As Brexit winds its way through a number of concentric circles of bitterness and arrogance, there is a tendency now for the British not just to think about something – anything – else, but also to ignore what’s going on in mainland Europe as well. The first of these tendencies is entirely understandable, the second rather neglectful. Both are a mistake.
It isn’t actually Britain that is “running out of time”, but the federalist version of the EU – and those running a rearguard action in the UK based on naivety, self-interest and unwarranted élitism. The hubristic EU and its Big is Good admirers are on the wrong side of history, and if you study events on the mainland that reality is moving more clearly into focus with every month.
Since becoming the EU, the Brussels omnivore has made endless errors and wasted billions of euros, but five really stand out above the rest. These are, in historical order, the Single Currency, an unaccountable Central Bank, the federalist drive, austerity to save the banks, and migration policy.
Genuine Little Englanders may not like me saying this, but Britain’s drift away from The Brussels Line is based on four of the five, not yob patriotism. We thought the Pound a better bet than one currency for sixteen wildly differing cultures, we thought ECB mending policies were incontinent, we disliked the idea of bureaucrats running a politically powered mammoth, and mass immigration from Africa seemed to us (as a nation already digesting decades of multi-ethnic inflow) to be a disaster waiting to happen.
It is the British popular Brexit movement that has been proved right in all of this – not the Franco-German club and its starry-eyed groupies in the UK. And the outcomes maturing at the moment will reshape the EU….even if we end up with some kind of Brexmain. The very fact that the EU is turning into an unholy mess, however, is the best reason to cut any and all ties that might lumber us with part of the cost of Imperial fantasies.
Angela Merkel is in deep political trouble in Germany. The reason is immigration. Her Interior Minister has said either change the policy or lose your job. The Italians are kicking up a fuss about austerity, the damage done by the euro, and the flood of immigrants from Africa. Poland and Hungary are saying no to immigrant quotas, and flatly refusing the euro. The French have been shocked by migrant behaviour in Calais, and then Paris. Even French farmers are now putting up posters saying, ‘OK then, organic crops….but French organic crops’. This is not in the spirit of “ever-closer Union”.
The entire Brussels construct is and always has been based on the congruence of French and German aims. But this too is under strain. Macron the “centrist'” banker is hellbent on radical ‘reform’ (neoliberalspeak for transferring power to capital) and has obviously learned nothing from the British Thatcher experience. He is pushing ahead with the reshaping of SNCF and Air France, and privatising three enormous companies with mega-launches onto the bourse. Frau Doktor Merkel does not approve; in private, Macron is determined that France should “catch up” with Germany. But he shares the view of many Europeans that anal German fiscal policy benefits Berlin at the expense of everyone else. The Bundesbank, by contrast, is sick of France being allowed to invest in its infrastructure at the expense of euro deficit rules.
Two days ago, the leaders put on a show of bonhommie in Berlin. The European press was not convinced.
In Spain, the EU’s Erik Honneker Mariano Rajoy is no more, and the Catalan question remains unsolved. Rajoy’s immediate cause of demise was a corruption scandal, but the long-term austerity policy dictated by Berlin was a major source of dissatisfaction. The country now has a Socialist Prime Minister in Pedro Sanchez. He favours a looser confederative model for running Spain with more power devolved to the Catalans, a new progressive fiscal policy and extension of the welfare state to all citizens. This isn’t playing well in Brussels, and expecially not in Frankfurt.
Spanish and Italian turmoil has rattled the borrowing markets. The eurozone as a whole is, once again, open to bond spikes if just one more major thing goes wrong somewhere.
The more Remainiac fanatical end of the Brexit underminers are not interested in any of this. The more passive Remaindeers would do well to be better informed about it. And those hovering between Remain or Leave should ask themselves why the vast majority of the MSM in the UK, the US and Europe keep insisting that it is London who has the weaker poker hand.
Everyone should keep an eye on what happens next. For me, the most likely outcome is that a bruised Brexit negotiating position is finally approved by Parliament. At which point, you can lay 100-1 that Brussels will dismiss it out of hand, complete with the usual insults about fantasies and ticking clocks.
It is at this point that the British should turn round and say, “Our ticking thing may well be a clock, but yours is a bomb. Take it or leave it.”