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Chalk and cheese: Europe's sway on Britain is flagging thanks to Trump

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16.08.2019

For three years the EU has treated Brexit chiefly as a disciplinary issue. Brussels is learning late that Britain's strategic realignment is just as much a bidding war, and Europe's bid has come in too low.

The Americans have swooped into the vacuum. They have wooed this nation with sweet whisperings. Unless the Europeans attempt some seduction themselves - and I would not count on it - Washington will steal the diplomatic prize from under their noses.

Britain is a diminished prize but not a trivial one. It still absorbs €400 billion ($655 billion) of EU goods each year, Europe's biggest surplus market. The military spending of the US, UK and Canada together is four times greater than the combined defence budget of the rump EU.

Brexit street art: Trump is wooing the Boris Johnson-led UK with a trade deal, and not everyone is impressed.Credit:Ian Warden

The UK will be drawn deep into the North American orbit. This is incompatible with the EU's regulatory structure. Once it happens, there will be no turning back in my lifetime. Trading patterns will harden for half a century or more.

The French and German leaders - among others - have both stated that Britain must pay a price for leaving the EU treaty mechanisms. The terms must be worse than the existing status quo, and be seen to be worse. It is the "no cherry-picking" doctrine.

The EU did not have to take this course. It might have concluded that the federalising logic of monetary union was always going to rub against the British political grain, and therefore that an amicable separation on terms of mutual recognition would be in everybody's interest.

A group of European academics argued for a new dispensation along these lines, calling for a Continental Partnership for all the nations in the EU's near abroad that want close ties without the conveyor belt of ever greater integration.

"There may be a temptation to apply punitive terms to the UK's exit and the new........

© Brisbane Times