Britain and Europe


Britain is set to leave the European Union, and the writer is torn between the desire to provide a detached analysis or to communicate a sentiment. The latter combines an irritation with an attitude that dates back to childhood. It amounts to a dichotomy between knowledge and feeling. That either clouds judgment or deepens the understanding of a case. Acknowledging the prejudice is a dictate of honesty.

When a child, the fight to watch was between Europe united by Hitler facing Great Britain. Warned by the adults not to reveal anything they say about Churchill to anyone, I remember an older boy saying that “soon we will defeat Great Britain, too”. It felt uncomfortable to have to keep to myself that “we” want the opposite of that. Later, when the bombers flew over us to German targets, it was odd that we have a secret being for “them” and therefore against “us”. Grandmother’s concern was that no harm should come to the flyers, and that if a boy gets shot down, we will hide him, still resonates in my ears. Actually, passing over us coming from Italy, they were Americans -which did not dissuade her from calling the crews “Tommys”.

Anglophile instincts were reinforced on the way to adulthood. Subsequent studies of international relations and history in the US made me appreciate the wholesome effects of Britain’s “Balance of Power” policy and the system pioneered there.
The Anglophile bias plays into the drama that is unfolding around the consummation of Brexit. The case demonstrates some of the unsavory attributes of the European Union (EU) and the confusion caused by the left’s ability to market the pursuit of the national interest as a telltale sign of evil.

However, personally most disturbing is a resentment. It is fed by the mistreatment of the British that is facilitated by their inability to respond determinedly. Britain has saved more than only Europe by standing erect when the continent fell under the control of a Nazi-Communist alliance. The “sound” argument then was to accept the inevitable and to settle for the best deal offered. Ominously, that is the gist of the advice the UK gets about managing its nexus to the EU.

The difference between now and then is that, we have low-voltage Chamberlains, but there is no Churchill in sight. The absence of the kind of leaders that had steered the country when defeat appeared probable, reflects the spirit of our time. Left-culture says, that if the Tipperary is far, then it is best to stop for a BBQ. To many, democracy is separated from independence and it seems to be a state in which one gets without giving. There is a cow that can be milked but need not be fed. Success is guaranteed and achieving it is to be easy. “Blood, sweat, and tears” does not rally the firm, but threatens with election defeat. “Paying any price…” is out of fashion in a culture that considers red lines to be the sign of fanaticism, where everything is negotiable, and statesmanship means to seek surrender under good terms.

Now, to the case of Britain vs the EU. Brussels bets that GB lacks the gumption to bite the bullet. When Cameron asked for the EU reforms that most Europeans desire, he was denied success. The dare had been to bring on the temerity to choose Brexit in a vote provoked by Brussels. Refused capitulation surprised the globalist class in England and the “Eurocrats”. At the same time, the vote pleased those that sense that the only way to reform the EU is to threaten to abolish it.

Once the unexpected “yes” to the Brexit became a fact, the centralizing bureaucracy fired back. A hardline course had diverse causes. The discontent expressed by Brexit grows within the member states. Governments are taken over by “Eurosceptics” that are for the EU but not for the EU they have. (Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Italy, Austria.) Although surrounded, the smart Swiss resist membership. Lastly, England’s political class was split with the insiders determined to save their political life by sabotaging the decision to leave the EU.

For the Eurocrats, the agenda was easy to formulate and difficult to implement. Several “lessons” need to be driven home. Through the Brits it has to be shown that bailing out means ruin. The Swiss are to be an example that refusing to sign up brings disaster. Finally, the Hungarians are cast to demonstrate that uppity members can be coerced. Wrongly, all three were expected to come to heel promptly.

Keep in mind that, on paper, joining the EU does not involve the surrender of sovereignty and that “leaving” is a right unimpaired by membership. As for the Swiss, no avowed goal states that the merger of all nations is an end of the alliance that is to be the free association of independent nations. Finally, members, even if looked-down-upon central Europeans, retain their sovereignty as formally expressed by the EU’s governing organs. One might ask, with these guarantees to preserve the integrity of member states, how come that the brew is fermenting? It has to do with the unadmitted resolve to create a chimeric superstate.

Let us assess the evolvement of England’s case. The Brexit vote came about in response to a dare. Before the vote, Cameron got no concessions and so he lost. Thereafter the question was, whether Britain will actually implement Brexit. Brussels is still betting that in the decisive moment Great Britain will be small enough to go on its knees. This expectation is not devoid of chances. As Barnier put it, everything is done to make the costs of Brexit so high that Britain drops the project.

Segments of England’s political class, not unlike their ilk abroad, feels closer to its fellows overseas than to its common people at home. For that reason, also because they do not wish to go it alone, they oppose Brexit. Having domestic power and being in charge of the “negotiations” they wish for the project to fail. That can take the form of cancelling the move or by bringing about a “Brexit light” that entails formal independence and maintains de facto membership. Those desiring to save England by preventing her “isolation” might create conditions that could, in a new referendum, nullify the decision to leave the EU. Ignoring that some do well without the EU, the public is bombarded by predictions of stone-age conditions to follow leaving. Threats from Brussels abound and include vexatious border controls. Understandably, some fear that this might be worse than the Luftwaffe.

A strange but well-choreographed farcical ritual accompanies the approaching -and shelved- deadlines. One component is that Brussels lets it be known that GB can choose between a “hard Brexit” -more-or less what the English have voted for- or a negotiated deal with non-negotiable terms scripted by the EU. This gives “negotiation” a new meaning and revives the old term: “inequal treaty.” The gist is that to participate in the common market, England must accept all EU rules and pay dues into its treasury. Although unable to partake in the decision-making process, the treaty obligates the applicant to implement all future rulings made by Brussels. This essential loss of sovereignty is also contained in the arrangement “offered” to the non-member Swiss. (A referendum will decide whether to submit which is what the political class urges the population to do.)
According to the current casting, Ms May undertakes Canossa trips. Humiliatingly, the pilgrimage is to petition for a better deal and to get a postponement of the final act of separation. Before the PM’s trip, the EU announces that the terms offered are good and that, anyhow, the offer is firm and final. No change can or will be made. In a normal process of negotiation between equal partners, such a statement -an ultimatum- would trigger the dropping the visit. This not being the case, May calls, kotows, and finds out that no leniency is forthcoming.

As this is written, the deadline for compliance is extended, fittingly, until Halloween. By then Britain will have to decide which alternative she chooses. No one talks about it, but the merciful delay of the execution -for lacking string? – includes a game-changer. Late in May elections will renew the EU’s organs. Generally, the success of reform-minded critics against hardliner centralizers is expected. That might translate in a new deal for London by a majority that respects the “Leavers”.

England has alternatives. One is to retract Brexit and so to ignore a popular vote. This is the favorite outcome of the centralizers that work for an imperial state. The advantage is that nothing new has to be faced and that within the EU, the critics are bolstered by the British, while the ruling top-down governors will stiffen their line.

Second, GB leaves but submits to the terms under which it can remain in the common market. This involves costs of billions to be redistributed without London’s say. As the EU changes its rules in the future, the British will automatically have to implement them. This implies reduced sovereignty traded for non-discriminatory economic participation under terms that only one party can change. For that reason, it could be argued that this solution is actually economic membership without a political say. In that light, “remain” appears to be the more advantageous than is formal independence with a de facto loss of control.

Lastly, there remains the “no-deal Brexit” that restores economic and political sovereignty. The price is that EU Europe, within its protective tariff barriers, must be economically accessed from the outside. Financial costs and gains are difficult to assess. In the UK there will be winners and losers. Some actions, such as travel will be more bothersome. Beyond the lost benefits of insider status, the UK will be freed of the risks in case the EU drives itself against the wall politically and if the balloon of the EU’s economics, inflated by dubious practices, should puncture.

For Britain, crashing out brings no free lunches. On the other hand, she gains freedom to maneuver and avoids restrains that come with membership in an entity which demands more than it is prepared to give. The case for leaving without a deal is supported if we take into account the temper of the negotiations between London and Brussels. If Britain stays, the stay will express a defeat with consequences for her further treatment. Hardly will the firmed Paris-Berlin axis put a brake on that. Just consider the prevailing practices of the EU and the quality of her leadership; you must conclude that submission not to rock the boat might be the most perilous course for the country to pursue.

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