Vengeful Brussels ‘insisted’ on banning UK from trade talks in ’desire to punish the UK’

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Nicolas Bay also believes the EU is vengeful because Prime Minister Boris Johnson has exposed its weakness by forcing a renegotiation of the withdrawal agreement last year – despite Brussels previously saying this would not happen in any circumstances. Mr Bay, a member of the right-wing National Rally party led by Marine Le Pen, took aim at the European Commission in a fiery speech in the European Parliament on Wednesday in which he urged Chief Negotiator Michel Barnier to strike a deal which would preserve access to UK waters for French fishermen. He later told “The desire to punish the UK and prevent it from reaching a ‘tidy’ Brexit is clear.

“The simple prohibition on your country to negotiate trade agreements before the final exit from the EU is proof of this: these agreements could very well have been negotiated beforehand, waiting to be implemented.

“But Brussels insisted on banning it, in order to deprive London of all visibility and to be in a position of strength.

“Is this the behaviour of a worthy partner?”

Mr Bay said the EU’s “dogmatic attitude” was visible in other negotiating positions which he said were equally absurd.

He explained: “From the start, the EU denied the UK access to the internal market if London did not accept free movement or submission to the EU Court of Justice.

“Compliance with European standards should also be non-negotiable: but that is exactly why you left!

“Even today, the EU wants to impose on the UK the case law of the ECHR in order to be able to cooperate in criminal matters. Why link all these different things?”

For Mr Bay there was only one plausible reason for the treatment meted out to a country which has been a member of the EU since 1973: to teach it a lesson.

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He said: “The rigidity of Brussels in these negotiations cannot be explained other than by a desire to make Brexit painful for the British people, to set an example.

“This intransigence is present: when Boris Johnson came to power in 2018, it took him less than three months to force the EU to renegotiate a deal it claimed to be immutable.”

Brussels was also in denial he said, adding: “The EU should already have accepted the referendum result, but it hasn’t.

“Until the end, the EU believed in a second referendum, or in London’s retreat from the prospect of a no deal.

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“For months before and after the election, Eurocrats unanimously raised the possibility of an economic cataclysm with Brexit.

“Somehow, they believed their lies and based their outlook on it.”

Many problems could have been resolved comparatively simply – and much earlier in the process, Mr Bay suggested.

He said: “In my view, the opening of negotiations for a comprehensive agreement should have been made conditional on a compromise on fisheries, which seems to be the main problem of the current dispute.

“By settling this issue first, then by making concessions – I referred earlier to the CJEU and the ECHR, which regularly undermine state sovereignty – we could have reached a balanced agreement.

“The UK should also have been treated as a partner and not as a subordinate.

“Such an attitude could only lead to failure.”

As for Mr Barnier himself, Mr Bay described his fellow Frenchman as “an experienced and fine man”.

He said: “He is the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator, but he defends the choices defined by the European Commission.

“The problem from the start has been the attitude of EU leaders who did not support the choice of the British.

“Jean-Claude Juncker had said that ‘there can be no democratic choice against European treaties’.

“The United Kingdom has provided evidence to the contrary; this is what Brussels cannot forgive.”

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