An interesting report from Bloomberg News on the more strident tone that has been adopted by the United Kingdom in its delayed Brexit negotiations with the European Union. In recent weeks Michael Gove, the senior government official leading the UK’s talks with the EU, has taken to exercising some well-publicised megaphone diplomacy with his counterparts in Brussels, undermining the image of a slightly more pragmatic Brexiteer that he and his supporters had carefully crafted over the last year or so. The Bloomberg article seems to be a typical example of Gove’s sullen rhetoric and may be indicative of the Johnson administration in London moving towards an even more obstreperous line with Europe, a convenient distraction from the Covid-19 disaster at home.
Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove complained that the European Union isn’t treating Britain like a sovereign state in talks about the two sides’ future relationship, underscoring the risk of an economic shock at the year-end if they can’t reach a trade deal.
He told a committee of lawmakers in London that in areas such as fishing and the future influence of EU institutions the bloc is asking for more of the U.K. than it does of other independent countries, something that is unacceptable to the U.K. The government has called for “political movement” from the EU if the talks are to avoid failing.
“The EU’s stance is particularly difficult and challenging,” Gove said to the House of Common’s Committee on the Future Relationship with the EU on Monday. “I’m confident the EU will want to operate in a constructive way.”
Earlier, Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman called for the EU to modify its demands in two key areas: continued access for European fishing boats and the so-called level playing field.
These British complaints are interesting when one balances them with numerous reports that Britain is continuing to demand unfettered access to some of the benefits of European Union membership.
The United Kingdom government is trying to reach a divorce deal with the European Union, through which it retains most of its access to the EU and Schengen Databases, as the Europol and the Schengen Information System.
A leaked document on the assessment of the UK’s position in the final leave agreement, written by the German government and seen by the Guardian, says that the British negotiators are making impossible demands over access to EU databases in the negotiations over the future relationship with the EU.
The German government report which comments the talks on the future relationship between the EU block and the UK resumed this week through video calls due to the situation caused by the pandemic, shows that the British negotiators were against a proposal to extend the transition period due to COVID-19.
In addition, the negotiators insisted that the UK should continue taking part in EU-wide data-sharing arrangements and even expanding their reach, despite the EU exit.
Meanwhile, from the Irish Times:
The British minister leading negotiations on the post-Brexit Northern Ireland protocol has rejected a European Union request for what he described as “a mini-embassy” in Belfast.
The EU wants to open an office in Northern Ireland to monitor checks and controls on goods crossing the Irish Sea after the end of the current transition period.
But Michael Gove told a committee of MPs that Britain saw no reason for any permanent presence for the EU apart from its delegation’s headquarters in London.
As an indicator of future relations between the UK and the EU, and Ireland in particular, none of this inspires much optimism. And with the true figure for the number of coronavirus-related deaths in Britain now running into the tens of thousands a timely bit of flag-waving might be just what the Tory doctor ordered.