BREXIT – Diplomacy will be replaced by gunships if EU doesn’t back down says PAUL BALDWIN
“SO long and thanks for all the fish” wrote Douglas Adams, he of Hitch Hikers’ Guide to the Galaxy fame. It’s a bon mot which would serve a more dignified Michel Barnier well as he enters six hours of protracted negotiations over EU access to British fishing grounds today.
So long and thanks for all the fish: If only Mr Barnier would act with fairness and dignity
Adams used it as a comedic warm and grateful farewell from the planet’s dolphins as they split from Earth. It would be truly heart-warming to see the same generosity of spirit from the Brussels’ henchman entering into today’s almost certainly pointless rancourings as the EU splits from Britain. In the end it really is going to come down to fish. We all thought it would be the Northern Irish border question, but that apparently was a red-herring, solved apparently by simply breaking the law.
No, the real sticking point is haddock, cod and mackerel.
On the one side Boris and David Frost really cannot blink on this the most totemic issue to our nation. In the eyes of the public if they crumble on sovereignty of British waters then Brexit has been for nought.
Yet on the other side, as pointed out by David Hearne in a column for Express.co.uk yesterday, Michel Barnier is hell bent on marching back to Brussels announcing “I have in my hand a piece of paper, it guarantees plaice in our time.”
He really wants to be seen as the man who stuffed it to Britain, as a warning to other nations which might have the temerity to question majesty and righteousness of the all-powerful EU.
So we’re going nowhere.
I’ve said many times before in this column EU fishermen simply cannot have unfettered access to British seas (and British fish stocks) in precisely the same way EU farmers cannot have unfettered access to the fields of Lincolnshire. The fact that sovereign territory is wet doesn’t make the rules different.
It is morally and legally untenable, and it’s bullying and theft dressed up as statesmanship and negotiation.
As you read this, by the way, a hideous Dutch supertrawler is vacuuming up UK fish stocks and endangering so-called protected marine environments on an industrial scale.
No sane person would want this to continue. Mr Barnier does though.
Some commentators think both sides are still being purposefully over-bullish – the negotiating tactics handbook chapter one, page one – and that one or other will back down, or at least bend a little, as the real deadline of October 15 approaches.
(This is clearly the thinking behind the nutso suggestion that Boris is about to break international law on Northern Ireland).
But don’t you believe it.
It’s not just rhetoric. When slippery President of the European Parliament David Sassoli warned last night any attempt to change the withdrawal agreement would result in “serious consequences” he means it and he means no deal.
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In a post on Facebook, he said: “I am deeply concerned about the lack of progress in the withdrawal negotiation with the United Kingdom, whose sovereignty the European Union respects.”
No, they absolutely don’t. We wouldn’t be having yet another negotiation today if they did.
But more telling is this: “At the same time, we expect the UK to abide by our core principles which we have been clear and transparent from the start.”
They are not budging, not an inch (or indeed 25.4 millimetres) and nor are we – so no deal it is.
So we will end up in the absurd situation where countries like Canada and Australia have working Free Trade Agreements with the EU but Britain, 21 miles away across the Channel and physically linked via the Channel Tunnel, doesn’t.
And it will be down to fish. The EU doesn’t have fish envy with the Aussies or Canadians so there’s no problem.
The EU doesn’t fish Australian waters and stopped fishing Newfoundland waters when a Canadian gunboat loosed a pair of 50mm machine guns on a Spanish trawler.
Sound over dramatic?
Get used to it. With no deal Britain will have no option but to patrol our waters with armed craft.
Trust me Mr Barnier a dignified farewell would be so much simpler – just give as a “so long and thanks for all the fish”.
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