Brexit fury: EU had to give UK ‘punishment beatings’ to prevent another country leaving

Brexit: EU 'used Irish border as bargaining tool' says Jenkins

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The UK’s vote to leave the EU in 2016 was a seismic event in Europe, as Brussels faced a major player vote to leave the bloc. This sparked tense and often hostile negotiations between the UK and the EU. Brussels’ tough negotiating stance may have been adopted to preserve the EU’s future, an expert claimed during a 2017 Intelligence Squared debate. Sir Paul Collier, a British development economist at Oxford University, made the warning as he outlined a “catastrophic mistake” the EU had made.

He said: “I see Europe as a political project primarily by the Germans and the French.

“Some years ago, it made a catastrophic mistake of using economic instruments as political symbols, I think that was catastrophic because it created powerful economic divergence.

“That potentially gives some incentive for countries to leave, and I think the Germans have already made it pretty clear that the strategy for stopping any exit is to make British exit as painful as possible.

“So actually, I’m fearful for the implications of that strategy for us.”

He was then asked by Jonathan Freedland: “So in order to discourage other people from leaving and spreading the contagion, this is the punishment beatings model in which Britain takes punishment?”

Sir Paul Collier then continued: “Yeah, its reparations are back.”

In 2018, as withdrawal talks began, the EU removed a so-called “punishment clause” from a draft text of the arrangement for the Brexit transition period.

The EU had said the UK should abide by all existing rules and regulations during the transition phase and the text suggested there would be specific sanctions if this was not respected.

The latest Brussels-London clash comes as fallout over the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol continues.

The EU has fumed at the UK for extending an amnesty on checks on some goods entering Belfast from Great Britain. Brussels has argued that this move is in contradiction to international law.

Minister Lord David Frost was in Brussels for talks this week, with no major breakthrough coming over Northern Ireland.

Discussions were described as “productive” and “constructive” with momentum now established to achieve a solution to the crisis, the Brexit Minister, Lord Frost said.

But the EU used the first face-to-face meeting to warn that the outcome needed to be jointly agreed.

European commission vice-president, Maros Sefcovic said there was “no space for unilateral action”, and added the threat of legal action over the UK’s decision last month to delay some of the border checks in Northern Ireland would remain on the table for “as long as necessary”.

As things stand, the legal action is still ongoing, and could end up in the courts should the Government continue to resist Brussels’ infringement proceedings.

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Infringement proceedings involve the European Commission sending a letter of formal notice to the UK regarding the alleged breach of the withdrawal agreement and sets out a time frame for a response.

If Brussels deems the reply to be unsatisfactory, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) may become involved in the case.

If the CJEU rules against the UK, it can produce a court order demanding the Government not to override the withdrawal agreement.

The EU can request that the UK is fined if the Government refuses to comply.

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