May’s Government ‘Wasting Brexit Leverage by Handing EU Firms Big Contracts’

Cpl Paul Morrison/MoD/Getty

Theresa May’s government is throwing away leverage in the Brexit talks by handing big money deals to European Union (EU) firms, a prominent business adviser has said.

The blunt criticism comes as an EU chief said the Prime Minister was failing to take a strong stance with the bloc, and was harder to negotiate with than U.S. president Donald J. Trump, describing her as “irrational” and “emotionally inspired” throughout the Brexit negotiations.

Robin Southwell OBE, an aerospace businessman and the former head of Airbus UK, said the Ministry of Defence was handing out huge contracts to European firms just as the EU moved to block the United Kingdom from accessing the Galileo satellite project.

Writing for The Times website, he said: “Over Easter the recently installed Defence Secretary, Gavin Williamson, signed an initial agreement worth £3 billion (and more) with a largely German-owned consortium called Boxer to supply a massive fleet of new armoured vehicles for the UK Army.

“As the government was agreeing this the EU was busily affirming the decision to block further UK participation in Galileo.

“This is a disturbing but unfortunately not unusual sequence. Why not make a lucrative contract dependent partly on the UK playing a role in Galileo? The UK has only limited bargaining power.

“Why narrow it further by signing off contracts as if in an alternative universe?”

Former Armed Forces Minister John Spellar corroborated this line of argument, saying: “The Germans and French are trying to squeeze the UK out of the aerospace industry.

“The ministry is sending a signal that this doesn’t matter. We will be the suckers who buy things from them even if they cut us out. The civil service is letting Britain down.”

Mr Southwell added: “I was a Remain supporter, but accept and embrace that Brexit is happening.

“Post-Brexit governments need to become more alert to its wider bargaining power when agreeing contracts with companies based in the EU.”

Also over the weekend, an EU ambassador anonymously told the Sun that Mrs May’s proposals for a trade deal after Brexit were “very nostalgic” and unworkable.

The senior figure added: “If this had been a rational discussion like we have with Trump on cars, what’s underneath is rational.

“With the UK from the start this has not been a rational negotiation, that’s what makes it so difficult. Rationally the chance of a cliff-edge should be zero percent.”

They added: “If there’s going to be no deal it’s not because of the EU it will be because of London, because they just can’t manage themselves to arrive at a deal.”

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