Ursula Von der Leyen, Boris Johnson and Michel Barnier

Tell-tale sign EU knows UK will NEVER rejoin exposed

Brexit means the UK can take back control of its fishing waters – but a key difference in how the EU is dealing with Britain versus how it has dealt with Norway in the Seventies suggests the bloc knows it will never rejoin.

In 1972, Norway held a referendum on whether it should join the European Economic Community (EEC) – the precursor to the EU. The Norwegians voted against joining the bloc, 53.5 percent to 46.5 percent. One of the main reasons for staying out was fisheries, which play a significant part of Norway’s national economy and would be under threat by the Common Fisheries Policy, which would allow all EU countries access to its waters.

Then, in 1994 it held another referendum on whether to join the newly formed EU, but the public again rejected the offer, 52 percent to 48 percent.

Meanwhile, the UK never held a referendum on joining the EEC, instead Prime Minister Edward Heath signed the Treaty of Accession and then held a referendum on whether to remain in the bloc in 1975, in which 67 percent of British voters wanted to stay.

Then in 2016, after a build-up of resentment as to how the EU operates, the British people voted 52 to 48 percent to leave.

The UK officially left the EU on January 31 but now Prime Minister Boris Johnson has to negotiate its future trading relationship with the bloc.

While these negotiations are, in many ways, similar to those Norway had to undergo after its 1972 ‘no’ result, there is one key difference.

Documents unearthed at the National Archives reveal that diplomats in 1972 were keen that the talks be carried out with “goodwill”, in the hopes that Norway might change its mind.

One diplomat at the British Embassy in Oslo wrote in a letter to the Foreign Office in October 1972: “In brief, the pattern of the sort of agreement that is likely to emerge from the negotiations is, I imagine, fairly clear already and the problem is essentially whether we should approach the negotiations in a spirit of goodwill.

“My own feeling is that we should and it would be more helpful to the pro-marketeers and more damaging for the anti-marketeers if we could prove that, with the best will in the world, a trade agreement cannot, in the nature of things, afford to Norway the same benefits as full membership of the EEC.

“Only then may the anti-marketeers come round with time to recognise the error of their ways, and when that time comes, the closer Norway is to Europe the easier will be the transition to full membership.

“On the other hand, we start the negotiations in a general spirit of ‘let them stew’, I am not at all sure that, far from forcing these stubborn people to change their minds quickly, we may not rather make them dig in their toes, threaten to leave and eventually leave NATO and look for other markets for their goods in eastern Europe.

“In brief, I think that an unforthcoming attitude will retard rather than advance the date when Norwegians may change their ‘no’ to a ‘yes’.

“For such a change to come about, the lowest estimate is still two years, most people say five.”

“On the other hand, we start the negotiations in a general spirit of ‘let them stew’, I am not at all sure that, far from forcing these stubborn people to change their minds quickly, we may not rather make them dig in their toes, threaten to leave and eventually leave NATO and look for other markets for their goods in eastern Europe.

“In brief, I think that an unforthcoming attitude will retard rather than advance the date when Norwegians may change their ‘no’ to a ‘yes’.

“For such a change to come about, the lowest estimate is still two years, most people say five.”

In contrast, negotiations with the EU have been incredibly difficult throughout the Brexit process and this has continued into the 2020 trade talks.

For example, Mr Johnson has promised to take back control of UK waters for British fishermen, but European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen is of course pushing for continued access to EU fishing waters in return for market access.

Officials have claimed that fisheries negotiations must be done “within the context of the overall economic partnership, including a direct link with negotiations on trade in goods”.

EU leaders, concerned about suddenly losing access to the UK waters, which contain around six times the fish stocks as the rest of the EU put together, have decided to play hardball on this issue.

The EU27 has also been accused of being obstructionist and difficult in talks on other issues in order to put off more dissenters, but this would only make sense if they considered the UK a lost cause.

All this suggests that the EU is well aware that the UK will not consider rejoining the EU.

If there was a chance of Britain changing its mind at this point, their tact would likely be more conciliatory, as was the plan with Norway back in the Seventies.

Indeed, they are probably even more determined to get the best deal for themselves in terms of future access to the UK’s fishing waters, as well as other benefits, because they know there is no coming back.

It appears that Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage’s words have sunk in.

On his last day in the European Parliament, he said: “This is it, the final chapter, the end of the road, a 47-year experiment that the British frankly have never been happy with.

“What happens at 11pm this Friday, January 31, 2020, marks the point of no return, once we’ve left we are never coming back and the rest, frankly, is detail.

“We are going, we will be gone and that should be the summit of my own political ambitions.”

Therefore, the reason behind the “goodwill” towards Norway can be explained because the country one day gaining EEC membership was still considered an option, while Brussels does not seem to feel the same about the UK today.

Of course, Norway never did join the EEC or indeed the EU, and according to recent polling data from Sentio, Norwegians are even more determined to remain independent than before.

Only around 22 percent said they wanted to join the EU, with 67 percent saying they wanted to stay out.

In terms of this attitude towards Britain, there has been a noticeable shift since the UK actually left the EU.

Up until January 31, both British Remainers and EU politicians were still touting ideas like a second referendum – a so-called ‘People’s Vote.

Guy Verhofstadt, former European Parliament Brexit coordinator, repeatedly announced his preference for this policy, and former European Council President Donald Tusk admitted it was his “personal dream” that the UK would change its mind.

Even as late as the December 2019 election, the Liberal Democrats were still pushing their Revoke Article 50 policy, which voters rejected as undemocratic and left the party with just 11 seats.

Now, however, both EU leaders and Britons have finally accepted that the UK is leaving the EU for good.

According to a YouGov poll in February, only 27 percent of Britons believe the UK will ever rejoin the EU, with 49 percent believing it will not and 24 percent who say they do not know.

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