The Brink of Brexit

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’.

2 Comments

  • The Greek debt problem could be cured with a good haircut to those who bought Greek bonds at parity with German paper. How crazy was that? It deserves a good spanking. There is a 2% premium today on ten year paper-still not nearly enough. A good haircut would price new Greek paper at 10-15 %, more inline with its real risk. Greek paper is cheaper than Mexican paper, how crazy is that? The EU needs to address moral hazard in so many areas of its policy.

    The EU grew too fast in the last 20 years. It looked the other way in too many cases of national fudging of entry requirements that were to be met before joining the union. Greece is the poster child for that dodge. Poland going all fascist over the last three years and barely a quibble from the other EU members. That is going to come back to haunt the real democracies in a big way over the next election cycle.

    I’m no Trump fan but his insistence on the Nato members spending 2% of GNP on kit and personal per year would be a shot in the arm for both manufacturing and unemployment in the EU. It might put the Russians a little back on their heels as well. The EU has a lot of population and wealth, they should be a little better prepared to look out for themselves. The US has been the world’s policeman for a long time, there is more than enough room for two cops on the block. Spending on military kit is a big part of the US economy, with all the bad actors in our world, it should be a big part of the EUs as well .

    As you know, I’m a fan of Federalism, Europe’s Confederation in the form of the EU is just too weak to hold the gang together. What would the US Federal government say and do if Texas or California voted to go it as a sovereign nation. There is a fundamental problem with the structure of the EU. The EU is more than happy to tell Great Britain to not let the door hit them in the ass on their way out when it should be building landing craft to put the Brits right.

    On a less belligerent note, I’m still not real sure Britain will leave. A lot can happen in two years.

    • A few years ago, the Greek issue could have been sorted with a short back and sides. It needs a more military style cut now. But on the subject of military, at least the Greeks are one of the few who manage to spend the required 2% on defence.

      I’ve long been a ‘too far, too fast’ critic of the EU. Simply because the changes would be too sudden for most people to happily accept. But it’s the fudging that has been the most damaging to the structure of the project.

      Most organisations react only when a crisis bites them in the behind. But as we’ve both noted, the EU seems not to have recognised Brexit as a crisis. The future possibility of a rival bloc forming is an interesting one. It’ll gain ground if there is another Leaver. Will the spectre of being replaced entirely spark the EU into action.

      That said, the continent is better for the existence of the EU. And is why we should stay in it. A lot can happen in two years is right, but I’m not as sure as you that the UK will remain. Not least because there is no one of consequence even trying to make the argument beyond the Liberal party. Who’ll win my vote, by the by. At least until Corbyn is replaced by Labour.

      Corbyn was a closet Leaver during the referendum campaign. Now all we hear when someone argues against either Brexit or even the terms of Brexit, is that they are ‘the enemy of the people’. Kinda the reverse to what’s happening in the US. Thing is, last time I checked, I am one of ‘the people’. Should my views not be represented? And besides, why should Labour have changed from Remainers to Leavers because of the referendum? Why not represent the other 48%? When did they last ditch all their policies and support Tory policy after a General Election defeat?

      You have me curious. Say California did develop a policy to cede from the Union and declare independence. What then? War seems a bit extreme…

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