The United Kingdom has to rebuild its relationship with the European Union – and the EU with the UK. This is not just about trade or security, though those are two of the key elements. It is about common sense. It is in the self-interest of both sides to have a decent working relationship, rather than see these distressing squabbles running on and on. So how to bring common sense back?
The ideas of Rachel Reeves, the shadow chancellor, are a good starting point. In an interview with the Financial Times she said that Boris Johnson had a “blind spot” when it came to bolstering relations with Brussels. Actually it is worst than that. It plays to his political base to attack the EU whenever possible, blaming any bad outcomes of the separation agreement on Europe’s intransigence and legalism. It is not so much a blind spot. More a clear-eyed calculation of where his domestic political advantage lies.
This is not to say that Europe is blameless. As we saw earlier this year over the vaccine spat, the Brussels bureaucracy can behave in an aggressive and legalistic way. Its case against AstraZeneca for delivery shortfalls was rejected by the Court of First Instance in Brussels, but it is pretty clear that this row, and the other attacks on AstraZeneca, undermined confidence in the vaccine and slowed the take-up in Europe.
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