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Schadenfreude: should UK start EU reform talks by stating its intention to leave?

British Conservative Europhobes want their leaders to open proceedings under Art. 50 of the Treaty of Lisbon, which is about leaving the European Union after two years of talks. This is presumably seen as the threat which would bring the rest of the European Union to its senses and make way for the promised “new settlement”. But there is (as yet) no decision to leave, rather to negotiate new terms and submit the result to a referendum. The worst possible negotiating tactic is to tell the other side that you are negotiating to part company with them. The natural response would be to say good bye and good luck, writes Schadenfreude, our secret correspondent in  Brussels.

The Commission does its sums and tells the UK (and others) that they have a bill to pay. British Ministers are taken by surprise, although HM Treasury provided the data on which the bill is properly based. The timing is unfortunate in view of popular concern in Britain about the cost of membership. There was a clear alternative. The European Union is now in its “semester”, the six months which it takes to work out its financial position in the next year(s). The unpaid bills could easily and correctly have been dealt with in that context, without fuss ( …and with the British announcing yet another victory at the end?)

When calling for further payment the Commission intimated that in case of delay there would be fines. This is an intolerable way to treat a sovereign government and gives colour to the British Prime Minister’s statement that the Commission has become “too bossy”.

The European Parliament, in between its outings to Strasbourg, thinks that tax  havens are a bad idea. This is its own initiative, not part of EU policy formation. So it decides that it wants to pillory the President of the Commission, who also happens to be the man whom it installed in his post and who managed a tax haven in Luxembourg as Finance Minister there. This is none of its business, being the policy of a sovereign state.

The European Commission shows its fondness for its ivory tower. It steadilypursues unification. This time it is the composition of rubber gloves, which it requires to be standardised. How many burnt fingers from holes in them ? No information.

But thanks for small mercies. The Member States resolutely keep the EU out of foreign policy. They are capable of making their own mistakes.



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