Europe Bares Her Teeth: Threat to Cut Britain off Unless London Agrees to Terms

President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen takes of her face mask before addressing journalists as she arrives at the EU headquarters' Europa building in Brussels on December 10, 2020, prior to a European Union summit. (Photo by JOHN THYS / POOL / AFP) (Photo by JOHN THYS/POOL/AFP …
Getty Images

The European Commission followed up an unproductive “11th-hour” dinner meeting between their president and Britain’s Boris Johnson with threats to refuse British air, road, and rail traffic unless the country agrees to submit to EU ‘contingency’ rules.

British air lines would be prevented from landing in European airports, British road hauled fright would be prevented from crossing borders, and the Eurotunnel railway that links Great Britain and France would be closed by the European Union if the UK government fails to meet Europe’s demands by January 1st 2021.

While the document presenting the no-deal scenariocharacterised as a list of threats even by pro-Remain outlets in Britain — promises a way out of these penalties, it is at a cost to Britain. In order to get a six-month reprieve from Europe’s wrath, Britain has to agree to 12 months of surrendering its fishing waters and, much worse, agree to accept the EU’s competition and ‘level playing field’ demand.

This, in particular, will stick in the craw of the UK government. The fact Europe wants to impose ‘level playing field’ requirements where the UK is prevented from innovating to improve its own competitiveness when trying to re-establish itself as an independent state is one of the major sticking points that has prevented a Brexit deal from being agreed at all.

The new document has been seen as an attempt to ratchet up the pressure on Boris Johnson, by making leaving the European Union without a deal on their terms not simple a neutral act of default, but one that Brussels would actively punish by imposing sanctions on Britain.

Boris Johnson replied in kind Thursday evening, by throwing more doubt on hopes among the Westminster and Brussels political elites for the deal they so badly want, and by telling British businesses to get ready for a no-deal Brexit. Noting that Britain’s negotiators would continue to so “everything we possibly can”, nevertheless he said: “I have to tell you in all candour that the treaty is not there yet and that is the strong view of our Cabinet as well.”

Mr Johnson said there is a “strong possibility” of no deal, as of Thursday.

Reactions to the European Union’s deal-cum-threat on Thursday were, from some quarters, quite negative. The Daily Telegraph cited the remarks of the chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, who called the idea that Britain would still not have control over its fishing waters after leaving the European Union “completely unrealistic” and quite “uncomfortable”.

Brexit leader Nigel Farage, meanwhile, called the fishing proposition a “huge insult”. He told Sky News: “The European Union, from the start, has never really wanted to talk about a free trader agreement.

“Even this week, Ursula von der Leyen was saying ‘I look forward to meeting Boris Johnson to discuss our Partnership Agreement’. They don’t want a simple free trade agreement, and I’m afraid what Boris signed up to wasn’t a simple free trade agreement.

“If Boris Johnson wanted a Canada-style relationship, he should never have signed what he called his ‘oven-ready’ deal.”

Ultimately, Mr Farage said, “we should have left four years ago”.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.