Thanks, Brits – Brexit has vaccinated Europe against populism – The Guardian
Watching Brexit unfold is such a pleasure. One year on from the referendum of 23 June 2016, it is now clear that what we predicted is coming true: leaving the European Union is exceptionally difficult (assuming it is even possible), carries an undeniable cost, and plays havoc with the politics of the country attempting it – as the fiasco of Britain’s snap election, on 8 June, amply demonstrates.
That’s why I was in favour of a victory for leave: it would mean all the Europhobes and Eurosceptics of the union would see their dreams shatter on the brick wall of reality. So I would like to express my profound gratitude to the British people, who have once more demonstrated a spirit of sacrifice that is greatly to their credit. Thanks to them, the people of Europe will be vaccinated against populist adventurism for some time to come.
May needs to listen to other parties on Brexit, says Cameron
In fact, the victory for Brexit (and for its little brother, Donald Trump) has already had an extremely positive impact on the old continent, which is now finally insulated by a particularly thick fog from a UK high as a kite on nationalism: populist parties have been dealt heavy blows in Austria, the Netherlands, France and Italy, where the Five Star Movement has just been routed in municipal elections.
As for my own country, until recently the target of much mocking laughter across the Channel, it’s plain the presidential election of 9 May that sent Emmanuel Macron, the most pro-European of all the candidates, into the Elysée on 66% of the vote was a clear rejection of the “Frexit” proposed by the Front National (the victory of which, incidentally, the most ardent Brexiteers had called for).
The French may not fully support everything the EU does, and that’s perfectly normal, but they steered clear of what the Germans might call the Sonderweg – going it alone. And some FN officials have already got the message: since French voters do not want to abandon the euro or leave the EU, they now want to drop that part of the far-right party’s programme, at the risk of its possible disintegration.
Undeniably, Brexit has acted as a deterrent, accomplishing the not insignificant feat of uniting the Europeans as never before. Because for the past year, the British political class – both those who campaigned for leave and those, like Theresa May, who initially backed remain but then gave up the fight against a decision that plainly threatens British interests – have revealed their complete recklessness.
It is now obvious that there was not a plan A, or a plan B, or a plan C
It is now obvious that there was not a plan A, or a plan B, or a plan C, as the government’s incapacity to begin negotiations with a clear strategy demonstrates. The 27 member states, in a hurry to get the whole thing over with, still have not the slightest clue what London wants or how exactly it intends to sever the UK’s extremely complex, 44 year-old legal ties with the EU.
After the rebuff of May’s government and of Ukip during in the election, some Conservatives are now even touting a “soft” Brexit as a way of respecting the wishes of voters who, by not giving their party a clear majority, seem to have rejected the “hard” Brexit that May was proposing – at a time when Britain’s American ally has become completely unpredictable and the world has not looked so unstable since the 1930s.
So what exactly is the difference between “hard” and “soft”? If I’ve got it right (and I speak carefully, given the intellectual morass Britain seems to have got itself into), it boils down to staying in the customs union or even the single market so as not to harm foreign trade and British business. At worst, that’s the Turkey option (the customs union), and at best the Norway (European Economic Area) or Switzerland (bilateral agreements) option.
London’s MPs have the power to change the course of Brexit | Simon Jenkins
But the Turkey option means allowing the EU to conclude free-trade agreements in Britain’s name, and the EEA option means accepting all the rules of the single market, including free movement of people, the jurisdiction of the European court of justice, and even a contribution to the EU budget equivalent to what the UK pays today. And all of that, of course, without having the least say in the texts negotiated and agreed in Brussels …
Here we near the sublime: Brexit could amount simply to Britain losing its influence in Brussels, giving up its voice – basically, surrendering its sovereignty without benefiting from any shared sovereignty to limit the coming economic disaster. That’s what’s called political and diplomatic suicide, especially when you remember the unique position the UK had managed to carve itself out in the EU and its influence in Brussels.
Now we can really see why the citizens of the old continent are not too keen on following Britain’s example. And we can understand, too, why all of Europe is quietly sniggering at the sorry spectacle of the worn-out old British lion: this week, Emmanuel Macron even allowed himself the luxury of reminding Theresa May, during her visit to Paris, that “the door will stay open, as long as the negotiations are not over”.
But if it does decide to stay, Britain will never recover the position it once had. Ridicule, after all, always has a price. Might it not be better to consider paying it, rather than commit such an extraordinary act of national self-harm?