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Aug 16, 2018 22 tweets 19 min read Twitter logo Read on Twitter
Why did the European Commission not publish killer assessments of May's 'single market for goods' #Brexit pitch? How did the Brits get hold of them so quickly? Some thoughts. 1/THREAD…
First the bugging part. Did the spooks at GCHQ/MI6 have a hand in procuring the slides, or contents thereof, from the July 5 Article 50 Working Group?

Frankly, who knows? It's sure not impossible - recall Obama's NSA bugged Merkel - but EU concerns speak to the lack of trust/2
Just as plausibly one of those attending briefed the Brits that the Commission was about to fire a pre-emptive strike against May's expected Brexit pitch on the day of Chequers.

If that's what happened, it raises several interesting questions. /3
Did/do some member states think there's a danger that the ultra-theological Commission/Selmayr view is in danger of shutting down space for a deal?

Did they maybe think the Commission econ assessments were unhelpful/overblown?

And.... /4
....does the fact that the Brits succeeded in intervening to stop the Commission's planned publication of the assessments mean that there is more softness among EU member states than the Commission over splitting the 'four freedoms'?

Mmmmm.... /5
That last one might be tempting conclusions for Brits to draw, but it may also be wishful thinking.

If there's a 'no deal' the EU does not want to be seen as responsible. The decision not to prevail on Barnier not to publish was likely more tactical than ideological. /6
What about the contents of the slides themselves?

We know Mr Barnier's misgivings about allowing the UK to diverge on services while align on goods.

These assessments appeared to try to quantify that risk in alarming terms. /7
The Commission can see the UK pitch: you, the EU run a £95bn surplus in goods with UK, so what's not to like? This makes sense for the both of us?

Well, says the Commission. This is what's not to like - you crack the vessel of the Single Market. /8
Even marginal advantages of 1-2 per cent add up.

Give the Brits free access for goods, and freedom to cut corners on service components of goods would be very short-sighted.

It could cost 8-9% GDP over 15 years, or 0.5% a year - the same as a 'no deal' for UK /9
The aim is to stiffen the spines of Member states who might be tempted.

To warn them not be hoodwinked by clever British negotiators into a deal which gives them '3.5' freedoms - essentially what Cameron wanted all along.

Don't do it. Don't do it. /10
So is the Commission right? Or engaged in theocratic scaremongering to the flock about the long road to perdition? The EU's own project fear.

John Springford @JohnSpringford of the @CER_EU reckons the numbers are a stretch - IF the UK agreed to keep aligned on future rules. /11
@JohnSpringford @CER_EU That would be an advance on #Chequers (which promises only not to stick to past rules) but coupled with promises on State Aid/Competition @JohnSpringford reckons could lock the Brits in satisfactorily.

Perhaps that's Barnier's game? To force the Brits to move? /12
@JohnSpringford @CER_EU Or is it something more fundamental?

Is that, even if the Brits could be chained to future rules, the EU just does not want to create a structure that could prove a template for others? Like Hungary. Or even a populist Italy, if the eurozone crunch comes? /13
@JohnSpringford @CER_EU And would such a relationship be manageable with an economy of the size and heft of the UK? Would the mechanisms to police alignment really be workable?

Viewed this way, Chequers starts to look like a reheat of the old cake and eat it. It cannot fly. /14
@JohnSpringford @CER_EU That seems to be the message from even friends of UK like @GrubeClaus the Anglophile former Danish ambassador to London and Brussels, writing here in @esharpmag /15…
@JohnSpringford @CER_EU @GrubeClaus @esharpmag There have been serious voices arguing the EU pink it's own red lines like @pisaniferry @GuntramWolff et al but it seems to me the politics of this are super-hard for the EU at 27. /16…
@JohnSpringford @CER_EU @GrubeClaus @esharpmag @pisaniferry @GuntramWolff The Commission legal service, and figures like @piris_jc argues that the four freedoms are legally indivisible - they cite ECJ 2/13 as the basis for this. I defer to lawyers like @CSBarnard24 who say the indivisibility of the freedoms is the foundation of mutual trust /17
@JohnSpringford @CER_EU @GrubeClaus @esharpmag @pisaniferry @GuntramWolff @piris_jc @CSBarnard24 Which is all a long-winded way of saying that Chequers - or the cherry-picked 'ask' at the heart of Chequers - is a tough.

Because even if some MS are flexible, whose version of flexibility wins out? In whose interests?

Politically, easier for EU to hold C'ion line. /18
@JohnSpringford @CER_EU @GrubeClaus @esharpmag @pisaniferry @GuntramWolff @piris_jc @CSBarnard24 To do otherwise would be a massive leap.

It would be to accept that flexibility is, long term, the road to salvation for the EU, not perdition.

The ancien regime will fall if it doesn’t flex; but if it flexes, it fears it will fall. /19
@JohnSpringford @CER_EU @GrubeClaus @esharpmag @pisaniferry @GuntramWolff @piris_jc @CSBarnard24 More likely EU sticks with it's current "EEA or FTA+++" offer and continues to tell the UK to sort the Irish Sea border issue - by sucking it up, or joining a customs union (Shh).

The 'flexibility' cd be in making the UK CETA much more ambitious than Canada or Japan. /20
@JohnSpringford @CER_EU @GrubeClaus @esharpmag @pisaniferry @GuntramWolff @piris_jc @CSBarnard24 Maybe that's wrong.

Maybe the crucible of a mounting crisis October-March brings a hybrid deal.

But the Commission assessments, and not just the assessments, show how hard that will be. /ENDS
@JohnSpringford @CER_EU @GrubeClaus @esharpmag @pisaniferry @GuntramWolff @piris_jc @CSBarnard24 PS - addendum/clarification/expansion of my crude shorthand on ECJ 2/13 and mutual trust issue from the brilliant @CSBarnard24

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More from @pmdfoster

Oct 4, 2018
So what did @eucopresident say to @campaignforleo at their meeting today?

Yesterday @simoncoveney was talking "flexibility". /1
@eucopresident @campaignforleo @simoncoveney Then this morning, the FT reported that Ireland was prepared to back British proposal for all-UK customs arrangement on the backstop /2
@eucopresident @campaignforleo @simoncoveney This wasn't surprising. Always been Dublin ambition, but clearly they need to balance need to preserve UK-IE trade, with being good EU27 citizens and defending integrity of single market.

The Irish FT briefing was seen as a sign of helpfulness on UK side.

Then today...

Read 7 tweets
Oct 4, 2018
Interesting case this.... Poland puts activist on SIS II watchlist that banned her from Schengen Zone.

Germany issued visa nonetheless, so she could attend conference attacking Polish government

Poland unhappy. More here 1/…
Now it seems like the British government also issued her a visa.

The fitness of the Polish judicial system is already under review relating to the European Arrest Warrant.

Now it seems like Germany and UK are not showing solidarity with Poland on Schengen Information System./2
The activist says she's in trouble because of a Facebook post her husband made calling for peaceful civil disobedience against Poland judicial reforms.

Poland justified the ban saying her NGO has "opaque" funding. /3…
Read 5 tweets
Oct 2, 2018
What's happening in #Brexit...lots of noise about on the post Salzburg plan... here's what I know, with inputs from both sides.

So let's start with the post-Salzburg plan. Multiple versions about - I've written on Chequers 2.0, as has @SamuelMarcLowe and @JohnSpringford of @CER_EU whose paper is here:… /2
@SamuelMarcLowe @JohnSpringford @CER_EU The shorter version is this:

1) All-UK for customs on NI backstop, but accept SM checks unique to NI, with some de-dramatised checks (for regs) on NI-GB border.

2) To move to park the NI customs backstop stand-off by agreeing a "Temporary Customs Arrangement" /3
Read 20 tweets
Oct 1, 2018
Very quick thread on why Hunt's frustration with EU is understandable, but ultimately counter-productive /1…
Let's be clear, there has been some silly stuff from both sides - @EmmanuelMacron should know better that talking about "liars" and @eucopresident trolling May on Instagram is also pretty daft. /2
@EmmanuelMacron @eucopresident But divorces get like this: both sides know the mud-slinging it is counter-productive, "bad for the kids" but still can't help themselves.

Jeremy Hunt's speech was pretty much student union level stuff, as has been pointed out. /3
Read 9 tweets
Sep 28, 2018
So @BorisJohnson has put out his "plan" for #Brexit.

Predictably, it has had holes picked in it - since there are indeed plenty of mighty assumptions in the 'plan'.

But I fear that misses the point. This is a political document, not a technical one. 1/…
@BorisJohnson And when you read it in that light, it becomes rather more persuasive.

Brexit is indeed a muddle and a mess. The British frog is indeed being boiled. Brexit probably always was/is more binary than both sides have properly allowed. /2
@BorisJohnson I am not at all sure Boris is right that Whitehall and the EU conspired to keep the UK in a customs union, for example, but that will be a powerful anti-narrative if that's where we end up.

FWIW my conversations in Europe suggest rather different. /3
Read 6 tweets
Sep 23, 2018
These divisions were always over-reported and over-spun by No-10. Yes, some say different but in 27 context (viz Orban last week) they don’t. And drill down with their dips on how far they really support splitting freedoms? Not so much. I’ve tried. Doesn’t stack up IMO.
Then May/No10 over reads what she gets told in bilaterals (where she is wooden and hopeless) and takes what one EU dip from big EU state said to me were “mere generalities, pleasantries” about “wanting a deal” for a willingness to cross major red lines. Salzburg says not.
May’s problem is that she’s asking for special treatment in the Trump-Orban-Salvini era and Macron’s people says he sees Brexit in that sweep. As does Commission and Berlin (though less aggressively) which makes U.K. pitch v hard.
Read 5 tweets

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