Refusal to accept even the most minor concessions has is proven to be a distinct downfall in the plans of arrogant EU officials to avoid a no-deal
Refusal to accept even the most minor concessions has is proven to be a distinct downfall in the plans of arrogant EU officials to avoid a no-deal Brexit. Yesterday, Theresa May finally delivered a House of Commons majority for her controversial withdrawal deal, which she signed off last November at a special summit with her EU counterparts. The resounding message from Parliament is that the Prime Minister should return to Brussels and negotiate a number of changes to the Irish backstop, the Brussels demanded insurance policy to prevent a hard border in Ireland.
Mrs May won the brief respite just two weeks after the Commons inflicted its historic defeat to her Brexit deal when MPs backed an amendment put forward by Graham Brady, chairman of the 1922 Committee of Conservative backbenchers, to replace the Irish backstop with “alternative arrangements”.
Of course, Brussels was quick to pour cold water on the Prime Minister’s minor victory in Britain. Within a matter of minutes, the bloc’s most senior officials and their aides were firing out warning shots in an effort to stop Mrs May’s negotiating strategy in its tracks.
Even before voting had taken place in Westminster, it was revealed EU officials had agreed on a pre-cooked statement that would later be issued in the event of Mr Brady’s amendment succeeding.
Donald Tusk, the EU Council president, said: “The backstop is part of the withdrawal agreement and the withdrawal agreement is not open for renegotiation.”
Similar messages were sent by other key influences in the Brexit negotiations, Emmanuel Macron, president of France, Simon Coveney, Ireland’s deputy prime minister, and Guy Verhofstadt, the EU Parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator.
But entirely overlooked by the EU was the opportunity handed to them to them on a plate in 2015, by then prime minister David Cameron, to avert even most unthinkable prospect that Britain would later quit the bloc after a vote for Brexit.
As part of his successful campaign to reclaim Downing Street, Mr Cameron promised hold a refereed on Britain’s EU future unless he could revisit the country’s membership terms with Brussels.
Mr Cameron spent 24 hours with EU leaders, in talks that went through the night, into breakfast, then lunch and finally dinner, attempting to carefully craft a deal that would convince eurosceptics that membership to the Brussels project was still right for Britain.
But the former Conservative leader’s confidence was rebutted by his counterparts at the negotiating table. Driving a hard bargain, eastern European leaders, with the support of the bloc’s rich Western fringe, refused to dilute the EU’s free movement rules.
Peter Mandelson later claimed that Mr Cameron had relied far too much on Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, to deliver a better deal on limiting the free movement of people.
She stood firm against Mr Cameron’s request for a so-called “emergency brake” to suspend EU migration – a policy that became a key influence and ultimately changed the course of the referendum.
But now three years later, EU leaders, especially Mrs Merkel, whose premiership was marred by her own decisions on migration during the summer crisis of 2015, will ponder whether budging to allow Mr Cameron’s request would have averted the Brexit catastrophe now faced by Brussels.
Hans-Olaf Henkel, a leading German MEP and close observer of the Brexit process, said: “This mess could have been avoided had Juncker and Merkel shown just a little more flexibility when Cameron asked them for some more autonomy over immigration.
“What can we learn from that for now? The EU should admit first that it suffers from Brexit themselves and second that it is also responsible for it.
“So, it is now up to the EU to move and offer Britain a new deal enabling the Remainers to gain momentum in Britain and offer some of the Brexiteers an opportunity to save face.
“Leavers should be able to say: ‘Well, we got what we always wanted and even without Brexit.’”