British negotiators believe Downing Street’s plan to break international law may have helped revive trade talks by offering Brussels a reality check on the looming danger of a no-deal scenario. The release of the Internal Market Bill last week, under which key parts of the Withdrawal Agreement agreed to last year would be rewritten, angered the EU and sparked a new rebellion within of the Conservative Party. Brussels has set Prime Minister Boris Johnson a three-week deadline to abandon plans or face financial and trade sanctions, with the clear suggestion that negotiations over a future relationship will fail unless the more contentious parts of the legislation proposed be deleted.
However, Downing Street believes the feud with the EU may ultimately turn out to be a welcome disruption of talks, which stalled throughout the summer on the thorniest issues of the country’s future national subsidies regime. government and access to UK waters for EU fishing. fleets.
In a return report for the London School of Economics (LSE) blog, international history professor Piers Ludlow suggested Mr Johnson was making the same mistake about the EU as former Prime Minister Harold Macmillan had done it in the 1960s.
In 2017, Mr Ludlow argued that the EU27 was inflexible – not because it had bad will towards the British for voting to leave, but because the nature of the EU required the internal unit.
On the other hand, he suggested that progress could only be made if the UK makes major concessions.
At the time, former Prime Minister Theresa May was trying to negotiate the withdrawal agreement – but, just like today, the talks have been characterized by a perpetual deadlock.
Mr Ludlow wrote: ‘Watching the stammering progress of the Brexit negotiations as a historian of Britain and the process of European integration, I cannot help but be struck by a depressing feeling of familiarity.
“In too many ways, we’ve been here before. And without a period, the dark parallels are more striking than with the UK’s very first attempt to join the then European Economic Community (EEC) in the early 1960s.
“In 1961, Britain approached the young EEC with the confident hope that the six member states would be so happy for the UK to join them that the negotiation would involve broad give-and-take on both sides.
“A degree of French intransigence was expected, it is true, but Macmillan and his chief negotiator Edward Heath were convinced that the“ five friends ”- the other member states – would influence community discussions on behalf of Great Britain. Instead, British negotiators watched in dismay as the Six embarked on a negotiation process aimed at maximizing their internal unity and minimizing the extent to which the petitioner could play on the differences of views within the EEC.
“It involved much more in-depth discussions between them – negotiations over Britain, rather than with Great Britain – than two-way discussions with the country seeking membership.
“And despite repeated attempts by British diplomats and negotiators to play on the very sincere Anglophilia (and the desire for British membership) felt in most European capitals other than Paris, this unity practically held out until the intervention decisive – and unilateral – de Gaulle. “
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This unity between the negotiators of the EEC, noted the professor, was built around a determined defense of the Community system as it was created and as it could evolve.
Britain, as a potential member state, he added, would be allowed some special adaptations to facilitate its entry into the Community, but such arrangements would only be temporary, intended to ease the shock of the entry, but not intended to permanently exempt the new member from any EWC rule.
Mr Ludlow continued: “The EU27’s insistence that a departing UK not be allowed to pick and choose which parts of the EU system it likes and withdraw from those it doesn’t. ‘dislike, is therefore entirely consistent with the position that the foundation members adopted.
“But this rigidity and reluctance to cede ground did not reflect ill will or animosity towards Britain or the United States, nor does the current rigidity of the EU reflect a willingness to punish the Kingdom. “United for voting to leave. This is an inevitable result of how a complex multilateral entity must prioritize the needs and wants of initiates over those of outsiders, however valued they may be.”
The current situation, however, is much more uncomfortable and potentially painful than that of 1963, explained Ludlow.
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He concluded: “The implications of failure are much greater. Britain’s inability to join the EEC in 1963 was a hammer blow to Macmillan’s government and a disappointment to many on both sides of the Channel.
“But in the end, it meant nothing more than a temporary extension of the status quo, and the postponement rather than the end of the UK’s European ambitions.
“Failure now would be much more serious, confronting the country with all the economic, legal and political consequences of a state-of-the-art Brexit.
“The UK government urgently needs to stop repeating the mistakes of its predecessor over half a century ago.
“A breakthrough in Brussels is a national necessity – even if achieving it requires awkward and painful descents.”
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