When the UK joined the Common Market, later to become the EU, the UK did not say “with all my worldly goods I thee endow” neither was there any reference to “until death do us part”.
We simply entered into a commercial partnership, the terms of which were specified in a treaty, one of many that became known as the EU treaties.
The use of the word divorce to the EU departure negotiations is thus wrong and can lead to unrealistic expectations, exorbitant demands and inaccurate commentary.
The UK has carefully considered all aspects of the EU treaties and come to the opinion, before the negotiations began, that no leaving payment is required, that we do not have to keep paying subscriptions beyond the leaving date and there is no reason why the leaving terms and the future relationship with the EU should not be discussed concurrently.
On the other hand, the EU has endlessly claimed that the leaving conditions must be agreed first, have demanded a 100 billion Euro payment on a document that has only four pages of text, has demanded that the European Court of Justice keeps jurisdiction over EU residents living in the UK, and requires the Irish border problem to be resolved before discussions on trade take place.
Complaints have been made far and wide about the slowness of the UK-EU negotiation but so far this has not been a real negotiation, this has been a petulant EU, making demands and throwing the dummy out of the pram as soon as the UK points out that their demands do not comply with what is written in the treaties.
Indeed Michel Barnier has consistently talked about what we owe and of our moral obligation to pay up.
There is nothing moral in our relationship, only the written agreement.
It is pertinent to note that the European Court of Justice is not a signatory to the Vienna Convention on the Laws of Treaties and as a result, can ignore the precise wording of any treaty if they chose. In other words the EU wants to interpret everything their own way and react very badly when people disagree.
It is perhaps not surprising that when a member of the UK negotiating team, a young man from Whitehall, launched a legal deconstruction of the EU document, which requires the UK to pay a fortune by anyone’s standards except those of the EU, they were “flabbergasted”. Dummies everywhere!
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