surinenglish

THE EURO ZONE

Doing things by halves

Spain is losing patience with Theresa May's endless dithering over Brexit, and quite rightly too. Newly-appointed Spanish foreign minister, Josep Borrell, a former president of the EU parliament, announced at the latest EU summit this week that his country would block any attempt by the UK to cherry pick which parts of the single market it wants to retain after Brexit.

Borrell said that Spain would join France and Germany in saying "no" if the UK proposes remaining in the single market for goods while tightening its controls over immigration. This is not an official proposal on the part of May's paralysed government, of course; indeed, the fact she seems to have no vision whatsoever for a post-Brexit Britain is the key problem with her administration. But continued membership of the goods single market, apparently, has been informally mooted by the UK in Brussels, much to the anger of the EU's key players.

Borrell - who referred to Brexit as "a pain in the ass" - expresses an understandable frustration. The UK voted for Brexit, right? The result of the referendum that happened two years ago (two years ago: can you believe it?) constituted a rejection of continued EU membership; so why should the UK be indulged by the EU as it mulls over which parts of membership it would like to retain, and which aspects to bin? Speaking from the summit in Luxembourg, Borrell said there is growing anger at the UK within top EU institutions for "all this mess...all this time wasted".

Brexit was never going to be easy. And Borrell, as a committed member of the EU elite, is no doubt personally stung by the UK's (theoretical) rejection of the bloc. But here we are, two years after the referendum, and no one knows anything about the kind of Brexit that May will pursue.

It's not just the EU that's fed up of the UK's lack of clarity and conviction over Brexit. The British business community is growing restless too. In an interview with the Sunday Times last weekend, the heads of Britain's five biggest business lobbying groups said that the effects of May's stalling are already being felt.

Airbus, the plane manufacturer that employs 14,000 people in the UK, recently revealed that uncertainty over Brexit might cause it to move abroad. British companies have also recently been blocked by EU members from applying for further contracts in the eight-billion-pound Galileo satellite programme.

Pending a long-overdue revelation by the UK of its Brexit plans, Spain is right to reject proposals by May for a half-arsed divorce with the EU. Because that's precisely what a Brexit that included continued membership of the single market would be: half arsed.