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Star comment: Brits blink first over Brexit talks

By Shropshire Star | Opinions | Published:

Guess who blinked first? We did.

Theresa May

Theresa May’s apparent willingness to offer more money to the EU as part of Britain’s Brexit divorce bill will divide opinion.

The Prime Minister appears to be willing to double the amount on offer to Europe as part of our separation costs, with the figure looking like it will rise from £20 billion to £40 billion.

And there will be wildly different views on her decision. Some will argue it is a small price to pay for progress in the talks while others will be furious at the apparent willingness to hand over more money at a time when other services are in dire need.

Can Britain really afford to provide such an exorbitant sum when the NHS and schools are in urgent need of money, when social care is in crisis, when the State has been slashed beyond recognition and when roads and utilities crumble?

The answer, it seems, is yes. And pro-Europeans will argue that it is a sensible price to pay to maintain links with Europe in a post-Brexit world.

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It is difficult for the Government to be as transparent as many would like as it seeks to leave Europe. It cannot provide sensitive commercial data for general consumption, lest it reveals its hand too soon at the negotiating table.

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And yet the secrecy that surrounds David Davis’s negotiations causes considerable uncertainty and instability for local businesses. Britain’s reputation on the world stage seems to have been diminished since the Brexit vote. We no longer have the power that we once did. And our future trading relationship, the issue of the Irish border and concerns surrounding pan-European security are still a long way from being solved.

Some will argue that Britain's politicians need to be bolder in these negotiations and to assert themselves more forcefully; the government would no doubt respond that it is being pragmatic and seeking to act in the public interest.

Whatever the perspective, the interesting thing is that the increased Brexit divorce bill has apparently been backed by some fairly hard line Brexit supporters in the cabinet, which suggests that the talk of walking away was just that – talk. It also suggests, again, the Government is negotiating from a position of weakness rather than strength and reminds us again that these negotiations will be complex and anything but easy.

There is much to play for and the uncertain position of German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been added into the mix. The reality check is that Brexit is going to cost far more than people thought when they voted all those months ago.

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