Concerted efforts to save May’s government and the chance of a “soft Brexit”
11 July 2018
In a day filled with high-profile declarations of support for Prime Minister Theresa May and opposing any leadership challenge, perhaps the most significant statement was that of the European Union’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier.
Speaking in New York while attending the Council on Foreign Relations, Barnier made clear the concern of the European powers that May’s beheading by the eurosceptic wing of the Conservatives is to be avoided if possible.
After previously ridiculing the suggestion that the EU would accept any preferential “cherry-picking” arrangement for the UK, Barnier declared that “we have agreed on 80 percent of the negotiations” and that he was determined to agree on the remaining 20 percent.
“No deal is the worst solution for everybody. It would be a huge economic problem for the UK and also for the EU,” he added.
Barnier still stressed the EU’s position that the “four freedoms of movement of people, goods, services and capital” were “indivisible” and that “at the end of this negotiation that the best situation, the best relationship with the EU, will be to remain a member.” But he insisted, “I will negotiate only with the British government… so our next negotiations will be next Monday with the British delegation appointed by Mrs. May.”
However, the EU clearly calculates that the possibility of reversing Brexit at this point comes second to preventing a hardening of the Tories’ anti-Brexit stand in the aftermath of the resignation of Brexit Secretary David Davis, his minister Stephen Baker and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.
Such concerns would have been highlighted by the resignation of two…