‘UK’s blackmail and divide tactic will backfire’

London, Feb 20 (IANS) The UK’s attempts to “blackmail and divide” European Union (EU) countries in the run-up to Brexit negotiations will lead to a disastrous “crash-landing” out of the bloc, European politicians have told the Guardian.

The leaders added that the approach being pursued by UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s government will leave the UK without a free trade deal — with perilous consequences for the country.

Formal talks are due to open next month, but a trio of parliamentary leaders and a close ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel have said those talks risk ending in failure unless Britain changes what they say are “divide and rule” tactics.

“The benefits go to the UK only,” Tomas Prouza, the Czech Minister for EU Affairs, told the daily on Sunday.

“There is a real danger that British politics, with all its whipped up resentments of Europe, will mean British negotiators are unable to compromise, and we will head for a crash-landing.”

Elmar Brok, a German Member of the European Parliament (MEP), said the British government should not underestimate the strength of the EU’s resolve. He said colleagues had told him Britain was seeking to win over MEPs, but it would end in failure.

“They believe they can take members of Parliament out of certain nations…to win support by dividing us. If they try to negotiate while trying to interfere in our side, then we can do that too. We can make a big fuss over Scotland or Northern Ireland.”

Gianni Pittella, leader of the socialist bloc in the European Parliament, said the UK’s apparent attempt to split Europe was “certainly not the best way to kick off very complicated negotiations. This inappropriate attitude could undermine the outcome.”

He also said recent threats that Britain could become a low-tax state if it did not achieve a good deal with the EU were a form of blackmail: “I was surprised because I don’t think it is in the interests of the UK to open this phase in an aggressive way. We reject this blackmail. It is not fair, it is not elegant, it is not useful.”

The UK is slated to trigger Article 50 — formal process to exit the EU — next month.