Good afternoon. For months, we have all been repeating the same Brexit mantra: financial settlement, citizens’ rights, and the border with Northern Ireland. “Sufficient progress” has to be made in those three key areas, we are told, before EU officials wave their magic wands and turn divorce talks into trade talks.
Not so, former chancellor Alistair Darling told me earlier today. He said Theresa May could probably have gotten away with a flat-out refusal to discuss the Brexit bill in stage one of the proceedings by taking a leaf out of France and Germany’s book.
“In my view the talks are totally the wrong way around… we’ve gotten ourselves into a situation where we’re discussing the end point at the start,” Lord Darling said, as he criticised Mrs May for agreeing to the EU’s timetable of the talks all too easily. After all, the Labour peer added – drawing on his own experience of locking horns with Brussels under Gordon Brown – that’s exactly what our continental neighbours used to do when they didn’t like a certain piece of EU law.
“I’ll give you an example: the Stability and Growth Pact 15 years ago, the first two people to break that were France and Germany,” he said. “Gordon was dealing with it, they rang around and said ‘we want to break it, what do you lot want [in order] to vote for that?’ That’s how Europe works, doing deals to help each other out.”
The former chancellor’s remarks raise a series of tantalising questions that are likely to leave hardline Eurosceptics feeling vindicated. One: was the UK too soft in its approach to the Brexit process? Two: could the UK have thrown its considerable weight around more effectively? Three: could the horrible mess of the Brexit talks as they currently stand have been avoided if our Prime Minister had shown a little more chutzpah?
The answer to all three of those questions might very well be yes.
via The Telegraph