Strong and stable Theresa May met with European Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, on Saturday 27th April at Downing Street. The Conservative Party leader had intended to show her strong hand that gets the best deal for the UK when it comes to Brexit negotiations. However, it was a meeting that left Mr Juncker to remark afterwards “They are not just on a different planet, they are in a different galaxy”.

German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) described the meeting which was translated via Twitter in the following points:

  1. May said she wanted to talk about world problems and not just Brexit, it was left to Juncker to propose one subject to discuss.
  2. Theresa May has made clear to the Commission that she fully expects to be re-elected as Prime Minister on June 8th.
  3. It’s thought [in the Commission] that May wants to frustrate the daily business of the remaining EU27 to improve her own negotiating position.
  4. May seemed upset at David Davis for regaling her dinner guests of his European Court of Justice case against her data retention measures – three times.
  5. The EU body were astonished at May’s suggestion that the EU/UK expats issue could be sorted at the EU Council meeting in June.
  6. Juncker objected to this timeframe as being way too optimistic given various complexities such as rights to health care.
  7. Juncker pulled two piles of paper from his bag – Croatia’s EU entry deal and Canada’s free trade deal. His point was Brexit will be an extremely complex process.
  8. Theresa May wanted to work through the Brexit talks in monthly, 4-day blocks; all confidential until the end of the process.
  9. The Commission said it would be impossible to reconcile this with the need to inform member states and the European Parliament. As such, documents must be published.
  10. The EU representatives felt Theresa May was seeing whole thing through rose-tinted-glasses. “Let us make Brexit a success” she told them.
  11. Juncker countered that Britain will now be a third state, not even (like Turkey) in the customs union: “Brexit cannot be a success”.
  12. May seemed surprised by this, which appeared to the EU delegates that she hadn’t been fully briefed.
  13. She cited her own JHA opt-out negotiations as Home Secretary as a model – a mutually useful agreement meaning lots on paper that meant little in reality.
  14. May’s reference to the JHA (Justice And Home Affairs) opt-out set off alarm bells for the EU side. This was what they had feared.
  15. As Home Secretary, May opted out of EU measures (playing to a UK audience) then opted back in. They fear she (wrongly) thinks she can do same with Brexit.
  16. “The more I hear, the more sceptical I become” said Juncker, only half way through the dinner.
  17. May then insisted to Juncker et al that UK owes the EU no money because there is nothing to that effect in the treaties.
  18. Her guests then informed her that the EU is not a golf club.
  19. Davis then objected that the EU could not force a post Brexit/ECJ United Kingdom to pay the bill. “OK, then no trade deal” said Juncker.
  20. This would leave the remaining EU27 members with the UK’s unpaid bills which will involve national parliaments in the process. This was a point that Berlin had made repeatedly before.
  21. “I leave Downing Street ten times as sceptical as I was before”, Jean-Claude Juncker told Theresa May as he left.
  22. The next morning at 7 am, Juncker called Angela Merkel on her mobile and said May was “living in another galaxy” and “totally deluding herself”.
  23. Merkel quickly reworked her speech to the Bundestag to include her now-famous “some in Britain still have illusions” comment
  24. The FAZ concludes – Theresa May is in election mode and playing to crowd, but what use is a big majority won by nurturing the delusions of Brexit hardliners?
  25. Juncker’s team now think it’s more likely than not, that Brexit talks will collapse and hope the British government wake up to the harsh realities in time.
  26. What to make of it all? Obviously this leak is a highly tactical move by the European Commission, but the contents are deeply worrying for the UK nonetheless.
  27. The report points to major communications/briefing problems regarding negotiations overall. Important messages from Berlin and Brussels do not seem to be getting through to the UK government.
  28. Presumably as a result, May seems to be labouring under some really rather fundamental misconceptions about Brexit and the remaining EU27.
  29. It’s also clear that (as some in the media have been warning) Downing Street should expect every detail of the Brexit talks to leak.

And there it is. Who’d of thought some of the most educated, political minds in the world would have the advantage over someone who avoids TV debate or a meet and greet with the public?

In summary, pay the money owing or there will be no trade deal. Theresa May herself said “No deal is better than a bad deal” but has anyone in the UK government looked into the ramifications of what that would actually involve?

No deal means trading exports on the EU’s high Common Tariffs and reverting back to World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, which in turn means increased financial costs and bureaucracy for British firms.

And that’s before taking into account the legal chaos over passports, the Irish border and expats from both the UK and the EU currently living in Britain.

It’s still early days, but already Theresa May has shown she is unable to the turn the tide with regards to the continuous incompetency that delivered Brexit in the first place.

Full credit for these points go to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ)
And to Jeremy Cliffe at The Economist for relaying them via Twitter

Update

A full translation of the FEZ article has now surfaced, you can read it by clicking here.

Further Reading

The National – “Nicola Sturgeon set to hold talks with Jean-Claude Juncker over Scotland’s place in the EU

The Wee Ginger Dug – “In a galaxy far, far away