The EU's negotiating position has been criticised by a former euro judge
Legal expert Franklin Dehousse described the EU’s wide-ranging demands on Britain as “exaggerated” and “dangerous” and warned they could scupper a future deal in a blistering intervention.
The Belgian national, who retired from the bench last October and has previously been involved in negotiating the bloc’s complex treaties, also warned Brussels against its plans to involve the ECJ extensively in the Brexit process.
In a piece for the respected Egmont Institute think tank he mocked eurocrats’ claims that Britain owes the club £85 billion in the form of a divorce fee and called their demands on citizens’ rights “hardly defendable”.
His comments mark a significant intervention in the Brexit process, coming from a europhile expert with intimate knowledge of the inner workings of Europe’s bureaucratic and legal processes.
And they demonstrate a growing concern that it is the EU’s implacable stance and unreasonable demands, and not Theresa May’s tough rhetoric, that are most likely to sink the prospect of a deal.
Professor Dehousse that whilst it was initially the UK Government which had failed to grasp the enormous consequences of Brexit, he had observed “the same kind of denial now also appears on the EU side”.
In the no holds barred piece the expert laughed off suggestions Brussels would get an £85 billion settlement, joking: “Never have the British been so loved as for their net contribution to the EU budget.”
And he also criticised the EU’s pursuit of “perpetual rights…not only for EU residents in the UK, but also their future mate or children” and demands of full powers for the ECJ to oversee any Brexit deal.
The former judge drily noted that, having repeatedly criticised the UK for wanting to “cherry pick” on membership, Brussels was now doing the same thing by trying to “perpetuate agreeable components of the present situation”.
On the EU’s position, he wrote: “It is dangerous, for two very different reasons. First, of course, loading the boat excessively broadens the scope, increases expectations, generates conflicts and makes a final deal less likely. The EU, like the UK government before, needs to adjust to reality.
"It must compare the limited immediate benefits of this drastic approach with the global benefits of a new deal."
As far as the status of the EU migrants in UK is concerned, it is hardly defendable to propose that nothing will change post Brexit
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Ex ECJ judge Franklin Dehousse
He added: “Second, and this is more important, the EU must be extremely careful about the precedents it is creating now. Most people do not see it, as they did not believe before that Article 50 would ever be used, but there will be other exits from the EU.
“We thus need reflect carefully to create future incentives for fair deals, and not systematic clashes. Article 50 was invented, after all, to show that the EU was not a prison. We must apply it accordingly.”
Professor Dehousse said that the EU’s current demands on citizens’ rights, outlined in a Commission document on Monday, would make them a “super-privileged caste” in the UK that would breed further resentment.
He accused Brussels of trying to turn the UK into “some kind of new 1930s Shanghai…where the EU citizens will benefit from multiple privileges” above those enjoyed by ordinary Britons.
The legal expert wrote: “As far as the status of the EU migrants in UK is concerned, it is hardly defendable to propose that nothing will change post Brexit.”
Brexit Negotiations: Britain's sternest enemies Tue, April 4, 2017
According to a new index, the EU27 countries fall into three groups: hard-core, hard and soft. These are the countries with the highest scores which indicate a fairly strong opposition to Britain’s position
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France has the highest score in the index at 32.5
Finally the ex judge issued words of warning about eurocrats’ plans to involve the European Court of Justice, his former employer, in administering the Brexit deal.
He said that the Luxembourg-based court was “hardly the best setting to deal with such litigation” due to its “very heavy procedures and very high costs” and said it should be policed politically instead.
Describing the involvement of the ECJ as an “incredible legal vipers nest” he suggested that honouring a deal on citizens’ rights should be linked to lucrative parts of Britain’s future trade deal with the EU instead, which could be revoked by the Commission in instances of infringement.
Professor Dehousse concluded: “The EU has rightly insisted on settling all the legal, institutional and financial consequences, of more than 40 years of UK presence. It has rightly demanded a balanced participation to the single market.
“But it must also take into consideration the common need of all to maintain a deep cooperation, and most of all the need for the European Union to be, and to appear, fair in this procedure. This is not a war, but a divorce, and all of us should strive to make it an amiable one.”