Recent events have shown that there isn’t much point in pretending that there’s going to be a win-win outcome for the on-going UK-EU negotiations. The UK Government’s perception of independence overrides all other considerations, no matter how costly this view. I believe, independence shouldn’t mean isolation. Two independent parties should be able to work together, share common goals and depend on each other. Sadly, the kind of independence the UK Prime Minister (Conservatives Party Leader) has in mind is a form of superior isolation from former allies and partners. His success last December has nailed his flag to the colours of a rump that controls his political Party.
In my experience, for something major to happen at a Governmental level there must be a political will in favour of that thing. If people try hard enough, there’s always reasons that can be found not to do something or to rubbish alternatives. Even if it means rejecting something beneficial and driving down a dead end.
In the 1990s, I saw this phenomenon in local Government. The creativity of responding, deployed when those in power fundamentally don’t want to do something, can be energetic and surprising. The effort used can exceeds the effort of going through with even a modest measure. It can be blinkered NIMBYism, it can be protecting vested interests or it can be resisting climate change action. Certainly, it’s not an objective or rational discussion that takes place in these cases.
As indicators of the current collective will of the UK Government, I cite the following:
- The European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has been setting the rules for flying during the COVID-19 pandemic. Continuing to fly in Europe will mean adherence to measures established by the EU and its Agency. Yet, there’s no UK Governmental desire to have a membership of that organisation. Thus, exerting influence will be no better than that available to any “third-country”.
- Late in the COVID-19 pandemic, introducing a 14-day quarantine for passengers arriving in the UK will significantly damage both UK aviation and UK tourism. Other options could have been deployed. Introducing a track and trace procedure for arrivals would have been more proportionate to the risks. Especially for arrivals from Countries that have an R number lower than that of the UK.
- Unmovable on one playbook, to one man and to one view of the world. There is growing national exceptionalism as the arguments of those who compare UK’s recent performance with other Countries are ignored. Informed comment and technical alternatives are sidelined as being Party poltical.
- Populists have been expressing the view that making an extension to the UK-EU talks impossible will concentrate the minds of those on mainland Europe. A conditional extension to the transition period is unlikely to be considered. It’s all or nothing. Thus, some people believe that this will focus minds for an autumn showdown. Even given that this strategy has a poor track record.
The next round of Brexit talks begins on Monday, 1 June. This is the final round of UK-EU negotiations before the Summer. From July to December 2020, Germany’s will have the presidency in the Council of the European Union (EU). It’s reported that the economic fallout of the COVID-19 crisis will be the priority of the German presidency. Recovery is the number one. Brexit is not at the top of the list.