Friday, 16 September 2016
The EU is Fatally Underestimating Britain
The 27 other leaders of the EU's member states are meeting in Bratislava this weekend to try and come up with a post Brexit plan and to try not to appear like rats fighting in a sack as is their wont. Meanwhile, as is their wont, the sack (the EU Commission and Parliament and its five presidents) is pretending that all is harmonious and that all will be well if we just have more and more Europe, ignore the will of the people (not just the British people) and continue on regardless. Eventually we will all be aligned and conjoined under the benign dictatorship of the EU and all will be sweetness and light.
It's a parody but one that we will all recognise. The EU is in crisis but has responded in its usual way. Disdain for people who disagree with it and a demand for ever more powers, ever more spending, ever more projects that will eventually win over the people of Europe who are revolting. It is fair to say that the EU commissioners think we are revolting in a particular sense of that word.
The papers are reporting today that the EU hopes that if they stay tough and refuse to make any concessions to Britain that we will give up on the idea of Brexit and return to the fold. You do not have to be a reporter with sources in Whitehall and Brussels to know this. It is obvious. This is the way the EU always behaves. It treats the democratically expressed will of the people in EU elections and in referendums as something to be waved away as not in full possession of the facts. The Irish have been forced to vote again on a couple of occasions after defying the will of Brussels. The British are a little more difficult to ignore, especially as we have voted to reject, not a treaty or a constitution but our membership itself. But this remains the intent of Brussels. They do not believe in the nation state and so why should they pay any heed to the will of one such state.
But they also see that Britain, though it voted clearly for our leaving, there is dissent and much opposition. They see this as their opportunity to divide and thus continue to rule. They even see the possibility that they might use this to their advantage. They have already advanced plans for an EU army that the British have been vetoing for years. But if we were to return to the fold we would be emasculated. The EU would march on and the last opportunity to reform it and to rein in the federalist zealots would be lost forever.
Not that Bratislava will discuss any of this. They will be discussing how to react to British secession. They will want to be tough. But many will caution, entirely for selfish reasons, that being too tough will be damaging. It is all very well the EU saying that a bit of economic pain will be worth it to bring the British to heel but the EU Commission doesn't have elections next year and a rise of anti EU right wing parties to contend with. The EU has been a stalwart defender of the idiotic euro after all, but it doesn't worry about mass unemployment. The project is all.
Britain has not even begun negotiations or invoked Article 50 and yet we have been excluded from this big meeting while they talk about us. We should probably invoke Article 50 soon now, although not before an approach is agreed and a full team in place. But when we do it would be as well to start the process of extricating us from this byzantine nightmare immediately. It would show intent and that we mean business. Let's invoke Article 50 and at the same time announce that we are withdrawing with immediate effect from the Common Agricultural and Fisheries Policy. That would mean we could reduce our contribution to EU coffers with immediate effect too. The beginning of 2017 would seem an appropriate time.
If the panjandrums of Brussels really think that they can bully the British with their usual arrogance then they fundamentally misunderstand our character. We are a tolerant, easy going people, slow to anger. But we resent being pushed around and being told what to do. If a so called hard Brexit is what we have to have then so be it. It won't be so hard as many seem to think. And it might concentrate a few minds. The EU is trying and failing to negotiate free trade deals with large parts of the world. It doesn't seem so very difficult to negotiate one with a country that already has such a relationship. The difficulty is of course with the Commission and its federalist president. He should be dumped with immediate effect. David Cameron did try to warn them about the jumped up, fat, hypocritical alcoholic.
Theresa May has started making decisions now. She has got it wrong over Hinkley Point, although I understand why she has made the difficult decision she has. Saying no to Hinkley would have been unfortunate at this point when we need friends. But she needs to get tough with the EU over Brexit. It is going to happen. The people have spoken. Even in Scotland Nicola Sturgeon has overplayed her hand and is going to have to acquiesce. Britain's negotiating position is strong and strengthening. It is the EU that is divided and that is its fatal weakness. As a rat that has left the sack and is now looking on with amused disdain we are in a position of strength.