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UK can't have a 'deep and special relationship' with Europe outside EU

Theresa May has said she wants the UK to have a 'deep and special relationship' with Europe outside EU. But that's what the UK currently has.

Jo Hayes explains why Theresa May's stated aim isn't possible, in her latest "Remainer's Diary":-

Remainer's Diary Day 467: we need to talk about Interlaken

John Bruton, Irish former Taoiseach and former ambassador from the EU to the US, wrote an article in the Irish Times in which he set out three principles with which any UK-EU deal would have to comply.

The principles were set out in a speech given by Willy de Clercq, then European Commissioner for External Relations and Trade, on 20th May 1987 at a meeting of EC and EFTA countries' ministers in the Swiss resort town of Interlaken, in the Bernese Oberland. The speech is easily found on the Europa website.

The context was that at that time, the leaders of member countries of the relatively unsuccessful EFTA organisation (which had lost several members including the UK - by then an EC member for 15 years) were in discussions with EC leaders about EC-EFTA cooperation. The EC had already, in Mr De Clercq's words, "embarked upon an ambitious programme to complete its integration and notably its internal market." The EC countries, as he put it, "attach paramount importance to the realisation of the internal market" because it was "nothing less than an effort to revitalise the whole of our economies".

He said the member states must maximise trade among themselves. "We can only do so by removing the barriers and allowing the community to operate as a single entity. That is what is really meant by "completing the internal market.""

He continued: "The so-called "costs of non-Europe" are too great and a waste indeed. They surface in higher prices resulting from a lack or a distortion of competition, from manifold administrative costs at our internal borders and in our factories which must produce to meet different standards in different member states. And these are just a few examples."

The three principles were a statement of what EC relations with non-members of the EC were going to be.

  • First, Community integration comes first.
  • Second, the autonomy of Community decision making must be preserved.
  • Third, there must be balance between rights and obligations as well as benefits and costs of third countries' participation in the internal market.

These are the three Interlaken principles. They have never been doubted since. They are applied to third countries. The EU's negotiators have been following them all along and been completely open about it.

Brexit means an attempt to reverse the process, to reinstate the costs of non-Europe: to recreate administrative costs at the UK's borders and reintroduce different standards which our factories must meet; to revert to a less prosperous, less harmonious Europe.

Have the pro-Brexit cheerleaders ever mentioned the Interlaken principles? Do they even know what they are? I suspect not.

No free trade arrangement can emulate membership of an internal market. I suspect they still do not understand that. Fools rush in.

Mrs May's catchphrase "a deep and special relationship" is incompatible with those principles. Currently the UK is on course to become just a third country and that is what it will become. The UK has a deep and special relationship with the EU now. The way to keep it is to stop Brexit and continue to be a member state of the EU. This is an option that is open to us. EU leaders have repeatedly said so.

If that option is ignored, the outcome of the negotiations is already determined, by political and economic constraints that are out of the UK's control. The EU will never let the UK have a special deal. Brexit supporters need to get this into their heads.