Brexit secretary David Davis has remained steadfast in the face of EU negotiator Michel Barnier’s threats to “teach the British people and others what leaving the EU means”.
The former French foreign minister claimed Brexit would be “an educational process” for Great Britain, warning: “There are extremely serious consequences of leaving the single market and it hasn’t been explained to the British people. We intend to teach people… what leaving the single market means.”
The remarks have been seized upon by EU loyalists in the media and political establishment, but Barnier’s opposite number David Davis has remained relaxed, explaining that the EU’s heated rhetoric is simply an attempt to bounce the UK into concessions on the 100 billion euro “ransom” it has been demanding as the price of an orderly Brexit.
Default position of UK Establishment:
When Brussels talks tough it's wise and formidable.
When London talks tough it's weak and pathetic. https://t.co/gajxLKf5dk
— Andrew Neil (@afneil) September 1, 2017
“What [Barnier’s] concerned about is that he’s not getting the answer [he wants] on money and they’ve set this up to try and create pressure on us,” Davis said in an interview with Andrew Marr, reported by Euractiv.
“I’m not going to allow them to use that time pressure to force us to do x, y or z.”
He explained that “the point about the Europeans [is] they won’t talk about the future, they’ll only talk about so-called divorce proceedings.
“We are saying, ‘you’ve given us this enormous bill we’ll go through line by line’; we gave them a two-and-a-half hour presentation, they even complained about that.
“We’re going through this very systematically, very British way, very pragmatic way of doing it and of course [Barnier is] finding it difficult, which is why this stance in the press conference.”
The EU are behaving like gangsters. They're treating Britain like a hostage when in fact we're now free. pic.twitter.com/K0CRjNbtqj
— Nigel Farage (@Nigel_Farage) April 5, 2017
The fact that time may be running out for a formal exit agreement is causing European businesses at least as much cause for concern as Remain supporters in Britain.
Hans-Olaf Henkel, Vice-chairman of the European Conservatives and Reformists in the European Parliament, has pleaded that “Germany should be the country saying, ‘For Christ’s sake, give them the best trade deal possible’,” mindful of the huge importance of the British market to German exporters.
Hungarian foreign minister Péter Szijjártó, too, has warned that a ‘No Deal’ outcome would be a “nightmare scenario” for European producers, who would find themselves at an increasing competitive disadvantage as the UK — free to sign its own trade agreements once again — begins making deals with countries such as Australia and the United States.