Brexit negotiations pessimistic forecast

Anna van Densky, OPINION

The repeated requests for ‘clarifications’ from behalf of the EU27 articulated by the chief negotiator Michel Barnier reflect the state of the disbelief of the block vis-à-vis Britons who voted for abandoning of Europe’s project. In a long list of issues to be settled to the UK membership expiration date, the rights of the EU citizens, and the payments of fees beyond departure date are among the most controversial.

The demands of Barnier to create a three million strong growing expat community in UK, subdued to the EU law under umbrella of the European court of Justice, attributing it supremacy in jurisdiction over these citizens, and offering the European Commission right to monitor the situation, is de facto a claim of creating a EU27 enclave in the UK.

Nowadays the two groups of expats are different not only in numbers, as the Europeans are roughly three times more numerous in the UK, but also have different demographic potential. If the UK group has a large segment of senior citizens, which will be reduced with time for natural reasons, the Europeans represent the young generation with growing families, eager to pass their status to children. The demographic potential of 3,3 million of Europeans including more than a half a million of children in need of schooling  is in stark  contrast with the decreasing group of British wealthy senior citizens purchasing properties, and healthcare on continent.  As the recent study shows the biggest UK citizens community resides in Spain – more than 300 thousand people, and one-third of them are over 65, presumably retired.

However it is not economic, but political potential of EU growing group that should be of concern for Britons, risking to face a sizable problem in hosting a young and fast growing community, which can be a subject to a different kind of manipulations in the hands of the Brussels bureaucracy. In reality Barnier promotes the European community in the UK as a Trojan horse, serving the EU interests in the UK, and not the interests of the community itself, which naturally should be aiming at integration, and not prioritising the ties with the continent they have abandoned.

The other contradictory claim derives from the EU27 ‘divorce’ concept of Brexit, which is also at odds with the enshrined in Lisbon Treaty right of a state to cancel its membership. With the  ‘divorce’ concept Brussels is attempting to plant in public conscience the idea of ‘allowance’,  ethically framing the move of taking Prime minister Theresa May to cleaners.

If brushing away the profane description of the process, imposed by the European Commission, the membership cancellation does not include any membership fee beyond the actual legal period of being in the ranks of the European Union project. However the EU27 with a remarkable tenacity attempts to force the UK to pay the fees until the end of the financial term to ensure the stability for the European programmes until the finale of the current institutional mandate for the EU top executives, prioritising their personal political ambitions over long standing strategic interests of the continental Europeans, and Britons.

The exaggerated claims of the EU27 are rooted in the denial  of the reality of Brexit, namely the rejection of the UK citizens to continue their engagement with the European project, shifting from Single Market to European superstate. The obsessive pursuit of Brussels financial interests, and claims of an exclusive status to EU expats, will force the UK to leave without a deal, and this episode will leave a profound scar in relations between former partners for generations to come.

Brexit talks in Brussels

Britain’s Brexit minister David Davis vowed to “get down to work” ahead of a first full round of negotiations, however the gap between the EU27 financial claims, and the UK readiness to contribute to Europe’s purse after departure remains huge, so is the order of talks, imposed by the bloc, insisting on settling the ‘divorce’ bill first, and arranging a new framework of relations after.

The EU27 financial claims widely considered as an Apple of Discord between Brussels and the UK government, accepting to contribute beyond Brexit in some programmes, but not in a lavish ways the EU apparatchiks desire. The departure of the second net contributor leaves a huge hole in the EU27 budget, without an immediate solution how to mend it, putting many EU projects at risk.

The incumbent EU executives are also looking for the ways to conclude their mandate without having egg on their faces for shrinking activities in European project. Many experts consider that the Enlargement to the East without respect of Copenhagen criteria, and open door migration policy undermined the EU, forcing Britons to leave. There are many forecasts the UK will not be the only country eager to end its membership in the advanced democracies club, increasingly shifting away from its original concept of stability and prosperity in Europe.

Mogherini ignores Sophia mission failure

The EU top diplomat Federica Mogherini ignores the obvious Sophia operation failure in Mediterranean, in spite of the clear will of Belgium to cancel the participation of their vessel in sea rescue mission. Mogherini also pretends to be unaware of the assessment of the House of Lords, openly stating the EU mission has failed to prevent massive migrant smuggling to Europe.

Ahead of the Council meeting the Foreign minister of Belgium Theo Francken clearly stated during a national TV programme that his country has the intention to end Louise-Marie frigate participation in the Mediterranean operation, because of the double message it sends inspiring more migrants to undertake the risky journey in a hope to be saved and transported to European coasts, thus not only saving lives but also  increasing flows of the ‘illegal migrants” eager to gamble.

The UK House of Lords report on Sophia mission is even more eloquent in its assessment, entitled: “Failed Mission”. The major recommendation is to disrupt the business model of smuggling networks through required ‘concerted action’ at Libya’s southern land border.

The Council agenda foresees discussion on migration, focusing on the situation on the Central Mediterranean route. Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and William Lacy Swing, Director-General of the International Organisation Migration will both take part in the discussion.
Grandi is also known for his criticism of the ‘xenophobic climate’ in Europe vis-à-vis mass migration from Africa and Middle East.

EU-Russia talk – falling on deaf ears

The consultations between Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov and EU top diplomat Federica Mogherini were very brief, and hardly resembled the ostentatious format of the strategic partnership, practiced between the EU and Russian in the recent past, before the Maidan revolution in Ukraine. Lavrov did not make a secret of the EU meeting taking place as an addition to his visit to Belgium, however he agreed to accept the invitation, and thanked for it, considering exchange as useful.

However even at a glance at two gloomy and tense officials one could assess the talks as a formal exercise, where none of the parties expected a rapprochement. The long list of issues from the international agenda, cited by Mogherini, just made one think how little left in common between two neighbours, sharing the responsibility for the security and stability of the European continent.

Although Lavrov expressed confidence in returning of the EU-Russia relations to  its ‘normal course’, it is difficult to imagine how this normalisation is possible with the incumbent EU leadership’ hostility towards Kremlin. The comparison of Russian press to Islamic state propaganda in a resolution of the European Parliament marks the lowest of the relations since collapse of the USSR. But high tight is possible: fragile after the departure of the second net contributor in two years time, the EU after Brexit will have no reserves to continue its ‘crusade’ against Kremlin. “Money is a nerve of war’.

Cornered by the US request to contribute to NATO according to the engagement, and cut off the UK fee to the European purse, the EU27 will be pushed to reconsider its strategy towards Moscow unable to maintain the current level of hostility for purely economic reasons. Moreover in the end of the day the heavily  indebted Ukraine does not have the required features to remain an Appel of Discord for long – political instability and endemic corruption make it an unsuitable  partner for the EU, and unreliable client of Siberian gas for Russians. But coming on terms with realities of life is not an easy exercise for the ambitious Brussels bureaucrats, subsequently at the moment Lavrov’s reasoning falls on deaf ears.