It is always difficult to determine whether the average British journalist is entirely stupid or whether they are trying to be very clever by ignoring alternative thinking. A classic case is the current one concerning Boris Johnson, a 4,000 word article about Brexit in the Telegraph and all the fuss and headlines in the media concerning: “His personal political ambitions”, “Tory divisions over Brexit” and “Boris back seat driving” over Brexit.
Now whilst I will admit to having read Machiavelli when I was quite young and understood it, to my mind the British media are totally bonkers, all I suspect is happening is a bit of nifty teamwork.
A Quick Recap
For all the fuss that the “UK isn’t properly prepared for these negotiations” put out by Brussels, the truth seems to be the opposite which is that it is the EU who hasn’t yet grasped the basic issues.
A prime example of this being the rather idiotic “Settle the Bill before we discuss trade arrangements” approach they have adopted. To any sensible person it surely must be obvious that as the EU will want to trumpet to it’s member states that “We got the British to pay this !” and the UK government will need to explain to its electorate “We have agreed to pay this to the EU”, there has to be a quid pro quo because these are fundamentally political matters.
If the EU says “You pay us this and we will give you a rapid free trade agreement in return” then it not only makes sense to all sides but also allows the UK Government to err on the generous side in terms of the financial settlement. Bang the table and claim “You must pay this !” and not only is bad will generated but the UK will examine the contents of such a bill in great detail and argue every line which will take time, time the EU doesn’t have. It is all too often overlooked in the media both here and on the Continent that whilst it would be ‘uncomfortable’ for the British to have a ‘No Deal’ come March 2019, it would be a disaster for the EU at pretty much every level.
The fundamental reality is that for the EU and due entirely to their own fault in not finding some kind of accommodation for David Cameron to bring back to the UK, the EU will lose 10 billion Euros budget contribution every year from 2019 onwards and actually, that is what they care about the most. Otherwise the UK being ‘awkward’ by default and not a eurozone member anyway is viewed as a milch cow for trade, jobs and budget contributions only and those apart will not be missed.
What the EU needs to grasp is that they are going to have to trim 10 bn euros off their budgets going forward, period. What they can do to ease this to some extent is by trying to get or keep the UK fully engaged and contributing funding towards projects of common interest such as science, technology and space projects, there will no doubt be other common areas too. It won’t radically change the amount of the budget shortfall but it will ease it to some degree.
To my mind and as I have written many times, the elephant sitting in the corner called the Euro is really their big problem and the rock on which the EU will be broken. Brexit is just a sideshow and however many billions the UK may donate such funding will make no difference to the eventual outcome for the EU but the problem is that they have not woken up to that yet.
Included in the graphic for this post is an image of Gordon Brown and you may well ask why ? Well the answer is that although I was never a fan of the man, he did one great thing for this Country, as Chancellor he constructed a series of ‘tests’ that would have to be passed before the UK could even imagine joining the Euro. Now he may have been motivated by some degree of personal animus towards Blair and some said the tests could never be met anyway but I care not a jot because the result was that Blair was prevented from dragging us into the Euro as he would most certainly have done. Imagine today the appalling mess we would be in if we were in the eurozone and wanted to leave the EU, as close to impossible as you might guess, so I raise a metaphorical glass to Gordon Brown for this mercy.
This Friday Theresa May will make a major speech about her ‘vision’ of Brexit and it has been suggested in some quarters that she might be inclined during this to make an offer that the EU couldn’t refuse along the lines of the UK continuing to make contributions for three further years providing a free trade deal and uninterrupted trade in the meantime continues whilst the details are settled. In other words “wake up and get on with it” right now and stop dithering.
Theresa May is in a rather peculiar position to the extent that to most following the recent general election, she ‘lacks authority’ and is weakened but oddly, her position is a lot stronger than it appears. Probably all members of the Cabinet now know that the negotiations are not proceeding smoothly due to the current stance of the EU and a stick of dynamite up someone’s bottom is definitely required, hence the Florence speech. However whilst making a generous offer might unblock the logjam, without time pressure to accept that offer there would be a danger that it just confuses things and makes them drag on. Therefore time pressure must be generated around the ‘personal political cost’ to Theresa May she is risking by being generous, it must come across as a time limited offer if it is to work.
At this point you pick on the person with the most personal authority in the Brexit camp and tell them to make a fuss that speaks loudly of internal divisions. It must be a great help that Boris is a seasoned journalist so 4.000 words extolling a ‘pure view of Brexit’ published in his old right wing national newspaper might just do the trick. Boris is deeply loathed by many politicians and journalists simply because he has been more successful at their jobs than they will ever be – nobody likes a smart arse so they were guaranteed to put a negative gloss on it all. No matter, the ground has been prepared as best it may so let battle commence. In other words what we might well be witnessing is a rather nifty bit of teamwork going on.
Sure I may be wrong in all this but I may well be right on the money too, we shall see first what her “offer” is, second how its received and thirdly what happens next week after the German elections on Sunday when no doubt, Merkel will be crowned Chancellor again. Once that is done perhaps we might see some realism and progress in these talks at last.