Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
Brexit Britain sets itself up to learn the hard way
It was sadly appropriate that Denis Norden, the star of the British television show It'll be Alright on the Night, died in the same week as the EU's Salzburg summit took place. The working assumption of many in Britain has been that the Brexit negotiations will ultimately "be all right on the night". The national philosophy of muddling through will prevail once again. After all, national humiliations and catastrophes only happen to people who are unfortunate enough to live on the other side of the Channel.

Salzburg delivered a serious blow to this kind of complacency. It is becoming increasingly clear that the Brexit negotiations could indeed fail. Both the EU and the UK are now talking seriously about the threat of "no deal"- with Britain simply crashing out of the EU in March.

Jeremy Hunt, Britain's foreign secretary, has warned the EU not to misread the situation, by under-estimating Britain's strength of will. But, in reality, it is the UK government that has consistently miscalculated during the Brexit negotiations - by over-estimating the strength of its hand.

If this persists, I fear that Britain is heading towards what counsellors call a "teachable moment", otherwise known as a traumatic experience that forces people (or nations) into a fundamental reassessment.

The UK has experienced similar moments in the postwar period. The failed Suez invasion of 1956 was a mortification that underlined the fact that Britain was no longer an imperial power. Calling in the IMF in 1976 was a humiliating illustration of the UK's economic weakness. A Brexit debacle could lead to another painful moment of realisation, highlighting the practical limitations on British national sovereignty.

I have responded to the article as follows:

Excellent commentary, but also somewhat naive. In reality the EU position (no less than the British) is constantly evolving, and Brexit is an excellent opportunity to lay down some lines in the sand - to discourage any others - and to fortify what might have been some shifting sands in the past.

It's not purely about power, it's also about self-preservation, and here the EU has as much to lose as the UK. Brexit provides a wonderful opportunity to show unprecedented unity of purpose, at a time when there is much for the EU to be dis-united about. It provides a wonderful illustration of the benefits of membership, at a time when some recalcitrant members may be tempted to threaten to leave.

After the UK's experience, it will be a very long time before any member, however unhappy, will be tempted to trigger A.50. It's like shooting yourself in the foot, when your original problem was but in your big toe. Greece may still be feeling humiliated by it's treatment by the EU, but it will have nothing on the humiliation felt by the UK by the time the EU is finished with it.

Gideon must of course express some sympathy for the UK's complaints of Commission "inflexibility", but it is in reality nothing more than the rigorousness required of an institution set up by Treaty by 28 Sovereign states and which requires a consensus by 27 to proceed. Do the British really want to be held hostage to a referendum in Ireland required to change some aspect of the Single market or Customs Union to which they themselves signed up as a member?

The amateurishness of the UK government's approach defies belief and almost guaranties an catastrophic outcome. The EU simply has no one competent to negotiate with and hasn't had to depart from its opening positions. Suez mark II is a kind description.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Mon Sep 24th, 2018 at 04:54:35 PM EST

Others have rated this comment as follows:


Occasional Series