‘Grown-up’ Brexit talks urged by ex-EU commissioner

Lord Hill

The European commissioner who resigned after the referendum vote for Brexit has urged the government to be “grown-up” in negotiations with the EU.

Lord Hill, who told MPs he had gone “as a matter of principle”, said it was important to set out “shared objectives” before talks start.

He acknowledged that the UK’s influence over the EU had been “shrivelling” even before the vote to leave.

Brexit negotiations are set to begin as early as April.

Prime Minister Theresa May has promised to work for the “best possible” trade deal, although questions persist over whether the UK will remain in the European single market and customs union.

Lord Hill, formerly EU commissioner for financial services, told the Commons Foreign Affairs Committee it was vital to avoid a “dialogue of the deaf” between the UK and the other 27 EU states during the discussions.

‘Shared objectives’

The UK’s political culture, with emphasis on confrontation rather than building relationships between different parties, sometimes looked “quite odd” to other Europeans, he added.

Ahead of Brexit talks, Lord Hill said: “If you start working out what your shared objectives are, you have got a better chance of reaching a grown-up dialogue.”

Lord Hill resigned as commissioner on 25 June, the day after the result of the EU referendum – 51.9% to 48.1% in favour of Brexit – was revealed.

Having been involved with David Cameron in pushing for concessions with the EU prior to the vote taking place, he told MPs quitting had been “the right thing to do”.

The deal reached in February last year, which included some curbs on migrants’ benefits and removing the UK from a commitment to “ever-greater union”, had been “the best deal that we could have got”, he said.

On broader relations, Lord Hill said: “For a long time there’s been a different basic outlook. Over a period of time the nature of our web of relationships with other European countries has been shrivelling in recent years. I think we’ve been less engaged.”

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