Blog: EU leaders’ Brexit punishment plan torn to shreds: ‘Not confident in your project!’ – Daily Express

At the end of April, President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen warned the EU will not hesitate to use the “real teeth” in the Brexit deal to punish the Government for breaching its obligation. As MEPs prepared to vote on the historic agreement, marking the end of four years of high political drama, Ms von der Leyen said: “This agreement comes with real teeth with a binding dispute settlement mechanism and the possibility for unilateral remedial measures where necessary. “And let me be very clear: we do not want to have to use these tools, but we will not hesitate to use them if necessary. They are essential to ensure full compliance with the [trade and cooperation agreement], and with the withdrawal agreement, which both were negotiated in such fine details and agreed by both sides.”

Since the end of the transition period on January 1, the Government has been accused of breaching its commitments in Northern Ireland and on an agreement on fisheries.

However, Brexiteers believe it is all part of a worrying pattern.

Ever since Britain voted to leave in 2016, Vote Leavers have accused Brussels of wanting to harm the UK during the Brexit talks as a deterrent to other countries that might have been thinking of getting out.

In an exclusive interview with, historian and head of an Icelandic free-market think tank Hjörtur J. Guðmundsson insisted Brexiteers are right to believe that.

He said: “Obviously the EU wants to publish Brexit.

“Brussels is always thinking about politics.

“Just look at the eurozone… if they were thinking about economics, the eurozone would have never covered all the countries that are in the monetary union today.

“How the economy behaves is not the same in all the euro countries so they just did this as a step towards integration, to push for a federal state.”

Mr Guðmundsson added: “I can say this – if the leaders of the EU are so convinced that their club is a desirable one and the British are making a huge mistake, then why should they make life difficult for Britain?

“Why shouldn’t they help them? Knowing that in a few years Britain would recognise its mistake and come back asking for membership again?

“The EU would be in a much stronger position to ask for certain things and ask them to adopt the euro, for example.”

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He concluded: “Why are they trying to make an example of Britain for other EU members?

“It suggests EU leaders don’t have much confidence in this project and that they don’t actually believe it is a great club to be in.”

According to political journalist James Forsyth, though, in some areas, the EU is “going beyond what is required by its own rules” to make life more difficult for Brexit Britain.

He wrote: “The EU is clearly within its rights to treat Britain as a ‘third country’ as that is, after all, the reality of the new UK-EU relationship.

“But in some areas the EU is going beyond what is required by its own rules, making, for example, the export of bivalve molluscs such as oysters and mussels more difficult than it needs to be.”

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Mr Forsyth claimed one of those involved in discussions with the EU about this issue reportedly complained that “they’re going out of their way to make a point”, and that “their motivation is how do we prove that Brexit is a mistake”.

Moreover, one experienced “Government Brexit hand” described it as an ‘”act of petty vengeance’”.

Earlier this year, the EU told British fishermen they face being indefinitely banned from exporting live mussels, oysters, clams, cockles and scallops from large swathes of Britain’s waters because it is now a “third country”.

Countries that do not meet the EU’s standards have to purify their catch domestically before exporting.

The process adds significant costs and delays and is particularly impacting fishermen in Wales and the southwest of England.

George Eustice, the Environment Secretary, said the ban was “quite unexpected and really indefensible”, telling BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “The truth is, there is no legal barrier to this trade continuing, both on animal health grounds and on public health grounds – there is legal provision within existing EU regulations to allow such trade to continue from the UK.

“We are just asking the EU to abide by their existing regulations and not to seek to change them.”

Mr Forsyth also mentioned the Northern Ireland Protocol, citing Micheál Martin, the Irish Taoiseach, as saying in February: “This isn’t an ongoing battle between the UK and some of the bigger beasts of Europe. Let’s move away from that. They need to cool it.”

The political journalist noted the fact Mr Martin felt the need to say this — despite the irritation it was bound to cause in some EU capitals — was “highly revealing”.

He added in his piece for The Spectator: “His comments hint at Dublin’s concern that some EU states are more interested in proving a point than the situation in Northern Ireland.

“What the EU and the UK need to realise is that they will both be better off if the other succeeds.”

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