Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Britain the “laughing stock of Europe”


Der Bund, a German-language newspaper published in Berne, has called Britain the “laughing stock of Europe” in a trenchant editorial.

British society is now more divided than at any time since the English civil war in the 17th century, a fact that was demonstrated anew in the general election, in which a good 80% of the votes were cast for the two largest parties. Neither of these parties was offering a centrist programme: the election was a choice between the hard right and the hard left. The political centre has been abandoned, and that is never a good sign. In a country like Great Britain, that for so long had a reputation for pragmatism and rationality, it is grounds for real concern. The situation is getting decidedly out of hand.
After the loss of its empire, the United Kingdom sought a new place in the world. It finally found it, as a strong, awkward and influential part of a larger union: the EU. Now it has given up this place quite needlessly. The consequence, as is now becoming clear, is a veritable identity crisis from which it will take the country a very long time to recover.

The article shows once more how little anyone ever understands a foreign country. It shows how little Continentals understand Anglo-Saxons. Though the Swiss who have avoided joining the EU, value their neutrality and are the most democratic country in Europe because of their frequent referendums, something other countries should copy, should understand our position.

There was nothing hard right about Mrs. May or her programme. Nothing much that was even centre-right. She was deliberately trying to move the Conservatives further to the centre left to hoover up working class Labour votes (how long a time twelve days is).

What for me is deeply dismaying is how Europeans find British tabloids and lively political knockabout shocking. Another example is the horror Nigel Farage provokes when he makes rumbustious speeches in the deathly European Parliament. The Swiss editorial finds the British two party system shocking. They think should have four polite, consensual parties that love the EU, fear climate change, welcome immigrants and dislike Donald Trump, like continental countries do. They think that would be more democratic.

This Swiss full frontal attack on Brexit is an ill-informed failure. Michael Deacon, whom I don't usually find especially funny, shows how to do it. He knows about laughing stocks and treats David Davis as one with worrying ease, in today's Daily Telegraph.

The journey towards Brexit has barely begun, but for David Davis the experience has already been rich with learning. In May last year, Mr Davis told the public that, after voting Leave, Britain’s first port of call should be “not Brussels, but Berlin”, in order to strike a trade deal with Germany.
“A UK-German deal,” he trumpeted, “would include free access for their cars and goods, in exchange for a deal on everything else. Similar deals would be reached with other key EU nations.”  

The first calling point of the UK's negotiator immediately after  will not be Brussels, it will be Berlin, to strike a deal

After Mr Davis promised this, it was quietly explained to him that in fact it is not possible to strike a trade deal with Germany, or with any other individual EU nation. This is because the EU only ever strikes deals as a single bloc. That is, indeed, rather the point of the EU. And in any case, if nations inside the EU were permitted to negotiate their own trade deals with nations outside the EU, Mr Davis’s fellow Brexiteers wouldn’t have spent their entire campaign arguing that we needed to leave the EU in order to negotiate them.

1 comment:

  1. Continentals have never really believed in democracy. They have no democratic traditions. They feel much more comfortable with bureaucratic dictatorships. To most continentals the undemocratic nature of the EU is a feature not a bug.