EU Slams UK Divide and Rule Tactics

Formal Brexit talks are due to open next month.Formal Brexit talks are due to open next month.

British attempts to “blackmail and divide” EU countries in the runup to Brexit negotiations will lead to a disastrous “crash-landing” out of the bloc, European politicians said.

They also told the Guardian that the approach being pursued by Theresa May’s government will leave the UK without a free trade deal—with perilous consequences for the country.

Formal talks are due to open next month, but a trio of parliamentary leaders and a close ally of the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, say those talks risk ending in failure unless Britain changes what they say are “divide and rule” tactics.

They believe the situation is further complicated by domestic hardline political and media pressure in the UK, which they argue makes compromise difficult and reinforces the feeling in London that the country will simply get whatever it wants.

A leaked European parliament report seen by the Guardian goes even further, accusing Britain of trying to “move the goalposts and do away with the referee” in the upcoming international clash of negotiators once Article 50 is invoked.

At the root of the anger is the belief that Britain does not appreciate that the EU-27 nations also have redlines.

 “The benefits go to the UK only,” said Tomas Prouza, the Czech minister for EU affairs. “There is a real danger that British politics, with all its whipped up resentments of Europe, will mean British negotiators are unable to compromise, and we will head for a crash-landing.”

That view is shared in many national capitals. Elmar Brok, a German MEP and a close friend and political ally of Merkel, said the British government should not underestimate the strength of the EU’s resolve. 

He said colleagues had told him Britain was seeking to win over MEPs, but it would end in failure.

“The British government tries to divide and rule,” he said. “They believe they can take members of parliament out of certain nations … to win support by dividing us. If they try to negotiate while trying to interfere in our side then we can do that too. We can make a big fuss over Scotland. Or Northern Ireland.”

David Davis, the Brexit secretary, and minister David Jones have held meetings with politicians from Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Latvia and Estonia as part of a high-stakes charm offensive designed to find more sympathetic allies in the face of hardening opposition, particularly among larger countries.

On Sunday, it was reported that Downing Street officials and senior Cabinet ministers wanted to divert part of the annual aid budget to eastern European countries in the hope of winning their support for a good trade deal.

And on Monday, Davis is understood to be beginning a trip to Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania to discuss Brexit plans and build ties with the Baltic States.


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