Brexit Secretary scares Spain
Updated: Sep 24, 2019
Steven Barclay was in Madrid to in my opinion try and scare Spain and sell Brexit.
Let's take a look at his speech and question how much of it is actually believable.
I have offered my very own Creativity and Flexibility Alternatives in green.
The same colour as the Incredible Hulk in case the Prime Minister is interested.
The Brexit Secretary sounds good, his sales pitch sounded good and people who were at the Brexit breakfast told me that he was like a showman delivering his speech.
Secretary of State Steve Barclay's speech at a breakfast event hosted by Europa Press in Madrid.
Published: 19 September 2019
Thank you for your very kind introduction.
And it is a pleasure to be here this morning, with Europa who have built such a formidable reputation – not just here in Spain but across Europe – for facilitating constructive and engaging debate. And it’s very much in that tradition that I wish to join you this morning.
And to follow in the footsteps of Commissioner Vestager who spoke here last year, and I congratulate her on her re-appointment.
My message this morning is clear, the UK wants a deal.
We hear your words but where is the evidence that the UK is working on an actual deal?
Time is short – there are just 42 days until we leave – but it is sufficient for a deal. No, no it isn't.
And in my private conversations with European counterparts, they tell me that they want to see a deal.
But any deal must acknowledge - and reflect the political reality in the UK.
A reality where the Prime Minister thinks he is the Incredible Hulk?
Which means being something that can be accepted by my Parliamentary colleagues.
Nothing Boris Johnson has proposed has been accepted by your Parliamentary colleagues.
And simply, that means the backstop has to go.
You may ask, why?
I am guessing it has to go so England can divide Ireland from Europe, United we stand, divided we fall and all that. I'm guessing it is a strategy and an excuse but what alternative has England submitted to Europe in over 3 years?
The answer is four-fold.
A part of our country – Northern Ireland – would be governed by rules in which they have no say.
It is inconsistent with the Belfast / Good Friday Agreement – the very thing it claims to protect.
This is because the backstop has failed to achieve the consent of both communities in Northern Ireland.
Is Northern Ireland a part of England or is it a part of the United Kingdom? I know that is a small criticism but when it comes to giving people in Northern Ireland a say, we first have to remember that the majority voted against Brexit and all of them will be worried about both the border which could become necessary on November 1st if Brexit takes place on Halloween and also future conflict in Northern Ireland. As Europeans celebrate All Saints' Day and remember their dead on November 1st, people in Northern Ireland will be remembering all those who died during The Troubles.
The backstop risks being permanent – even though Article 50 legally requires it to be temporary – the UK Attorney General made this clear in his legal advice to the UK Parliament.
And finally, the EU would control whether we can leave the backstop, making it harder to leave the backstop than leaving the EU itself.
For all of these reasons the backstop will not be agreed to in the United Kingdom - it’s a politically impossible ask. Nothing has been agreed in the United Kingdom recently.
And indeed the UK Parliament has rejected it three times.
After over three years and two extensions, it remains the case that the only thing Parliament has supported is the deal minus the backstop.
Okay but will the removal of a Backstop help people in Northern Ireland?
But if those four reasons are not sufficient, then let me turn to the words just this week of one of the architects of peace in Northern Ireland, Lord Trimble who won the peace prize for the Belfast/Good Friday Agreement and he wrote this week that the backstop is “not in keeping with the spirit and letter of the (Belfast) Agreement” and that it is “riding roughshod over our agreement”.
So the question becomes – can the backstop be replaced.
We believe that it can, in ways that protect key EU interests – your interests, as well as address our concerns. I believed in Santa Claus when I was young.
So the key test in front of us is whether we can seize this opportunity – and find a landing zone – in a creative and flexible way.
Try finding a landing zone in Gibraltar. Isn't part of the runway in Spain?
If you will indulge me, You've been indulged enough for three years. I will drive into the technical substance – but only briefly! Okay, We are used to the UK's brief briefings.
As the backstop involves regulatory alignment, which means no checks are necessary, seeking a purist, identical result means alternative arrangements would require such proposals to have no impact on the island of Ireland economy or North South trade.
This could only be achieved through never leaving parts of the Single Market and Customs Union, for any checks would fall foul of an alternative that involves no checks at all.
This is a false test.
The Commission themselves agreed that the solution should involve creativity and flexibility. They have agreed that alternative arrangements should be taken forward. They’ve agreed that the backstop is temporary. Where are these alternatives?
That is inconsistent with now seeking the same result as one which relies on continued regulatory alignment.
Likewise we are told the UK must provide legally operative text by the 31st October.
That is the latest date for Brexit after missing two previous deadlines.
Yet the alternative to the backstop is not necessary until the end of the Implementation Period in December 2020. And I only need car insurance if I crash or get stopped by the police but it is always wise to have it in advance.
And this will be shaped by the future relationship – which is still to be determined.
Start as you mean to go on buddy, Start as you mean to go on.
In short why risk crystallising an undesirable result this November, when both sides can work together – until December 2020. Some people have Christmas plans in December, maybe try to get ahead of Brexit rather than waiting until the 11th hour. Again.
In summary, the EU risks continuing to insist on a test that the UK cannot meet and that the UK Parliament has rejected three times. I once had a student who failed every English test too.
We risk being trapped in a zero sum game, which will lead to zero outcomes, which I do not want.
What we need now is a genuine negotiation with creative and flexible solutions from both sides.
But the ball is in your Supreme court
European capitals — and I’ve been to many in recent weeks and will be going to more — say they’re happy to explore the details of alternative arrangements. Great, where are these alternatives?
A rigid approach now – at this point – is no way to progress a deal – the responsibility sits with both sides to find a solution. It takes two to Tango but Spaniards are better dancers, I'm afraid.
We are committed to carving out a landing zone – and we stand ready to share the relevant text.
Thomas Cook is looking for a landing zone too but Brexit uncertainty hasn't helped them.
But it must be in the spirit of negotiation – with flexibility, and with a negotiating partner that is willing to compromise. Are you willing to negotiate and compromise?
As the Prime Minister has signalled on his comments on sanitary and phytosanitary measures on the island of Ireland, that the UK is willing to be creative and flexible. But the Commission needs to do so too. Sorry are you talking about art and yoga or politics? Creative and flexible?
The Prime Minister returned from talks with President Juncker in Luxembourg on Monday with assurances that negotiations will intensify. I didn't see him in Luxembourg, did you?
I also met with Michel Barnier at the same time and I will meet him again tomorrow. I was in Cyprus yesterday, and will be travelling across Europe next week. Nobody tell Greta Thunberg, she hates politicians who offer empty words and destroy the environment using unnecessary air miles.
The Prime Minister’s Europe Advisor, David Frost, and his team have been in Brussels this week having further technical talks as part of that intensification of negotiations with their counterparts on Taskforce 50. Get the guys from Hawaii 5.0 instead or at least play the music. The work continues at pace, because we are leaving the on the 31st October. If we do not leave on this date, then it would be nothing less than ignoring the biggest electoral mandate in my nation’s history.
Biggest mandate ever created by Cambridge Analytica and a big red bus.
That is not an option for this Government.
You had three votes in Parliament, give the people another vote. Best out of three?
Now as a business audience, I am sure you recognise that in growing a business you’re required to take risk. Yes but you are in Madrid and not Las Vegas. Companies like to know the risks.
Those who refuse to take any risk with their business will not succeed. Stop playing chicken.
Great political leaders have always respected the need to take risk. Trump had a casino.
Indeed It was General De Gaulle, who said “a true statesman is one who is willing to take risks”.
No disrespect to De Gaulle but was the French general hiding in London when he said it?
Yet a refusal by the Commission to accept any risk would be a failure of statecraft.
And put at risk the future relationship of the UK and the EU because of a lack of flexibility, creativity and indeed pragmatism. Are you still taking about your creative dance classes?
Leadership requires more than remaining within a safety net. Yeah, it involves leadership which certainly wasn't on display last Monday in Luxembourg. Was it?
So whilst we seek a deal, we recognise that we may not be able to agree a deal and in that instance we will leave with No Deal. This isn't a gameshow.
In the UK, senior ministers are meeting daily to prepare. Their resignations?
But I am surprised to hear the Commission claim that the EU is fully prepared. Fully prepared for no deal is what the Commission says.
Now there’s a difference in my view between having legislation in place and operational preparedness.
A major concern is that not all small or medium sized businesses across Europe – including here in Spain – may be as fully prepared as the Commission claim. We don't know what Brexit is Brexit is.
For example, even though the UK has adopted in full the EU aquis on data, the Commission position is businesses here in Spain will be restricted in what data they can share with the UK.
That affects not just the tourism industry, not just the 45 million flights from the UK to Spain each year, Don't just book it, Thomas Cook It? that affects businesses much more widely, and I wonder within this audience how confident it is that small and medium sized businesses across Spain are fully prepared for that sort of change.
If delays occur at Calais – some in the UK media have suggested delays of up to two and a half days at Calais. That has a potential impact on lorries with lettuce, tomatoes, cucumbers and raspberries, those travelling from Spain, an industry valued at around half a billion pounds a year.
Oh no, Spain will have to sell more to Europe while England will have to eat more expensive fruit and veg that is less fresher under a No Deal and Ireland will have to invest in blimps to carry goods from Spain to Cork. Who knew blimps would be needed again in the future?
The EU has over 3,000 Geographical Indications, the UK, just 88. Spanish sherry, manchego cheese, cava, which will lose their protection in the event of no deal, and indeed face competition from any changes to UK procurement rules.
You can drink English Sherry and cava if you want but who will be celebrating in England after Brexit even if drinking is a requirement.
And a No Deal exit would bring changes of course to fishing as the UK becomes an independent coastal state, on which areas like Vigo would no doubt have an interest.
Is that where England catches fish fingers?
It is suggested sometimes that the UK would have to return to the negotiating table in the event of no deal from a position of weakness. Nobody is expecting a UNITED Kingdom after Brexit.
Yet I think this ignores firstly the wider, immediate impact of no deal - for example if I take Ireland, two thirds of Irish medicines come through Great Britain, 40% of its exports go through Dover. Its supermarkets are supplied from distribution centres in the Midlands. Yet this is presented as solely a UK challenge, it is a mutual challenge, because if indeed there were two and a half days of delays at Calais, then the impact of that would not solely be felt within the UK, it would be felt in Ireland and indeed in businesses here in Spain.
The Faminator has already suggested using a possible famine as a bargaining chip. Ouch.
And secondly, I think it ignores the political reality. Hulk smash EU, reality?
That we would then be leaving and having those conversations in the context of a general election campaign in the UK.
So the prize of a deal should focus the minds of both sides on the need for creativity and flexibility.
On receiving his Nobel Peace Prize, Lord Trimble warned that politicians should not aim for what he called “abstract perfection”. You want abstract, a Spanish painter comes to mind.
He said “Heaven knows, in Ulster, what I have looked for is a peace within the realm, of the possible”.
He also said that “politics is not an exact science, but partakes of human nature within the contingent circumstances of the moment”. And I agree.
What he, Bertie Ahern, others negotiated, stood the test of time – and it was a leap of faith, with the strongest political will. Ruined by Brexit. Does Brexit not destroy the Good Friday Agreement?
So now is not the time whether in Luxembourg for postures with podiums and protesters.
And the press?
Because the clock is ticking for us all. It is.
So let’s work creatively to secure a deal. How about a gameshow where things are placed in a box?
A deal the UK is committed to getting. Your Prime Minister should be committed.
A deal without a backstop.
A deal involving alternative arrangements. And Alternative Facts?
A deal which gives our businesses and citizens the certainty they desperately need.
Then reciprocate Spain's offering for UK citizens.
And a deal which indeed will pass both UK Parliament and European Parliament.
I think most people will PASS on anything that Boris Johnson offers.
I think that is a prize that warrants creativity and flexibility, and we stand ready to work with you, as the business community, and with the Spanish Government, to ensure we do secure a deal which is in both sides’ mutual interest.
Again, Creativity and flexibility, why not take some Flamenco classes while in Spain?
Thank you very much.
Don't mention it, it was nothing.
How about you try my own BREXIT Breakfast which I made last September?