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Friday, 31 March 2017

Day One and Brexit has Gone Crazy

President Tusk of the European Council has given a first response to the letter from the British Prime Minister notifying him that the UK is to withdraw from the Union.

The circumstances in which this response was issued are exceptional: the remaining 27 EU member countries are under huge pressure [from the eurorats in Brussels and in their own establishments] to assert that they are more united than ever before, and more firmly set on the crazy concept of 'ever-closer union'. This cannot last long. The divisions between countries on the redistribution of the wealth of the continent from the north to the south will become more absurd and intractable. Those countries which held out against 'Merkel's madness' over sharp-elbowed thugs from central Asia being admitted as 'refugees' are not going to be bullied into changing their decisions. The next release of mass migrants from Turkey into Greece will be followed by bitter conflict between the declining number of states that are willing to take any refugees and the majority of countries that will refuse to take on unsustainable burdens and significant risks. So any assumption that the Union will remain a sold bloc of the 27 remaining member-states will be proven fatuous while the two years allowed for the Brexit process inexorably tick by.

It would be insane of British ministers [or interest groups] to try to pursue a 'divide and rule' policy towards any of the 27 remaining member-states while the inevitable fissures between them widen spontaneously. The UK must seriously maintain its existing policy of dealing with the Union, as such.

Meanwhile, President Tusk has shown his utter naivete in including a resolution of the Irish border [between the Irish Republic and Northern Ireland] as one of four issues to be solved before any future-oriented talks can begin. In one of the most perceptive books on British [and Irish] history that has been written, the authors [Sellers and Yeatman] point out that for 800 years the British have never been able to solve the 'Irish Question' - though many times they have genuinely tried to do so - because 'the Irish always change the question'. The present benighted condition of Northern Ireland surely precludes any sensible outcome being achieved. There is no sign that a power-sharing executive can be re-established in Belfast. There are very clear signs that the Irish Republic has no wish to absorb Norther Ireland while it is so riven [even though the north voted narrowly to remain in the EU]. The idea that any sort of patched-up agreement on the Border could be achieved in a few months shows a profundity of ignorance in the Brussels hierarchy that will bedevil the whole two year process. If the effective determination of the future of the Irish Border remains a precondition, the talks cannot succeed.

The other three preconditions are, in effect trivial. Two of them are insulting to Britain: resting on the assumption that the UK might act like some of the other EU member states, which lied about their economic health in order to be admitted to the eurozone and evaded payments that were due under various obligations. On the issue of paying what is due, the UK has always paid what it has owed: so the computation of what Britain owes to the EU, net of what is due to come back to Britain from the EU, is a simple matter of accountancy.  Then HM Government can be trusted to pay up, according to the agreed schedule. Honest accounting and auditing are not features of the usual repertoire of the European Union, but they can be achieved in a matter of months.

Similarly, in respect of the next condition, the UK is the country where modern contractual law and arbitration were developed, and the maintenance and strengthening of financial contracts between institutions and individual states is in the business DNA of the British. The satisfaction of that precondition for negotiation should be easy.

Again, millions of people, who have tens of millions of supportive friends and relations, are spread across the EU in countries other than those to which they are 'patrial' [i.e. attached by birth]. There is a massive consensual wish to regularise existing expatriates' status and to take a sensible view of the movement of people into and out of a post-Brexit Britain. I have mentioned a couple of times already that Mrs May has a hang-up about her personal 'failure' to reduce immigration when she was Home Secretary: she should take note that the economy and society would have been weaker than they are now if those immigrants who have contributed had never been here. If the Irish issue allows the negotiation of preconditions to get to the point about 'freedom of movement' of people; a sensible compromise can be reached, probably resting on the free movement of patrial Europeans who have jobs to come to or sufficient means to live in the UK without burdening the state.

EU officials have stressed that the Brexit process will be 'difficult' and have foreshadowed serious disputation. This is big talk from small people, who are enjoying the feeling of power that comes from speaking on behalf of many millions of people who have no say in [or understanding of] the coming negotiation.

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