Have leading politicians and apparatchiks in the European Union such as Michel Barnier and Jean Claude Junker been trying to influence the result of the UK general election as Theresa May has suggested? I don't know but it was my first impression (before the PM made the suggestion) that they had. Frankly, there are only two possibilities: they either interfered with the intention of affecting the outcome of the election or they just happened to make a series of rather outrageous statements with obvious relevance to the election without realising their mistake. It looks like a co-ordinated attempt to me.
Either way, their behaviour shows them to be fools – no great surprise there. If they had the faintest Idea what they were doing, they would have realised that their comments would boost Theresa May's hand, both in the election and in the subsequent negotiations. Undecided voters will look at this behaviour and decide that we cannot trust the EU at all and they will be more likely to vote for the Conservatives because May has stated that 'no deal is better than a bad deal'. With a large majority May will be able to simply walk away from a bad deal. We have been told for months that the UK doesn't have the negotiation skills to deal with the EU. If these recent comments are representative of the EU's efforts to build a negotiating position, it would seem that it is the EU which lacks negotiating skills.
As someone who thinks that access to the single market would not be worth the price demanded from the EU (not just in financial terms but also the continuing influence of the European Court of Justice), I welcome Barnier and Juncker's remarks because they will probably ensure that we make a clean break. However, that is just my personal perspective. If, like many of my friends, I opposed Brexit and now favour as close a continuing association with the EU as possible, I would be absolutely furious at their behaviour.
If Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish National Party are serious about another independence referendum (which I very much doubt), they must be delusional. While Scotland's exports to the rest of the UK were £49.8 bn in 2015, its exports to the rest of the EU were just 12.3bn. If Scotland left the UK, either before or after the UK leaves the EU, it would be outside both the UK and the EU. It would then take years for it to rejoin the EU. The worst of all possible worlds.
On 17 January, Liam Halligan and Gerard Lyons published Clean Brexit, an exceptionally clear-sighted analysis of what need to be done to get the best possible deal from Brexit. The main point, and one which the Government seem to agree with, is that we need to be outside both the Single Market and the the Customs Union. Download it her: https://policyexchange.org.uk/publication/clean-br...
I originally posted this on Facebook but I thought is was worth repeating here:
Can we please have an end to this pretence that the EU Referendum is a left/right issue? The only reason that Labour is campaigning to stay in is because it thought it could exploit the split in the Conservatives to its advantage. The remain campaign lied through its teeth, telling us that the European Community was just a common market. In the 1975 referendum, who wanted to leave? Michael Foot, Tony Benn, Peter Shore, Eric Varley and Barbara Castle. The Labour Party conference of 1975 voted nearly 2:1 to leave. Who wanted to remain?The right of the Labour Party, Margaret Thatcher and most of the rest of the Conservative Party. It was official Conservative policy to remain, partly because the Tories saw it as a good way to split Labour! Sound familiar? It worked and Labour lost the election, we had years of Thatcherism and we stayed in what is now the EU. There is a principled case to be made for either staying or leaving the EU but it has been drowned out by dishonest arguments on both sides.