Brexit’s A Mess: And Here’s What’s Coming Next; Conrad Black On Brexit
The title above comes from an article by Conrad Black posted on his blog on March 23, 2019. Mr. Black is a Canadian-born British former newspaper publisher, convicted U.S. felon, and publisher.He begins, “As a member of Their Lordships’ House, I have carefully canvassed a good many well-informed British friends about the astonishing sequence of political events in the country’s relations with the European Union (EU) to see if anything could be predicted from them. To review for those of you who have not followed it closely, the former Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron, had the insane idea of holding a referendum [June 2016] to stay, or leave, with nothing in between, having promised to produce “full-on” treaty change. What he produced,” Mr. Black writes, “was the possible variation of benefit systems for newly arrived people from elsewhere in Europe in the U.K., subject to the agreement of all the other 27 member states. I wrote at the time,” Mr. Black notes, “that Cameron brought back less from Brussels than Neville Chambrlain had from Munich.”
“The [British] public was so affronted by this frivolous referendum choice, a tiny amendment, or entirely out, that they called his bluff, despite an intense operation to terrorize the country about the dangers of Brexit (as it was universally called), led by the chancellor of the exchequer, George Osborne, and the governor of the Bank of England (BoE), Mark Carney (formerly governor of the Bank of Canada). From their accounts,” Mr. Black wrote, “grass would be growing in every street in the city of London, three months after departure. The British are the wrong electorate to try and intimidate in this way, and they voted 52 to 48 per cent, a margin of 1.3 million votes, to leave the European Union. The prime minister and the chancellor had gambled all their political capital on the EU connection, and appropriately retired from political life. The foreign secretary, Phillip Hammond, was just installed and relatively unknown. Historically, a retiring prime minister is always replaced by the chancellor, foreign secretary, or home secretary, and the home secretary, Theresea May, was reasonably well-known, and while she ostensibly been a remainer, had been conveniently ambiguous. The leader of the Conservative leaders, from London mayor Boris Johnson, sought the leadership, but it was clear the Cameron-Osborne faction would support May, and Johnson withdrew in exchange for the foreign office, as Hammond replaced Osborne.”
Mr. Black goes on to elegantly lay out how Theresea May made a “cascade of horrible mistakes,” such as “calling for an election when she already had a majority in a young Parliament,” hoping for a stronger hand, only to be weakened. “Conservative members of Parliament had opposed exiting Europe,” Mr. Black wrote, while the “majority of Conservatives in the country and the whole of the population continue to wish to withdraw.”
“When May unveiled her compromise proposal for remaining in the Common Market, paying some of the fees of membership, and accepting some of the directives from the EU, and discarding the rest, Johnson and others resigned from the government. May was able to get the deal approved by the European Union.
Mr. Black notes that “May won this vote by a severely divided margin of 200 to 117, again, a substantially greater erosion than Chamberlain suffered in 1940, bringing in Winston Churchill as head of an all-party, national unity government. But, her proposals for altered association with the European Union were twice defeated in the House of Commons by wide margins. The U.K. was committed to leave the EU on March 29, if no agreement had been reached; but, it has been altered to leave on May 22 unless an agreement is approved by the U.K. parliament next week. If there is no such parliamentary approval, the U.K. has until April 12 to decide whether to seek a longer delay and participate in the Euro-elections, or withdraw on May 22 with no deal, “crash out,” as it described.”
“Almost everyone in Britain agrees this is a pitiful and contemptible state of affairs: no majority in Parliament for any option; no apparent chance of acceptance by Parliament of the best deal May can get from Brussels, and to compound her own errors, the prime minister led a majority parliamentary vote last week opposing a simple departure with no deal,” Mr. Black wrote. POTUS Trump has repeatedly offered the U.K. a trade deal to replace the EU. This was her chief bargaining chip opposite Brussels and she threw it away,” Mr. Black observes. The United States would be a better arrangement — the U.S. is a much stronger economy, and the Americans will not concede any sovereignty to another country, nor will it demand any. Whatever Canadians may have thought of the Canada-U.S. Free Trade Agreement, the U.S. never attempted to assert any of the insolent bureaucratized dirigisme that Brussels inflicts on the EU countries.”
“This, more than the concerns of immigration, is the greatest problem the British have with the EU,” Mr. Black wrote. “The Germans are accustomed to regimentation, and don’t especially notice it, and are the strongest country in Europe anyway (though they are still too traumatized by the crimes and atrocities of the Third Reich to act like it). The French and the Italians generally ignore most regulations whenever they originate and aren’t particularly bothered by Brussels. But, the British like to be law-abiding, but they do not like overbearing regimentation, and especially not from foreigners. The EU is now suspended between control by the member states, and control by the EU apparatus, which is not answerable to the leading member countries, or to the ludicrous talking shop of the EU parliament.”
“To add more gasoline to the fire, the leader of the opposition party; and, likely prime minister if the government fails,”Mr. Black wrote, “is a Marxist anti-Semite with no aptitudes to lead the country: Jeremy Corbyn. This assures that however riven the Conservatives may be, they will, as they have, lock arms to avoid an election and any chance of Corbyn slinking into Downing Street. (Corbyn admires Maduro, Chavez, and the Castros, and virtually supported the Russians in the matter of the Russian poisoning of a retired British espionage official and his daughter in England. Those who have found Donald Trump a shock, will need defibrillation, if Corbyn becomes prime minister).” Mr. Black warns.
“The speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, rivaled only by Corbyn, and the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan as the most nauseating public personality in Britain, has told May she can’t present the same measure again in the same sitting of Parliament, but she is commendably ignoring that,” Mr. Black wrote. “I had [Mr. Black] assumed that May was, as she claimed, basically a lever, and had set it up to go without a deal and straight into the arms of the U.S., and blame the failure to reach a deal on the intransigence of Brussels, Corbyn, and some of her own MPs. It now emerges that she is a spavined pantomime horse of releave and lemain, trying to muddle through ambiguously until either Britain is forced out by the clock, or there is a second referendum that cancels the first. She seems incapable of leading — and, wants events to lead,” Mr. Black notes.
Mr. Black concludes, “I predict there will be no agreement in Parliament next week [this week], nor prior to April 12, and that crashing out will be almost completely painless and imperceptible; and, May will either take the hint that she has a confidence-problem and go, or fumble along till November and be handed a bus ticket. In either case, the new prime minister will be a compromise candidate, but a leaver, such as the former Brexit ministers Dominic Raab, and David Davis (both of whom quit because of May’s concessions to Brussels.)”
“The British will be much happier with the Americans and ourselves, than they have been with Brussels, and will negotiate trade agreements with the EU, similar to those of Norway and Switzerland,” Mr. Black predicts. “As in many things,” he ends, “the imagination of Brexit will be more torturing than reality.” Amen.
I have written numerous articles since Brexit originally passed in June 2016, that Britain’s decision to leave the EU was the right one, and inevitable. Mr. Black has written and said it much more elegantly and compelling. For a once proud nation like Britain to surrender partial sovereignty to Brussels was always going to be problematic. Bureaucracies do what bureaucracies do……they grow over time and find more and more ways of insidiously inserting themselves over time, into whatever orbit they reside. As time has progressed, Brussels has found ways to become more relevant; but, also more demanding, and intrusive into the daily lives of their member states. Yes, as Mr. Black wrote, there are citizens of member states who chose to ignore some of the more odious EU regulations and measures, British citizens tend to adhere to the rule of law and regulations — when they are officially proscribed. But, at some point, British citizens began to chafe at an outside, un-elected, and distant body — telling them what they can, and cannot do.
As Ambrose Evans-Pritchard wrote in the June 12, 2016 edition of London’s The Telegraph, “stripped of distractions [Brexit], it comes down to an elemental choice: whether to restore the full self-government of this nation, or to continue living under a higher supranational regime, ruled by a European Council that we do not elect in any meaningful sense; and, that the British people can never remove, even when it persists in error.”
“For many Britains who favor leaving,, or are leaning that way,” Mr. Evans-Pritchard wrote “it has nothing to do with payments into the EU budget,” which he calls “a trivial amount.” Rather, he argues, “we are deciding whether to be guided by a Commission with quasi-executive powers, that operate more like the priesthood of the 13th Century papacy, than a modern civil service; and, whether to submit to a European Court (ECJ), that claims sweeping supremacy, with no right of appeal.”
“It is whether you think the nation states of Europe are the only authentic fora of democracy, be it in this country, Sweden, the Netherlands, or France — where Nicholas Sarkozy has launched his presidential bid with an invocation of King Clovis, and 1,500 years of Frankish unity,” Mr. Evans-Pritchard wrote. “My Europhile Greek friend Yanis Varoufakis and I both agree on one central point,” he adds — “that today’s EU is a deformed halfway house that nobody ever wanted. His solution is a great leap forwards, towards a United States of Europe, with a genuine parliament holding an elected president to account. Though even he doubts his dream.” “There is virtue in heroic failure,” he said.
“The EU as constructed is not only corrosive, but ultimately dangerous, and that is the phase we have now reached as governing authority crumbles across Europe,” Mr. Evans-Pritchard wrote. “The Project bleeds the lifeblood of national institutions, but fails to replace them with anything lovable, or legitimate to a European level. It draws away charisma, and destroys it. This is how democracies die.”
“It is a quarter century since I (Mr. Evans-Pritchard) co-wrote the leader for this newspaper on the Maastricht summit. We warned that Europe’s elites were embarking on a reckless experiment, piling Mount Pelion upon Mount Ossa — with a vandal’s disregard for the cohesion of ancient polities.”
POTUS Obama advocated that Europe embrace a collective; at the expense of self-government and individual liberty. The EU is not a concept that we would embrace here; and, isn’t going to continue to be embraced across the pond in my view. I believe Britain will ultimately leave the EU, and the end to this ‘grand experiment,’ will begin its death dance towards the dustbin of history. If Britain fails to leave, they will very likely live to regret it. V/R, RCP