Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
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.
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.

Bruges Group Blog

Spearheading the intellectual battle against the EU. And for new thinking in international affairs.

An Open Letter to Steven Barclay


We are scheduled to begin what will hopefully be our last trade talks with the EU; I suspect we can be sure of a bumpy ride featuring the same of old EU tricks of deceit, mendacity, obfuscation, procrastination, threats and attempts to undermine our position through appeals to the Brussels 'Fifth Column' that is apparently still alive and well, and doing its best to generate negative anti-democratic sentiments amongst the public at large. It is to be hope that, as I recently suggested, these people stop their activities, and if they are true patriots, then they use any influence they retain, to support (rather than undermine) the UK negotiators.

There is, however, some good news as we head into this new year, and that is that Boris has said that he wants to make it law that any negotiations will not go on past 31st December, 2020. In other words, if a trade deal (and associated considerations) are not agreed by this date, we will revert to dealing with the EU under WTO auspices. Great! However, there is something that does worry me slightly, and that is in the detail and wording – having put up with three years' of EU-speak, may I respectfully suggest, Mr Barclay, that you outline EXACTLY what we want, so there can be no doubt; this will avoid a repetition of the EU tactic of complaining that the UK has never said exactly what it wants, so the delay is down to our indecision, rather than their deliberate procrastination, as a reason for prolonging talks. We must make it crystal clear and leave no room for any misinterpretation to be deliberately exploited. In this respect, there are a number of specific issues to note:

1) Piecemeal or as a whole?

To begin with, the original document regarding the withdrawal agreement stated that under the caveat "… nothing is agreed until everything is agreed…" (TF50, 2017) all talks were to be concluded before negotiations could be regarded as being agreed. This was nothing more than an EU ploy designed to ensure that negotiations were as drawn-out as possible, in the hope that we would change our minds and stay. The report presented to the EU Commission (and accepted by same), also stated: "This report is put forward with a view to the meeting of the European Council (Article 50) of 14-15 December 2017. Under the caveat that nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, the joint commitments set out in this joint report shall be reflected in the Withdrawal Agreement in full detail." Whilst it might have worked to Brussel's advantage previously, if we are to operate now on the basis of these conditions, it suits us admirably. This means that despite predictable EU attempts to break down (and agree) on separate parts of trade links, we should hold our ground, and quoting from this original document point out that we will not agree to measures in isolation, and that there is less than one year to agree.

2) Current UK and EU Liabilities

To date, I am uncertain of whether we are we still obliged to pay 'reparations' to the EU? I have heard various figures quoted, but £63 billion seems to stick in my head. Is this still accurate? If so, how was it calculated, and over what time period is it to be paid? What about our share of EU comestibles to which we have contributed £billions over the years? The EU has always insisting on the charade that we were undergoing a divorce, and not simply leaving a 'club'. Needless to say, my view (and that of probably that of millions of others) is that we have simply left a club as we are no longer happy with the terms of membership, and that we expect to pay our 'subscription' dues up to date – no more, no less. Based on the EU's 'divorce' perspective, however, they insist that we owe them far more, as we have joint responsibilities and spending commitments into the future. I would dispute this, but even were it to be accepted by our negotiators, then it should be pointed out to Brussels that marital assets are generally shared out on an equal basis: this means that we are waiting for our share of the 'joint assets' – buildings, ambassadorial real estate abroad, ministerial cars, stationery, wine cellar, dinner services, computers, printers, paintings (and other wall decorations) mobile (and land line) 'phones, office furniture etc. etc etc. – all of which have been purchased out of the public purse. Whilst the physical distribution of such goods may not be realistic, there is nothing to stop the UK receiving its share of the value of all these assets. I have heard nothing about this for over a year now. Please, Mr Barclay, insist that we receive our share of all these – preferably in the form of a monetary rebate, which could then be deducted from the amount they claim that we owe in reparations.

4) Fishing Rights

This should form a key area of the forthcoming negotiations and is of vital importance to the UK economy in general, and the fishing communities in particular. The PM knows that the vast majority of fishing communities voted 'leave' as they were being decimated by the Common Fisheries Policy, and wished to escape from the ridiculous quotas and other fisheries measures that Brussels imposed. It is, therefore, essential (on both an economic and political level), that we take back control of our territorial waters as soon as possible, and that if foreign-registered boats wish to fish in our waters, they have to complete the appropriate paperwork first, and pay for the right to fish in our waters. On a practical level, we must also ensure that we have sufficient fisheries protection vessels to enforce our jurisdiction should this be necessary. Politically, the government must take back control of these fishing grounds, as they will be regarded as an indicator of future trade outcomes.

5) What do we Want?

In summary, the only relationship we require with Brussels is that which we had when we first joined in 1973: a Free Trade Area, unencumbered by the socio-political objectives of the Socialists and unelected Civil Servants who now run the 'bastard child' of the EEC – the EU. Free Trade ….and nothing else. Even this, if expressed succinctly, should be easy for Brussels to understand. If they have any difficulty with this, then they should contact industry leaders in their respective countries, especially in Germany, France, Spain, and Italy: they will explain, and I don't doubt that they will also impress on the likes of Michel Barnier (remember him?), that free trade with the UK is essential for exports. Please point out to Barnier et. al. that the clock is running, and that they now have less than one year to come to an agreement, or we will simply leave and all trade will be conducted on WTO terms. This would be highly disadvantageous for the EU, as they export to us far more than we do to them. Oh, and one other thing …. If we do leave without a deal, as nothing will have been agreed, then we will be under no obligation to pay the EU any reparations. After all, they cannot have their gateau and eat it, despite what they may think!


TF50 (2017) 19 – Commission to EU 278 December 2017; 

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