One thing I have noticed in the past few days is the number of hardcore Remain advocates, mostly media figures based in London, who appear to be firmly on the side of the EU in their negotiations with Britain over Brexit. They seem to think, perhaps as those leading the EU negotiations do, that leaking details of meetings and making absurd threats and demands will force the British people to cave in and change their minds.
It is remarkable that these people believe these tactics will not be completely counterproductive, and turn more Brits against the EU. Yes, we know the Metropolitan elite didn’t vote for Brexit, but now we are here they are hoping the process of leaving gets scuppered by any means necessary, even if that increases the possibility of Britain getting the worst of all outcomes. They remind me of the so-called anti-war crowd who were hoping for a complete disaster in Iraq and the deaths of British troops just so they could say “I told you so”. For some people, any price is worth paying to avoid being wrong.
I keep reading people swallowing hole the line that May & Co. are blitheringly incompetent and Britain is headed for disaster. Perhaps they are right, but I’d prefer it if they offered more evidence than the hyperbolic ravings of a dyed-in-the-wool Eurocrat who has clearly taken the Leave vote as a personal insult. There are reasons to be concerned over the Brexit negotiations and there were valid reasons to vote Remain. Neither of these should mean the antics of Juncker and others are cheered by anyone in Britain, but they are.
These people never saw the Leave vote coming because they lived in a privileged bubble in which the benefits of EU membership were obvious and the drawbacks non-existent. Like the Hillary supporters who deluded themselves into thinking Trump would be impeached within the first month and somehow their candidate anointed, they have never stepped back, looked around them, and understood the country they are living in. In their arrogance they think they know best and have the numbers, but neither is true.
I suspect what we’re seeing here is the creation of a new class of political bores, identical to the ones who spent their entire lives blaming the world’s ills on Thatcher and taught their infant children to do the same, only instead of Maggie it will be Brexit which is the object of their ire. One thing is for sure, they’re not going to shut up, nor are they going to change the subject, long after Brexit is done and dusted and Britain is going its own way.
(This over at The Last Ditch is worth reading, too.)
One of the main points of discussion surrounding Brexit is what happens to the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. This is the only place (with the possible exception of Gibraltar) where the UK will share a land border with the European Union, and people are worried that chaos will ensue if border controls and customs points are installed. The EU has even gone so far as to suggest the Republic of Ireland might annex Northern Ireland with the full support of Brussels, perhaps not realising that a lot of blood has been shed over this subject already.
Personally I think they’re missing the bigger picture here, or they’re pretending to. Even if there is no border between Eire and NI, there is no way to get from Ireland to the rest of the EU without going through Britain – unless by air or a lengthy boat trip: Cherbourg to Rosslare takes about 18 hours. I don’t know if things have changed since I was a kid, but the Pembroke Dock and Fishguard ferries did a brisk trade with with lorries going to and from Rosslare, and I believe Holyhead to Dublin was much the same. It would be interesting to see how much of Ireland’s trade in physical goods with the EU minus the UK passes through the British mainland; my guess it would quite a bit.
How this will work post-Brexit is anyone’s guess. These goods will either have to be shipped directly via sea or custom-cleared into Britain and then back out again at Dover. Perhaps an agreement could be made for sealed containers to pass through without clearing customs or being charged transit fees, but that would rather depend on the goodwill of the British government towards Ireland at that point, wouldn’t it? And this opens up all sorts of opportunities for smuggling and cross-border shenanigans.
The truth is, Ireland is in a really shitty position right now. For historical and nationalistic reasons they have to pretend their future lies with the EU if they have to choose one or the other, but for all practical purposes Ireland is dependent on having full access to the UK for its goods, services, and people – which they had long before the EU came along. At some point they’re going to have to admit to this and whisper in Juncker’s ear that they really, really don’t want to lose the right to live, work, and study in the UK that they had all along. Then we’ll see just how much the EU cares about them.
Further to yesterday’s post on the EU and Brexit, Damian Counsell, he of Pootergeek fame, made some good points on Twitter yesterday:
What Juncker will do with his “punish Britain” approach is impose considerable costs on businesses, citizens, and the national treasuries of EU member states. In other words, he is playing tough with other people’s money. Whereas it is tempting to say that the EU has always ridden roughshod over these concerns, precedent says this is unlikely to happen:
The EU is run by and for the national and business interests of France and Germany. The minute German industry starts to get hit with additional punitive costs imposed by swaggering EU politicians, Merkel’s phone is going to be ringing red-hot. The same goes for Macron. Like Damian, I am sure the EU negotiators will be made very aware of what the costs to European businesses will be every time they suggest taking a hardline approach in one area or another, even if this is not done publicly.
As I’ve said before, I think the EU negotiators have a far bigger headache than the British ones right now. The politicians and bureaucrats at the EU-level have always been about noise and bluster, and when pushed quickly retreat into petty obstructionism (see Greece, for example). For probably the first time in their lives they have been tasked with something which requires real negotiation and the outcome of which will seriously affect those who pay their salaries and maintain their positions, i.e. German and French business interests. It will be interesting to see if they are up to it.