How will the word 'if' be powerful in the context of the EU and Brexit negotiations? As Philip II of Macedon found out, sometimes there are battles that brute force will not win. Battles where threats and punishment do not work against a counterpart. Philip II of Macedon had defeated numerous enemies when he sent the following warning message to ancient Sparta:
You are advised to submit without further delay, for if I bring my army into your land, I will destroy your farms, slay your people, and raze your city. (my emphasis)
With two letters, the Spartans sent a message that has gone down in history. History is full of classic examples not only of successful defiance, but of mistakes made when and where elites have underestimated their opposition and its obvious strength. Hannibal? Spartacus? The 300?
History is also full of voids. Spaces that have been created through tyranny, in response filled naturally. Once the Nazis had been driven out of Eastern Europe, the Soviets filled the inevitable gap. As also happened after war in Iraq the void was filled by Daesh. Once a political or military void is created in the EU something must inevitably fill it. We can sincerely ask, what will replace the UK in the EU? Should the EU be worried? Which country can match the UK economy, intelligence or military prowess? What new member could be enticed to join to cover the losses to the EU? A simple question. Who?
Michel Barnier and Guy Verhofstadt have displayed no concerns in this regard with unrelenting pressure on the UK government in public. It is as if neither has heard of either Iraq or Sparta. It is as if the previous mistakes made by historic figures have not had the lessons learned by their modern counterparts.
It is undeniable that the EU had 2 long years to put a credible deal on the table before the vote on 23 June 2016. If such a deal had been in place would the UK have voted by majority to leave? Until now the EU moderates have been silent. Places like Poland and Hungary have had enough though of being told like some MPs are told by party whips – what to do. The UK has become a joke to some, but a guiding light to others. The EU needs to understand that the vote was not IF we leave, but when.
The UK is being encouraged like Sparta to submit to the EU way of negotiations and presumably to quote Philip II, 'without further delay.' Yet, delays are upon us and not by our own choosing. The EU has declared publicly that it is not willing to discuss trade until the divorce bill is settled. However, we are not faced with being wiped out like Sparta. We are not at war (despite what some mainstream media infer) with the EU. We have not sent any messages with veiled threats like Philip II of Macedon. We have simply employed the right of the democratic majority to have their say on issues that affect them directly.
At the moment, history awaits both sides and their actions will be judged just as closely as the letter sent from Philip II. Although, the EU and UK cannot control how history will see them. Despite obvious propaganda mechanisms being in play, neither has that power.
It has been over a year since the UK voted to leave the European Union. The vote to leave is a recorded fact that some critics wish to reject/ignore. Had voters known X, Y or Z then they would have voted to stay they argue? Others have said IF there is another vote the count would be different. Yet, Article 50 (as set by the EU) has been triggered. There simply is no IF about it.