by Frank Schnittger
Fri Dec 30th, 2016 at 01:48:34 PM EST
Jon Worth is one of the few knowledgeable UK commentators on the EU who has some idea of how politics works on the other side of the channel based, as he is, in Berlin. I had the pleasure of meeting him at a blogging conference in Rotterdam some years ago and even did a short video interview with him about his political and journalistic ambitions against the backdrop of a boat trip around Rotterdam harbour:
Naturally his critical but basically pro-EU views get him into a lot of trouble with Leavers in the UK who seem to specialize in demonizing and abusing him rather than engaging with the actual factual points he makes. Recently he fisked Andrew Marr's delusional view of Brexit which drew a lot of abuse which he referenced in a follow up blog. None of his detractors seem to have the slightest idea of the political realities of the EU and fondly imagine that the UK can have more or less what it wants out of the Brexit negotiations and that the UK will be able to negotiate far more advantageous trade deals with the rest of the world than it ever could as part of the EU.
I have tried to show him a little support and add some "balance" to the debate by highlighting how the Brexit campaign is viewed from outside the UK. Even though I was as provocative as possible, no Leavers have acknowledged never mind responded to the points I made. They appear to be operating in a parallel universe. Anyway, for what it's Worth, I copy and elaborate on my comments below:
My comment on his original piece: Fisking Andrew Marr's delusional view of Brexit
Marr's piece provides one moment of illumination: It demonstrates how little the UK political and media class understand of what the EU actually does and does not do. Many of the negative trends in the EU identified by Marr have been British led, whilst all the positive opportunities he sees in leaving are already happening in other countries within the EU. The UK influence within the EU has been almost overwhelmingly negative - from pushing the Iraq war and a military driven middle east policy to over-rapid expansion of the EU into former Soviet dominated states. It is the EU which will be liberated by Brexit from the neo-conservative and neo-liberal wet dreams of UK Conservatives, not the other way around. And if Marr thinks that Brexit will lead to a progressive direction in UK politics, he has not been paying attention. Instead the UK will degenerate into a neo-fascist nationalist nightmare without regard to the global environment, human rights, worker's rights or indeed consumer rights: A low tax haven for corporate USA and austerity for everyone else; a trade war with the EU27, and an invasion by two million elderly UK expats currently living in the EU as they lose their EU health benefits. If you think the NHS has problems now, wait until those two million join the waiting lists...
And another comment on his follow up blog.
Happy new year Jon. I think you will find debating with Brexiteers is pointless. Brexit is an article of faith with them, and facts are irrelevant - hence the frequent and early resort to abuse. But I also think you are caught in an impossible position in the middle - trying to mitigate the worst problems a hard Brexit will create. You will have few friends on either side. EU supporters elsewhere in Europe have fast come to the conclusion that Brexit is good for the EU, and the harder and quicker, the better. Hence my conclusion that we will have neither a hard nor a soft Brexit, but a train crash Brexit where there will be no substantial Brexit deal of any kind. The UK will likely just crash out of the EU with a hugely damaging trade war the result. Given that c. 40% of UK exports go to the EU whilst just 4% of EU export go to the UK, this trade war will hit the UK about 10 times harder than the EU.
As an Irishman that makes me hugely worried because even if Ireland attracts a substantial volume of City financial services business, this will not make up for the huge volume (c. 14%) of our trade with the UK which could be severely curtailed as a result of Brexit. Sterling depreciation has already caused some damage, and a hard customs border will make this many times worse. It's not even the tariffs that will be the most damaging, but the customs delays and paperwork disrupting just in time supply chains and transnational manufacturing operations.
Worse still will be the smuggling across the border with N. Ireland and the likely re-ignition of the Troubles. The Good Friday agreement was predicated on a much closer relationship between the UK and Ireland, the elimination of all border controls, and a much closer integration of the economies and societies of North and South under the auspices of the EU. Arguably Brexit is a breach of that international Treaty (registered with the UN), but in any case any attempt to re-build that border could result in violence that will not be limited to the Border region.
So British Irish relations risk going back to the dark ages. The British Irish common travel area and trading and commercial links may slowly wither and die, and it is little consolation that Scotland could ultimately join us in the EU. A de-stabilised N. Ireland will see to that. And I am under no illusions that N. Ireland or the Irish economy will be a primary concern for EU leaders on their side of the negotiation - we will be swallowed up in the maelstrom of anti EU and anti-UK sentiment on both sides of the divide leading to a trade and economic war if not actually direct military engagement.
Cooperation in almost all spheres will perish as the UK comes to be viewed as a Trojan horse for US imperialism in Europe. NATO will not survive both Brexit and Trump and will (unfortunately) be replaced by a greater militarisation of the EU. The EU has been instrumental in providing 70 years of peace in Europe since WWII: No one in Europe will risk going back to the bad old days for the sake of preserving good relations with the UK and unfortunately Ireland North and South will suffer significant collateral damage. And those like you who try to stake out a middle ground will end up being shot at by both sides.
Perhaps I was being a little hyperbolic but I don't think the scenario I painted is all that far fetched. There appears to be no appreciation by Leavers in the UK that the primary purpose of the EU was to copper-fasten peace in Europe and that trade and political integration were only means to that end. UK Leavers take great comfort from the fact that the rise of Marine Le Pen, Viktor Orbán, Andrzej Duda, and other hard right Euro-sceptic nationalist movements in the EU could result in the eventual disintegration of what they consider an evil empire and they see Brexit as being in the vanguard of an almost inevitable trend. There is little consideration for what happened the last time hard right nationalist movements were in the ascendency in Europe and no appreciation of what a return to competing nationalisms could destroy.
Ireland, as I indicated in my comments above, has the most to lose from Brexit in the medium term, but even here there is relatively little debate about exiting the EU. There is simply too much to lose, not least the prospect of further lasting peace and prosperity in Ireland and the EU as a whole. That is not to say that the EU cannot or should not be reformed, but that, ironically, should be easier once the UK is no longer in the forefront pushing a neo-liberal and neoconservative agenda.
So I don't know if it is really Worth it trying to knock some sense into UK Leavers. They are leaving, and much as we would have preferred things otherwise, we now have to make the best of their leaving. That means salvaging as much of our trade with the UK as possible, targeting other export markets, and grabbing as much of the City's financial services business as possible in part compensation. This will exacerbate the already overweening economic importance of Dublin relative to the rest of the country, but that is an internal political problem we will have to try and ameliorate as much as possible.
Northern Ireland, too may end up becoming part of the EU as part of a united Ireland, as even some British voices are advocating, but we must be patient and that will take time. One Unionist commentator has recently noted the similarities between the Good Friday Agreement (aka the Belfast Agreement) and the Hong Kong handover. We have a way to go yet before that can become part of the general public discourse. But if Brexit has the devastating effects on the N. Ireland economy I expect, even Unionists may soon come around to that idea.