The triggering of Article 50, the mechanism for the UK ‘s departure from the EU, is impending. If things go to plan, or at least to the Tory plan, the document will be signed, sealed and delivered to Brussels within 6 weeks. And the UK will leave the EU two years from that point.
But at least we now know what Theresa May’s official fallback policy is in the event of difficult EU negotiations. I pretty much nailed it in my pre-referendum post, Plan B, both on the likely British negotiating position and the alternative. They want their cake and to eat it and there is no Plan B. No deal is better than a bad deal. Of course, no deal is a very bad deal, but that hasn’t been mentioned yet.
But it’s really the story on the other side of the English Channel that has intrigued, and disappointed, me the most over the last nine months. The EU seems to have decided that Brexit is fundamentally a British problem. The focus has been on preserving the EU’s values and its four pillars of freedom. The blame for Brexit has been laid firmly at the door of the British.
Yet it is clear from the high ratings that far right parties are getting across Europe, including Le Pen and Wilders in France and Holland, that this is fundamentally an EU problem. Brexit has made the EU’s future poorer and weaker. Frexit and/or Nexit could put the nail in the Euro project’s coffin. Future ‘Leavers’ would almost certainly strike up free trade deals with the UK and there would then exist an attractive rival bloc to tempt other EU members to jump ship. There would be an irony to this, in that the British set up just such a bloc to help force its way into the forerunner of the EU to start with.
Instead of Brexit being a full on siren-and-lights wake up call, it has become a distraction from the very real issues that threaten the very existence of the bloc. It seems to me that finding a way to convince the UK to stay would be the number one priority for everyone, and especially the EU.
If the EU could bring the British back from the brink into a reformed EU, that in itself would probably be enough to head off problems elsewhere on the continent. There are plenty of reforms that the EU needs to make, and they are more than cosmetic. Transparent democracy being a good first step. Unelected officials mandated to found and establish the necessary institutions that are the heart of the project have served their purpose and need to be phased out and, when necessary, replaced with democratically elected representatives.
The EU needs to reduce its largesse, to focus on what it does best, where it can bring the greatest benefits and to limit its activities in areas that might be considered ‘interfering’. The EU needs to fix the persistent Greek financial debacle. The Euro should be a currency shared by countries with similar economies – it’s not too late to change that. And most of all, the EU needs to be dedicated to furthering the prosperity and security of the member states, not of the EU itself. Achieve the former and the latter will take care of itself.
Then there is the big issue. Immigration. It has to be reworked. Both intra-EU and external immigration, of all varities. It’s a hugely contentious issue, but the fact of the matter is that immigration is a problem. You may choose to disagree with this assertion, but you’d be wrong. You’re wrong because people in large numbers are saying that it is a problem at the ballot box. Whatever their reasoning, no matter how far fetched their beliefs, their votes count the same as everyone elses. And their votes make it a problem.
As certain as I am that my points are valid, I’m equally certain that the EU will not react until it is too late. Organisations at the top of the food chain don’t voluntarily choose to dissolve themselves, cede power or otherwise give away something that they’ve got. As Trump will discover when he attempts to ‘drain the swamp’.
If Brexit is a shot across the bow, a thriving post-EU Britain will be a damaging direct hit. Further losses of members will probably sink the EU altogether. And at that point, Theresa May might well find she can have her cake and eat it after all, at a brand new table, with a brand new slimline Euro project that will proudly declare that it was ‘Made In Britain’.