Thursday, 4 May 2017

Yes we owe money, yes we should pay it.

The only thing that matters in this furore is the official EU position which is presently to agree on a framework for calculating obligations. No figure mentioned has any official standing whatsoever. These are guesses and pure speculation. The fact is that the loose ends have to be tied up not least to ensure programmes and projects we agreed to do not collapse as a result of Brexit. For sure we *could* let that happen, but then the EU is not obliged to enter any subsequent FTA talks. The result of that is ejection where we end up with a junk rating and end up paying billions more to service our debt for far longer than any EU settlement.

I see no reason not to approach it in good faith rather than taking an immediately hostile attitude to what is a fairly pedestrian statement of aims. I see no real reason to quibble over a few billion either way. Main priority should be an amicable settlement in recognition that Brexit is not about accountancy and saving a few quid.

Moreover since we definitely will want to carry over a lot of those agreements and projects it is in the national interest to ensure their continuity. Torpedoing multilateral projects has serious ramifications in that they often have third country involvement who would also be far less inclined to carry over EU third party FTAs. To pick a fight over this is singularly moronic.

As much as this is matter of fulfilling a number of contracts and internal agreements, it is also a matter of good politics. Do we seek an amicable departure or not? There is everything to gain by taking a measured approach. The assumption that the ability to wreck EU projects and other such endeavours is leverage is a mistake. The EU is not going to bend over backwards to stop us crashing out without a deal and ultimately we would come off worse for it. It's a zero sum game.

This has to be viewed in the context that we will be asking a lot of the EU in order to facilitate our departure. The EU will seek to look after its own interests but it will also be expected to assist in pushing through the ratifications. Making an outright enemy of the Commission is not a good idea.

For all the gerbil brained assertions that legally we owe nothing, it is neither here nor there. We are the petitioner here. We are the ones seeking a free trade deal and a transition agreement which is a wholly unprecedented endeavour. There is no chance of that happening if the bills are not covered for the agencies that facilitate normal operations.

Given that we would, were we to remain in the EU, pay the normal annual payments anyway, why throw our future relationship into doubt? Are we going to sabotage a number of key cooperation programmes over the sake of a few quid? Is this really why we voted to leave?

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