I have an inkling that Brexit might be viewed by future scholars as the largest distraction in history. Consider this story:
The European Commission has told Italy to revise its budget, an unprecedented move with regard to an EU member state.
The Commission is worried about the impact of higher spending on already high levels of debt in Italy, the eurozone’s third-biggest economy.
Italy’s governing populist parties have vowed to push ahead with campaign promises including a minimum income for the unemployed.
The country now has three weeks to submit a new, draft budget to Brussels.
The Commission said the first draft represented a “particularly serious non-compliance” with its recommendations.
Now I knew some branch of the EU could fine countries if their budget deficits exceed certain thresholds, although the Stability and Growth Pact mysteriously got abandoned when it was France and Germany, rather than Spain and Portugal, that were found in breach. What I didn’t know is that EU member states had to submit their budgets to the EC for approval, and they could be rejected if they weren’t to the Mandarins’ liking. Now Italy has joined a club with certain rules, but how many Italians were aware their own elected government can have their budgets rejected by
Germany the European Commission? Was this explicitly made clear by the politicians who signed them up, or are many only just finding out now? How many Brits were aware their governments’ budgets are subject to approval by Jean-Claude Juncker’s mob?
I once worked for a company who didn’t bother with job descriptions for many of its employees, and their employment contracts were shoddy at best. None of this mattered while things were going well and everyone was happy in their position, but as soon as circumstances changed these documents suddenly became rather important. Similarly, I don’t suppose the EC approving member states’ budgets was a problem so long as they just rubber-stamped them; now they’ve decided to reject Italy’s, the whole setup is going to get examined and I suspect it will be found wanting. I don’t know what the Italians will do, but this was their initial response:
“This is the first Italian budget that the EU doesn’t like,” wrote Deputy Prime Minister Luigi Di Maio on Facebook. “No surprise: This is the first Italian budget written in Rome and not in Brussels!”
His co-deputy PM Matteo Salvini added: “This doesn’t change anything.”
“They’re not attacking a government but a people. These are things that will anger Italians even more,” he said.
I doubt this will cause Italy to leave the EU, but it is one more enormous crack that has appeared in the whole edifice which those sitting atop the walls seem unwilling or unable to see. The EU’s censuring of Poland and Hungary is another example, as was their callous disregard for ordinary people in Greece. Britain leaving is a huge blow for the EU, but it’s not their most serious threat. That is populist governments getting elected in member states who then refuse to leave, but disobey, cause trouble, and eventually pull the whole thing down around them. If the EU Mandarins had any sense, they’d make the Brexit transition as painless as possible for both sides and get to work shoring up the foundations of what’s left. I have a feeling Brexit is just a sideshow for what’s coming.