DAVOS, Switzerland — One of Britain’s most prominent economists,
Professor Erik Berglof, said Prime Minister Theresa May made a mistake by being too hostile in her speech before Brexit negotiations have been started between Britain and the European Union.
Berglof, director of the Institute of Global Affairs (IGA) at the London School of Economics, said May was too hostile in her approach to talks in an interview at the World Economic Forum.
May gave her speech on Tuesday, which was the first time she had given a clear Brexit plan.
“The whole [speech] was hostile and that is how it has been perceived. Perception matters,” said Berglof, who was previously the chief economist and special adviser to the President of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).
“In terms of the transition aspect [a period of time after a Brexit deal is agreed upon to implement the changes] will be part of negotiations and to start out with such a hostile approach, it could cause problems. It is also not in the EU’s or UK’s interest to have a transitional deal extended indefinitely or for a really long period as Brexiteers within the UK government wouldn’t allow it anyway.”
“I think, to be fair, [May’s speech] did deliver clarity, not in everything but in parts and now people are more in agreement of what Brexit is going to look like.”
May confirmed on Tuesday that Britain plans to leave the single market as part of its withdrawal from the EU. She also said she would terminate Britain’s membership of the free-trade area to have full control over immigration from the European Union, a “hard Brexit.”
It was the clearest plan Britain has had since it voted by a slim majority to leave the EU on June 23. Article 50 has not yet been triggered and therefore the two-year negotiation period has not started yet.
Later at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Thursday, she said in a 20-minute speech that the UK would be a “best friend and neighbour” to European allies.
The contents of her speech on Tuesday as well as Thursday have been touted as hostile or overtly demanding. Business Insider’s Adam Bienkov pointed out in his analysis of her speech on Thursday that The Times’ headline was “May to EU: give us fair deal or you’ll be crushed” and the Metro went for “Europe will be ‘in tiny little pieces’ if it punishes us.” Meanwhile the Mail warned simply that May would “make EU pay” for a bad deal.
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