So let’s get this clear! I campaigned for Brexit in the Referendum and I want out!
This was borne from when I was in exporting and found that the French and other – mainly southern – European countries wanted bribes like some developing nation to buy from us. And I was selling to state run organisations. I then came to the conclusion our mindset had more in common with other nations. (Though I would add that Holland and the Scandinavian countries were a very different kettle of incorruptible fish and became good clients of mine).
In the Brexit negotiations, Ollie Robbins proclaims that Brussels is walking all over us, and that we are powerless to stop them. He has reportedly told ministers that the UK has little chance of reaching a bespoke agreement with the EU.
This view has become commonplace among the (mostly Remain-supporting) British commentariat to echo this loudly, often with a bizarre hint of glee.
But the reality of the situation is far-less clear cut. From a much-reduced “divorce bill”, to increasingly desperate attempts by Brussels to weaponise the Irish border, it is clear that Michel Barnier and co have more than their fair share of problems and disappointments to deal with.
We sometimes get so caught up in the circus at home and the alleged splits in the cabinet that we forget about the problems on the EU side, and the instances in which they have had to settle for considerably less than what they set out for.
A prime example of this is the so-called Brexit divorce bill. According to the Financial Times last year, the EU’s opening demand was for a one-off payment of €100 billion, or around £88 billion. Juncker himself also suggested a payment of €60 billion (£53 billion).
However, the bill is set to be significantly lower than what the EU might have hoped for last year, with £39 billion the estimated figure.
The fact that we are paying such a bill to begin with is not, as some would claim, a climb-down on our part.
When the Cabinet meet at Chequers this Friday, they would be advised to remember: the EU does not hold all the cards
When you are a part of any club, you have to pay your dues. The European Space Agency for example (which the UK will rightly remain a member of after Brexit) receives roughly £300 million from us every year. It is only fair that we meet all of our financial obligations.
It’s a common misconception that the EU hold the all the cards in these negotiations. In fact, we have leverage of our own, particularly with regards to trade.
We are the major export market for a number of EU countries, especially Germany, Spain, Belgium and the Netherlands.
The case of Germany in particular could prove problematic for the EU. With a trade surplus of over £25 billion with the UK, Germany sells significantly more to us than we do to them.
Nowhere is this trade imbalance more evident than in the car industry.
Germany sells more cars to the UK than any other country in the world – approximately 1 in 7 of cars (over 800,000 a year) made in Germany end up here in the UK. Compare that with the US where they sell only around half a million cars each year.
A study by Deloitte last year found that in the event of a no deal scenario, German car exports would fall by over 250,000 a year, putting 18,000 German jobs at risk. German estimates have put it as high as 40,000.
These facts have not been lost on German business leaders and German politicians.
Hans-Olaf Henkel, a German MEP from the Liberal Conservative Reformers party, and a former president of the Federation of German Industries, has called on his government to put more pressure on the EU to stop “punishing” Britain and instead focus on getting a good deal.
With Angela Merkel facing her own political turmoil at home, Brussels can no longer count on Germany placing the lofty, intangible ideals of EU unity above its own economic self-interest.
Without Germany’s support, any potential EU deal with the UK would be dead on arrival. For that reason alone, the British press should be keeping a closer watch on what is going on in Berlin.
Of course, any negotiation involves compromise.
When I sold broadcast stations in Europe I had to meet European standards and I had to meet US standards in North America. And Britain will have to do the same post Brexit.
But when the Cabinet meet at Chequers this Friday, they would be advised to remember: the EU does not hold all the cards.