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European Leaders May Overrule EU to Open Trade Talks with Britain

AP Photo
The Associated Press

Rumours are swirling that EU leaders may overrule the obstructionist stance of the European Commission and European Parliament on opening trade talks with the United Kingdom at their next Council meeting.

According to the Daily Express, a “top official” has told the AFP that there is an “outside chance” member-state leaders may choose to disagree with Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker, chief negotiator Michel Barnier, and parliamentary Brexit representative Guy Verhofstadt that Britain has yet to make “sufficient progress” on various demands — fearful that waiting too long to begin trade talks could mean no agreement is in place in time for Brexit.

Concerns are particularly acute in Germany, which runs a huge trade surplus with the United Kingdom. The Federation of German Industries already warning members to prepare for a “very hard Brexit” given the lack of progress.

Senior German MEP Hans-Olaf Henkel, whose Free Democratic Party will likely enter into a coalition to support Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union shortly, has also been vociferous in urging eurocrats to “stop [their] arrogance vis a vis the British voters [and] stop giving the impression that [they] want to punish the British for their decision”.

Henkel said eurocrats were to blame for the Brexit vote being cast in the first place, and had previously advised his countrymen that “Germany should be the country saying: “For Christ’s sake, give them the best trade deal possible.”

The news follows Brexit campaign leader Nigel Farage advising British negotiators to go directly to heads of government around Europe, in light of the Commission team’s evident unwillingness to expand the scope of talks beyond Britain’s supposed obligations, financial and otherwise.

“The only hope, I think, that the Brits have got, is to go above the people living and working in Brussels, to go straight to the member-state governments,” he told Sky News, after Juncker had said it would take “miracles” for the EU to decide “sufficient progress” had been made.

“And if that route doesn’t work, then rather than waste years of our lives, rather than sending out a signal to the rest of the world that we won’t be open for business until at least 2022, it would be better, if we’re not going to get a decent deal, to walk away from it,” he added.

The most recent evidence suggests a ‘No Deal’ scenario would hit the EU harder than Britain, with trade under World Trade Organization (WTO) terms resulting in tariffs of around £12.9 billion for their exporters, compared with tariffs of £5.2 billion for British exporters.

Those exporters most impacted by tariffs in the UK could be compensated using the country’s own tariff revenues through research and development grants, general tax cuts, and so on, without breaking international state aid rules, according to the research.

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