British MEPs urge EU to 'get tough' with UK in upcoming trade talks
Outgoing British MEPs have urged the EU to adopt a “get tough” approach with the UK in the upcoming trade talks, which will decide whether or not Britain leaves the EU with or without an agreement.
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The demand comes with the UK set to leave the EU on 31 January and also in the wake of comments by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who said that it is in the UK and EU’s “mutual interest” to build a new partnership.
Speaking at the LSE in London on Wednesday, the new Commission chief said she hopes this is “one that will be enabling us to defend and strengthen our interests, both from an economic and a security point of view.”
Von der Leyen later met UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in London for talks on Brexit.
Greens MEP Molly Scott Cato, who was among several UK MEPs to give their reactions to von der Leyen’s keynote speech to The Parliament Magazine, said, “It was disappointing that Barnier allowed the level playing field to be relegated to the political declaration in his agreement with Johnson.”
She added, “It is now vital that he defends the highest European standards on environmental protection, employment rights, and food standards and doesn’t allow the UK to start the firing gun on a race to the bottom.”
Senior Liberal MEP Chris Davies also told this website, “If the Johnson government refuses to align with EU rules then trade negotiations will not make much progress. For example, how could the UK sell chemicals in the EU market unless it complies in full with the REACH legislation?”
“But maybe this could be achieved on a so-called voluntary basis to provide political cover for the supporters of Brexit.”
“It is now vital that he [Michel Barnier] defends the highest European standards on environmental protection, employment rights, and food standards and doesn’t allow the UK to start the firing-gun on a race to the bottom” Molly Scott Cato MEP
Davies, who, like other UK MEPs will bid farewell to Parliament for the last time at the end of this month, added, “Britain played a leading role in the creation of the single market, and has benefited from it greatly. Now the EU27 must defend and strengthen the single market and stand firm in the face of threats from the UK to end the transition period with No Deal.”
Davies added, “The Johnson government claims that it wants a close relationship with the EU but not much credence should be attached to this. The political game that Johnson is playing requires him to portray the EU as hostile to Britain.”
“Negotiators in Brussels should recognise that the British Prime Minister is a bully, and unless the EU stands up to him he will take and take.”
Further reaction came from outgoing Labour MEP Julie Ward who told this site, “The EU have already stated that, at best, only a bare-bones FTA will be achievable by the end of this year. It is almost certain that there would need to be an extension to the transition period for there to be enough time for both sides to agree a comprehensive trade agreement.”
“Brexit has already damaged our economy at a cost of £600m per week and it has diminished our global standing, but a No Deal Brexit would be even more serious.”
“Negotiators in Brussels should recognise that the British Prime Minister is a bully, and unless the EU stands up to him he will take and take” Chris Davies MEP
Ward said, “It would almost certainly cost thousands of jobs, and destroy businesses and industries, with billions being lost to the exchequer. Boris Johnson is most certainly not to be trusted. We must ensure that the government is held to account and that the UK is not forced over a cliff-edge through the recklessness of Tory Brexiteers, who are now at the very heart of the Johnson premiership.”
Liberal Bill Newton Dunn, who was first elected an MEP in 1979, warned that he fears the UK will not negotiate in “good faith.”
Asked if he thinks there will be a deal or a crash out in December, when the transition period ends, he said, “Nobody can know. Boris doesn’t want a No Deal ending and is totally capable of changing his position on everything.”
He said he does not trust the British to negotiate in good faith and that the EU should adopt a “get tough” approach with the UK over the next stage of the negotiations.
Newton Dunn added, “This next stage will be even harder and more complex than the last one, undoubtedly - and the EU holds most of the good cards.”
“Boris Johnson is most certainly not to be trusted. We must ensure that the government is held to account and that the UK is not forced over a cliff-edge through the recklessness of Tory Brexiteers” Julie Ward MEP
“A German friend in the Parliament this week described to me the Johnson Deal (which threatens to weaken the links of Scotland and of Northern Ireland to the rest of the UK, ie to Wales and England) as “the last explosion of the British Empire when the British blow up themselves.”
Northern Irish MEP Martina Anderson also told this website, “I think we need a strong dose of reality looking forward to the next stages of the negotiations. The British Government have stated that they intend to negotiate a deep and meaningful partnership in only eleven months with the EU. This is a ludicrous objective set by a deluded Tory Establishment who believe that the EU will let them have their cake and eat it.”
“The EU are dealing with a right-wing Tory Government which has already proved that it is happy to abandon level playing field conditions and the spirit of mutual co-operation in exchange for an detestable race to the bottom on human rights, consumer protection and environmental regulations.”
She added, “A trade deal cannot be fudged. The EU needs to hold firm on its own principles and ensure it continues to protect the Good Friday Agreement and the all-island economy.”
Elsewhere, former Liberal MEP Andrew Duff said, “Both von der Leyen and Boris Johnson have been known to talk banalities. It would be good if they could make more forceful and substantive points about their private discussions this week.”
“This next stage will be even harder and more complex than the last one, undoubtedly - and the EU holds most of the good cards” Bill Newton Dunn MEP
Former UK Europe Minister Denis MacShane said, “Boris Johnson has told his ministers that the word ‘Brexit’ is now verboten in the British government’s vocabulary. They must talk about all the things that have not been done in Britain since the Brexit plebiscite of June 2016 and which need urgent attention.”
“He is trying to reduce the profile of Brexit by saying the negotiations will be handled by officials in his office, not by a separate ministry.”
“The best way to take Brexit off the political and global economic agenda is for Johnson to persuade himself, his party and then the country that leaving the EU Treaty is Brexit. His task will be to lower the temperature and allow the next stage of negotiations to be technical, detailed, long-lasting and aimed at avoiding any disruption to inward investment and Britain’s trade.”
Meanwhile, four former Brexit Party MEPs are switching political groups to join the Conservatives.
Lance Forman (London), Lucy Harris (Yorkshire and The Humber), John Longworth (also Yorkshire) and Annunziata Rees-Mogg (East Midlands) have joined the UK Conservative Party and are in the process of being admitted to the European Conservatives and Reformists Group in the European Parliament.
“The British Government have stated that they intend to negotiate a deep and meaningful partnership in only eleven months with the EU. This is a ludicrous objective set by a deluded Tory Establishment who believe that the EU will let them have their cake and eat it” Martina Anderson MEP
Geoffrey Van Orden, leader of the UK's Conservative MEPs, welcomed the four, who currently sit as independent MEPs, saying, "We welcome the reinforcement or our Conservative delegation in the final weeks of membership of the EU.”
“Additional MEPs coming across to us is evidence that the Prime Minister is delivering on his promise to get Brexit done and to overcome division and uncertainty.”
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