Brussels is considering publishing its main negotiating positions in Brexit talks, adopting a policy of full transparency that may wrongfoot the more secretive British side.
“The unity of the 27 will be stronger when based on full transparency and public debate,” Mr. Barnier said in a comment piece for the Financial Times. “We have nothing to hide.”
Theresa May, Britain’s prime minister, has, by contrast, said it is vital to “maintain discipline” and avoid disclosures that may weaken Britain’s position. “Those who urge us to reveal more, such as the blow-by-blow details of our negotiating strategy, will not be acting in the national interest,” the prime minister said.
Brussels is notorious for leaks and senior diplomats involved in Brexit talks think a policy of secrecy is futile. Publishing papers tries to make a virtue from a weakness. “We have no choice but to be open,” said one senior EU diplomat.
Given many of their positions will reflect the principles of the union’s status quo, the EU side is less concerned about publication. “The EU has nothing to lose by sharing the texts and letting it unfold in public,” said Hosuk Lee-Makiyama, a trade diplomacy expert at the European Centre for International Political Economy.
Transparency advocates on the EU side also want to publish the EU’s separate negotiating mandate, a much longer and usually confidential set of documents providing more detailed instructions to Mr. Barnier.
During talks, the commission will also prepare scores of position papers, on everything from the calculation of Britain’s exit bill to the rights of EU citizens in London.
When the whole word knows your negotiation stance, you may as well publish it, hoping your counterpart does the same.
Unless the EU discloses the confidential documents, it will have disclosed nothing.
Mike “Mish” Shedlock