Since before the EU Referendum in June 2016 the Remain side has sold Project Fear. The constant warnings about Brexit have ranged from medicine shortages to grounded planes. Many of these threats have come from EU sources. The EU are clearly worried that the UK might just leave without making them a large payment and without staying in their system for another 24 months (longer if we sign their wretched trap of a Withdrawal Agreement). Now they seem to be trying to shock UK public opinion into buyer’s remorse on Brexit. Their efforts are silly and counterproductive.
Today the so-called EU27 nation states get to agree another Brexit extension for the UK. This is embarrassing for Theresa May who has proven herself incapable of getting Brexit across the line. Perhaps she doesn’t believe in it. Perhaps she’s as treacherous as some commentators make out. More likely she’s out of her depth as Prime Minister in tricky times – a wooden Prime Minister in a fire. She is now destroying her party and, as Mr Foster wrote on these pages yesterday, she needs to go.
What has been interesting about EU27 deliberations on the latest extension so far has been the wide gulf in rhetoric between the EU apparatchiks and politicians of EU nation states.
Take Michel Barnier who claimed this week that he would “refuse” to talk to the UK about a trade agreement under a no deal exit “until there is an agreement for Ireland and Northern Ireland”. Yet the German ruling party’s Manfred Weber (CDU) says they will “quickly” move to get a trade agreement with the UK if no deal happens.
These differences of opinion are interesting. Barnier is the EU’s Chief Negotiator on Brexit. Weber is beholden to German industry – the real world where markets and populism (otherwise known as votes) count. Fear-monger Barnier – unelected – can put EU ideology before economic reality, whereas Weber cannot, as he’d be voted out. And the economic reality is that Germany is heading into troubled economic times and recession, especially if that country loses its Treasure Island of the UK to buy its cars and other goods.
The irony of UK Remain supporters claiming that Brexiteers put ideology (the concept of sovereignty) before economic reality (that Brexit will cause economic hardship to the UK) should not be missed here. Barnier and other unelected EU apparatchiks are ideology first and economy second. Brussels’ unrepresentative nature has been increasingly exposed by the British people and the likes of Weber. Such a disjuncture cannot perpetuate – it’s a disjuncture replicated in the Euro, which a future leaver like Italy would bring to its knees if it followed Britain’s departure. One size fits all was always going to be too simplistic for the diverse nation states of Europe.
No doubt what we are seeing here is the EU crumbling – the current EU model is already way too centralised and beyond reform. The UK by leaving causes far more damage to the democratic deficit inbuilt into the current EU structure than EU apparatchiks let on. Their desperation at seeing the UK leaving is clearer by the day – they talk less now about the wrongly-called “People’s Vote” because they know that British public opinion has hardened against remaining, as the likes of Verhofstadt, Tusk and Juncker have become increasingly disliked this side of the channel during negotiations. Most Brits just want to get the hell out and see the humiliation Theresa May has landed us with excised.
The democratic deficit evident in the House of Commons can be repaired by an election – the democratic deficit implicit in the EU model can only be repaired by starting the EU again. In time the nation states of Europe will have no choice but to recognise the democratic deficit of current arrangements and Brussels will crumble – at this point the UK’s natural free trade positions should become the norm in Europe, as a loosely bound network of free-trading and friendly nation states replaces the current, democracy-lite, quasi-Soviet model. The current waves of populism gathering strength across EU nation states cannot be held back or ignored – the European Elections in June should be an interesting watch.
A long delay to Brexit now seems inevitable. A year’s delay is not actually that bad. It should be enough time to see the back of Theresa May and have a Brexiteer installed in Number 10, during which time the necessary preparations can be made for a clean break from the failing EU. With a bit of luck the nation state will win through this evening against EU apparatchiks and no deal will be the outcome but this seems unlikely – the EU needs to crumble some more before nation states can breathe freely again.