The EU’s negotiating tactics have resulted in a Withdrawal Agreement that will put UK farmers at a disadvantage after Brexit, argues Sam Goddard, an arable farmer from north west Essex.
At the time of writing, President Macron is already suggesting the forced triggering of the customs ‘backstop’ if the EU does not get what it wants on fishing policy.
This goes to the heart of the EU’s negotiating strategy – create circumstances in which the alternative is more unpalatable to the UK than the EU, then push us hard towards it.
This was particularly clear with the idea that there may be a full customs border down the Irish sea.
This has been coupled with the continued briefing of the UK press – actively working to undermine the political authority of the UK Government.
To this tactic, there is no reciprocity possible.
The critical press is a cornerstone of our democratic system, holding power to account, to which the Brussels leaders are barely subjected.
There is no single Europe-wide press through which an alternative view could be put directly to the citizens of the EU.
I think if voters were more prominent in the Commission’s mind, we would see a more pragmatic discourse.
Taken together, these are not the methods of a body working constructively to find a way that works for both parties.
This has been a huge political gamble on the part of the EU – make it as difficult and painful as possible and expect we will reverse our decision.
This is a gamble because history shows us that unfair settlements soon break down.
I believe this is why the EU has so far been relatively quiet on farming.
They know as well as we do that the UK Government is unlikely to ever offer support to the same level as the EU – even without our contributions.
This means they can instead focus on tying us to their regulations, knowing we will gradually become disadvantaged.
This for me is the worst part of the Withdrawal Agreement, and could damage UK farming.
All that being said, I would not change course. Democracy has its twists and turns, but is ultimately the thing which holds the country together.
To reverse the decision via another referendum or otherwise would be a serious mistake.
Another referendum in particular could only act to exacerbate the existing disagreements.
Sam can be found tweeting at @SamMGoddard on Twitter.