad manners at any, and particularly, at state level. Tortured English will not do. Tortured English from a man himself tortured by the inequity of a Europe which his country cannot meaningfully contribute to financially; a Europe which cannot be influenced in any direction either without support from a Germany to finance such influence. And all the while, this President must maintain the immeasurable forbearance that French exceptionalism requires!

Those Four Freedoms to which, only recently, we have become accustomed, will be the very ones that French citizens will demand change to when growing strategic imperatives make them. It has already begun.

The Prime Minister responded today, "Throughout this process, I have treated the EU with nothing but respect. The UK expects the same. A good relationship at the end of this process depends on it. At this late stage in the negotiations, it is not acceptable to simply reject the other side's proposals without a detailed explanation and counterproposals." However we voted in the referendum and whether any of us were reconciled to Chequers we must now recognise its noble intent.

The UK's attempt to engage reasonably with the EU is being met with a curious hostility by national leaders who shield themselves behind the EU facade and its tortured "principles". Chequers was an attempt to heal the nation and to chart an equal partnership with the EU. Time and again the UK has made clear its desire for a peaceful and secure Europe. The new structure for European alliances helpfully proposed by the French President in August and based on "concentric circles" mirrored the strategic structure Churchill used to describe our place in the world as being at the centre of three concentric relationships - with the USA, Europe and the Commonwealth. In her Philadelphia Speech last year, the PM wisely added to these a 4th, the Rest of the World. Together these form the strategic direction of our new Global Britain.

Mr David Lidington describes Europe as our "indispensable partner." But any relationship is weakened if Macron's "pique" indicates that he thinks the Continent's security with a future non-EU partner would be at risk should it not subscribe to the "4 Freedoms" (the need for these Freedoms actually being why Britain voted to leave the EU.)

It is a strategic imperative for the UK to share a unique relationship with Europe regardless of EU membership and vice versa. The UK can create two Special Relationships. The new one with Europe will build on our old one with the USA that created our rules-based order and shaped our modern world. The Chequers White Paper offered the prospect of reconciliation, not only with the EU but equally with ourselves at home too. Only when the strategy for the UK is as clear at home as it is overseas will it be one where the UK can bring its unique values to a complex world which has never needed them more than it does today, greatly strengthened by these combined special relationships. Chequers enabled them. But even better news is that indispensable partnerships will develop improved strength and security. So on matters of national security we should have no fears at all that existing frameworks within the EU will be enabled once we are out.

In doing this the Prime Minister enables a higher possibility for our country; that of creating two Special Relationships. One with the USA, the most complex and dynamic that the world has ever seen, predicated on our military, security and financial mutuality as an institutional pillar for 70 years and now another with the EU, based on our shared trade, economic and security interests as part of the prosperity continuum that the Secretary of State for International Trade speaks of so well. We will be the first country in the world to have two such relationships when this is achieved; greater collective and global security in challenging times and a bright future for our United Kingdom. Thus, the security, if not the defence, interests will form the basis for that European "special relationship" since no good can be derived without it.

The Prime Minister has attempted what the Conservative Party should always do: manage the co-incidence of itself with the nation. The Conservative Party is the oldest and most successful political party in the world. But it is only truly successful when it reflects the nation. The 52:48 win for Leave makes legitimate a "hard" EU Exit. But to deliberately engineer that inflames rather than heals us at home.

By enabling the key facets of a "hard" EU Exit to combine with those of a "soft" one, while simultaneously holding firm to "the political miracle of the 20th Century" that is the Belfast Agreement, the Prime Minister achieves for the Conservative Party what its essential and critical role is when it succeeds – standing for our Union as an expression of the nation itself and maintaining the integrity of the United Kingdom.

We must not forget that, in thirty years of the Troubles, 3,600 people died, whereas no-one is dying over EU Exit.The prime minister's defence of Northern Ireland is a defence of our United Kingdom. It and the Good Friday Agreement are non-negotiable. For the EU to conflate that with the principles of a Single Market reveals the EU's bureaucratic heartlessness.

If the Secretary of State for International Trade thought that Chequers would impede his ability to be the first Secretary of State in forty six years to preside over a truly sovereign trade policy, then he would not support it.He is responsible for both its formulation and implementation. Chequers seeks continuity for that part of our manufacturing sector that is deeply connected to EU trade. Since 20% of our economy is manufacturing and only 9% of UK companies export at all, that famous "common rule book" will only apply to a fraction of our economy and I know of nothing in it that inhibits anyone's ability to export elsewhere.

The 80% of the economy that is services will not be under that book which must be because the City is not unhappy with "passporting" (as it said it was last year) and reconciled to opening offices in the EU just as it would elsewhere. Either that or it anticipates challenging new EU legislation and wishes to avoid it. This tantalisingly leaves open the prospect of a joint US-UK financial services accord which would set the global standard for 20 years since London and NYC are the world's No 1 and 2 financial centres. Paris and Frankfurt are Nos.27 and 25, respectively.

However, the issue of trade that has dominated the talks to date may now have been superseded by two more important matters: within the nation, in regard to the intolerable response of Tusk and Macron, and without, in regard to security.

The PM Statement in full:

While both sides want a deal, we have to face up to the fact that - despite the progress we have made - there are two big issues where we remain a long way apart. The first is our economic relationship after we have left. Here, the EU is still only offering us two options. The first option would involve the UK staying in the European Economic Area and a customs union with the EU. In plain English, this would mean we'd still have to abide by all the EU rules, uncontrolled immigration from the EU would continue and we couldn't do the trade deals we want with other countries. That would make a mockery of the referendum we had two years ago.

The second option would be a basic free trade agreement for Great Britain that would introduce checks at the Great Britain/EU border. But even worse, Northern Ireland would effectively remain in the Customs Union and parts of the Single Market, permanently separated economically from the rest of the UK by a border down the Irish Sea. Parliament has already - unanimously - rejected this idea. Creating any form of customs border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK would not respect that Northern Ireland is an integral part of the United Kingdom, in line with the principle of consent, as set out clearly in the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement.

It is something I will never agree to - indeed, in my judgement it is something no British Prime Minister would ever agree to. If the EU believe I will, they are making a fundamental mistake. Anything which fails to respect the referendum or which effectively divides our country in two would be a bad deal and I have always said no deal is better than a bad deal. But I have also been clear that the best outcome is for the UK to leave with a deal. That is why, following months of intensive work and detailed discussions, we proposed a third option for our future economic relationship, based on the frictionless trade in goods. That is the best way to protect jobs here and in the EU and to avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, while respecting the referendum result and the integrity of the United Kingdom. Yesterday Donald Tusk said our proposals would undermine the single market. He didn't explain how in any detail or make any counter-proposal. So we are at an impasse.

The second issue is connected to the first. We both agree that the Withdrawal Agreement needs to include a backstop to ensure that if there's a delay in implementing our new relationship, there still won't be a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. But the EU is proposing to achieve this by effectively keeping Northern Ireland in the Customs Union. As I have already said, that is unacceptable. We will never agree to it. It would mean breaking up our country. We will set out our alternative that preserves the integrity of the UK. And it will be in line with the commitments we made back in December - including the commitment that no new regulatory barriers should be created between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK unless the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly agree.

As I told EU leaders, neither side should demand the unacceptable of the other. We cannot accept anything that threatens the integrity of our union, just as they cannot accept anything that threatens the integrity of theirs. We cannot accept anything that does not respect the result of the referendum, just as they cannot accept anything that is not in the interest of their citizens.

Throughout this process, I have treated the EU with nothing but respect. The UK expects the same. A good relationship at the end of this process depends on it. At this late stage in the negotiations, it is not acceptable to simply reject the other side's proposals without a detailed explanation and counter proposals. So we now need to hear from the EU what the real issues are and what their alternative is so that we can discuss them. Until we do, we cannot make progress. In the meantime, we must and will continue the work of preparing ourselves for no deal.

In particular, I want to clarify our approach to two issues. First, there are over 3 million EU citizens living in the UK who will be understandably worried about what the outcome of yesterday's summit means for their future. I want to be clear with you that even in the event of no deal your rights will be protected. You are our friends, our neighbours, our colleagues. We want you to stay. Second, I want to reassure the people of Northern Ireland that in the event of no deal we will do everything in our power to prevent a return to a hard border.

Let me also say this. The referendum was the largest democratic exercise this country has ever undergone. To deny its legitimacy or frustrate its result threatens public trust in our democracy. That is why for over two years I have worked day and night to deliver a deal that sees the UK leave the EU. I have worked to bring people with me even when that has not always seemed possible. No one wants a good deal more than me. But the EU should be clear: I will not overturn the result of the referendum. Nor will I break up my country.

We need serious engagement on resolving the two big problems in the negotiations. We stand ready.

Do you expect us to negotiate?
Celebrating Margaret Thatcher's Bruges Speech
 

Comments 1

Stephen elphick on Monday, 24 September 2018 19:01

I am troubled by the constant insistence that we subscribe to the ongoing notion that we need a security relationship with Europe, no matter what damage, financial and institutional, that is done to the UK. I am afraid I subscribe to Trump's idea that the European nations have been freeloading on American and UK commitments to democracy. One of the responsibilities of a true democracy is its willingness to protect itself and its ideals, but it has been obvious, through the Nordstream 2 pipeline to the muted response at the Salisbury attack that many nations in Europe place their economic interest foremost. The result has been that we have had our egos stroked by demonstrating our post-Colonial macho spirit in defending Europe. It is time to wake to the reality, which is that the nations of Europe, hiding behind the EU Commission skirt, are our competitors in a world of overpopulation and declining resource, that, in fact, we are being taken for fools. This is why we could put, in current values, something like £400 billion into the European project, and emerge with no goodwill at all. In strategic terms, we are a nuclear armed state and could reasonably regard Europe as a buffer zone between ourselves and our nearest hostile neighbour. Instead of us fighting Europe's enemies for it, they could fight ours for us. What is beyond reasonable doubt is that if, at the beginning of the Brexit negotiations, we had brought every UK military asset home for a holiday, and had a network upgrade cutting communication with NATO, the tone of debate would now be dramatically different, with newly-energised friends in Eastern Europe being far more assertive on our behalf. It is perhaps time that we ditched our illusions and engaged in some brutal real-politik

I am troubled by the constant insistence that we subscribe to the ongoing notion that we need a security relationship with Europe, no matter what damage, financial and institutional, that is done to the UK. I am afraid I subscribe to Trump's idea that the European nations have been freeloading on American and UK commitments to democracy. One of the responsibilities of a true democracy is its willingness to protect itself and its ideals, but it has been obvious, through the Nordstream 2 pipeline to the muted response at the Salisbury attack that many nations in Europe place their economic interest foremost. The result has been that we have had our egos stroked by demonstrating our post-Colonial macho spirit in defending Europe. It is time to wake to the reality, which is that the nations of Europe, hiding behind the EU Commission skirt, are our competitors in a world of overpopulation and declining resource, that, in fact, we are being taken for fools. This is why we could put, in current values, something like £400 billion into the European project, and emerge with no goodwill at all. In strategic terms, we are a nuclear armed state and could reasonably regard Europe as a buffer zone between ourselves and our nearest hostile neighbour. Instead of us fighting Europe's enemies for it, they could fight ours for us. What is beyond reasonable doubt is that if, at the beginning of the Brexit negotiations, we had brought every UK military asset home for a holiday, and had a network upgrade cutting communication with NATO, the tone of debate would now be dramatically different, with newly-energised friends in Eastern Europe being far more assertive on our behalf. It is perhaps time that we ditched our illusions and engaged in some brutal real-politik
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Saturday, 20 October 2018