"Do you expect me to talk?" "No, Mr.Bond. I expect you to die" (1)
In a book published in June of this year (Swift, 2018a) and a blog the following month, (Swift 2018b), I predicted that reaching a mutually-beneficial accord with the EU would be very difficult, if not impossible, as they have no desire to come to any form of agreement with us, having consistently opposed our leaving. This attitude was illustrated when Michel Barnier (the EU's Chief Negotiator) apparently told a US news channel in June 2018 that, "What is sometimes hard for the British to understand is that we don't want to negotiate, we don't want to compromise…" (Rayner, 2018: 4).
As Wirtz (2017) pointed out, Barnier is unashamedly anti-British, and should have been the last person to lead negotiations if an amicable outcome were desired, since he has an undisguised tendency "…to deliberately provoke the British…" What was needed on the EU side was a "…distinguished diplomat, a careful communicator in the media, and a connoisseur of the intricacy of the relationship between the British Isles and the continent…unfortunately, who we got is French politician Michel Barnier." He began by demanding that the "…negotiating talks were to be held in French, even though there are no official languages in the talks as all documents and speeches are translated regardless. In a similar fashion Jean-Claude Juncker claimed that he prefers to express in French, as 'English is slowly losing importance in Europe'." In this respect, Juncker in particular has obviously no idea that most of the world, including Europe, does business in English, not French!
Despite the arrogant and hostile attitude to the UK from people such as Barnier, the EU has eventually had to accept the reality of Brexit, along with certain other political realities: such as the fact that if we were allowed to leave without becoming politically and economically emasculated as a punishment, our actions could become the catalyst for the disintegration of the whole EU. The self-serving, corrupt monolith, would eventually collapse and with it hundreds of very well-paid (but ultimately insignificant) jobs, many of which attract expenses that the rest of us can only dream of.
The power base of the Euro-elites would be no more, and their ideal of an imposed United States of Europe, underpinned by a socialist utopia, would be permanently shattered. This prediction is based on the growing wave of anti-EU feeling that began to sweep Europe some five years ago, and is manifest in the growth of nationalist anti-EU parties in France, Germany, Italy, and Greece – to name but a few.
It is this realisation of the threat that Brexit poses to the wider acceptance of the EU which finally stirred the Brussels hierarchy into action. Prior to Brexit, they arrogantly assumed that they could simply carry on as usual, having little or no incentive to reform - uncomfortable issues/problems generally having been dealt with by money, being side-lined or overtaken by events. It is likely that the UK referendum came as a bolt out of the blue, and the EU hierarchy is having great difficulty coming to terms with it.
As the editorial in The Daily Telegraph pointed out:
"The EU cannot learn from its mistakes…treating EU citizens with contempt drives them into the arms of Eurosceptics. Instead, the elites have reacted to the British revolt with a mix of stubbornness and masochism. Stubbornness in their refusal to give ground in the Brexit negotiations. Masochism because these displays of arrogance will ultimately hurt the EU itself" (Editorial, 2018:21)
In their work on disaster management and treatment, Omer and Alon (1994:1) developed what they called The Continuity Principle, which "…stipulates that through all stages of disaster, management and treatment should aim at preserving and restoring functional, historical, and interpersonal continuities at the individual, family, organization and community levels."
The basic message is that, following a disaster, communities should seek to revert to the pre-disaster status quo as the best way of coming to terms with changes in the environment and/or society. Following the UK's departure in March 2019, rather than analyse the reasons for our withdrawal, and put into place reforms that might obviate the need for other countries to do the same in future, it is likely that the EU will simply step up the rate at which its long-term aims are progressing. It will move ever–faster along the path to a Federal Europe whilst at the same time, widen (more member states) and deepen (more regulations and centralised control) the current EU structure.
This being the case, it must be obvious to even the most die-hard 'remainer' that we left just in time since it is highly likely that post Brexit legislation introduced by the EU Commission will be designed to prevent any future referenda on membership. This being the case, nothing would have been learned and no changes made.To leave will be seen in future as the only sensible choice we could have made.
Indeed, Lord David Owen (ex- Minister for Europe and ex-Foreign Secretary in the Labour government of James Callaghan) has stated that the 'risks of remaining in the EU were much greater than the risks of leaving' (Pearson, 2016: 27). Sir Christopher Chope (a member of the UK's Brexit negotiating team) met Michel Barnier and Guy Verhofstadt in November 2017. Chope later wrote that, "Having heard what they had to say, I'm afraid I've come to the conclusion that the only Brexit deal being offered us from Brussels would be far worse for the UK than leaving without a deal in March 2019" (Chope, 2017)
Following the announcement of the decision to hold a referendum, the EU elites have gone through the classic stages of the psychological response to disaster, as 'disaster' is how they view Brexit. The process of acceptance and adaptation to the consequences of a disaster is characterised by various stages, and there is broad consensus on these key stages and the reactions of those involved at each stage.Considerable correspondence exists between accepting and adapting to disaster and the EU elites' reactions during the Brexit process. Of particular interest for those involved in dealing with the EU is that a key response to a disaster is to return as quickly as possible to the status quo as this provides security in a world of change.
The three basic disaster response stages are: Pre-event, the Event and Post-event.
This is characterized by heightened levels of tension and worry as to the possible/probable outcomes of the potential disaster. Burkle (1996: 120) suggested that the anxiety that accompanies this stage manifests itself through denial and disbelief that the feared outcome could ever become reality, and is generally accompanied by warnings.
An example of this was to be found in the speech made by President of the EU Council, Donald Tusk, to mark the 40th anniversary of the formation of the European People's Party, and delivered just under a month before the UK referendum, in May 2016. In this, he acknowledged that:
'Obsessed with the idea of instant and total integration, we failed to notice that ordinary people, the citizens of Europe do not share our Euro-enthusiasm. Disillusioned with the great visions of the future, they demand that we cope with the present reality better than we have been doing until now. Today, Euroscepticism, or even Euro-pessimism have become an alternative to those illusions. And, increasingly louder, are those who question the very principle of a united Europe. The spectre of a break-up is haunting Europe and the vision of a federation does not seem to me like the best answer to it.' (Tusk, 2016).
Another measure commonly introduced at this stage is some form of protective action – a 'safety net' in case of unanticipated developments. The most important measure taken by Brussels was to try to prevent the UK referendum and, if that were impossible, the UK electorate would have to vote to remain. Many EUrocrats were fearful that even holding a referendum would open the floodgates to similar referenda in other member states.
It was said that, in February 2016, Tusk was 'really afraid' that the UK's referendum might be regarded as "…a very attractive model for some politicians in Europe…" (Milne and Spiegel, 2016:11) and Michel Barnier (the man who admitted that he did not want to arrive at a deal with the UK) suggested that the UK would be less stable after Brexit (Crisp, et al., 2017:1). Seemingly, Barnier had the best interests of the UK at heart before the referendum, even though, subsequently, he became a duplicitous and mendacious aggressor.
It is likely that EU Commissioners (the real power in Brussels) were so detached from reality that they refused to believe that 'remain' (led by David Cameron) would lose, predicting a favourable outcome with self-assured smugness. However, just to be on the safe side, they instigated a major campaign (widely referred to as 'Project Fear' in the UK Press) designed to reinforce the message that to remain was the only sensible option.
Thus, the possible consequences of a 'leave' vote were under consideration well before the event. Subsequent pronouncements from Brussels suggested that the only course of action was to persuade people to vote 'remain.' An anti-Brexit vote would effectively kick the issue into the long grass for a generation, during which time EU legislation would have been developed to tie the hands of nation states further, depriving them of any freedom to call a referendum on membership in future.
This was orchestrated in two parts: the 'domestic' arm was led by politicians such as George Osborne and David Cameron, business leaders such as the CEOs of BMW (Johnston 2016), and Easyjet (Oltermann, 2016) as well as representatives from the financial sectorlike the Governor of the Bank of England (Fraser, 2016). Externally, Brussels sought to apply further pressure via 'helpful' pronouncements by European politicians and leaders, and by enlisting the backing of EU-friendly organisations such as the IMF (Swinford and Chan, 2016:8).
Despite the high-pressure campaign of lies and disinformation peddled by high-profile 'remainers', in addition to heavy financial backing, the 'remain' campaign lost, and for the first time in some forty years, the EU elites were forced to confront a major crisis; one that had the potential to bring down the whole Euro project.
A disaster usually leads to physical and psychological stress displayed by up to 75% of those directly affected, many of whom may be temporarily stunned and bewildered. An editorial in The Daily Telegraph (Editorial, 2016:19) noted that the initial reaction in Brussels was one of disbelief and that the EUocracy was 'in denial' about what had happened. This is a typical reaction, and the key lesson is that the UK should have immediately triggered article 50 while the opponents of Brexit remained shocked, demoralised and disunited. Instead, we had to wait until the government elected a new leader, a delay that gave much-needed breathing space to the EU and the 'remoaners' in the UK. With the benefit of hindsight, it is obvious that placing a 'remainer' at the head of a government that had to implement a 'leave' agenda could never work. Indeed, rather than triggering Article 50 on taking office, May appeared stunned and bewildered herself, and it took some nine months for her to get around to formally telling Brussels that we were leaving.
A cynical observer could say this had been done deliberately, in the hope of slowing, or even halting, the Brexit process. After all, her first major pronouncement on Brexit after assuming the premiership, was to say 'Brexit means Brexit' – a meaningless statement, that said nothing about her future direction of travel.
This is where we are now.At this stage, there is growing anger and resentment against those who are perceived to have caused the problem, and a search for someone to blame. There were many news reports throughout the EU giving people's reaction to the UK Leave vote.The Irish Times called it "…a collective English mental breakdown…" (Boyle, 2018) - presumably unaware that of the four constituents kingdoms of the UK, it was not just England that voted to leave. In Wales, the percentage voting for Brexit was 52.5 (BBC News, 2016). The reaction in France was generally that the vote was a 'disaster' (Heisbourg, 2016.) Similarly, the Germans regarded it as a 'catastrophe', but felt that they would cope (Hertner, 2016).
The other typical reaction at this stage is what might be termed 'lashing-out' when the 'victims' try to rationalise the events that have unfolded and to apportion blame to the main actors involved, excluding themselves from any blame. In the interview referred to at the start of this article, Barnier tried to lay the blame squarely on British shoulders: "… it is the decision of the British to leave the union that has created the problem. No one else. Nothing else…" (Rayner, 2018: 4). This shows the parallel world in which EUrocrats live. They will excuse anyone and anything but the British for the referendum 'disaster'.
Barnier seems unaware of the growing opposition to the EU throughout Europe, nor does he understand (or perhaps even care) that unchecked immigration (forced on us by Brussels) played a major part in our decision to leave. In addition to immigration, there is the threat to the supremacy of our national legal system, the imposition of fishing quotas, the formation of a European Army designed to replace NATO and decrease US influence and the insistence that all states adopt the Euro by 2025. Significantly, he does not consider that the continued transference of national sovereignty to the grand project of the United States of Europe played any part in our decision to go!
These are the sort of blinkered attitudes that have made any sort of negotiations redundant, especially when they are expressed by the Chief Negotiator! Could it be that he was chosen specifically by Jean-Claude Juncker precisely because he has such an abrasive, and obviously hostile attitude towards the UK? His comments suggest there is an orchestrated campaign amongst EU influencers to blame the UK for Brexit, as the same message was sent by Emanuel Macron, the French President, at the EU Salzburg summit in September 2018:
"Brexit is the choice of the British people and it is a choice pushed by certain people who predicted easy solutions….those who said you can easily do without Europe, and that it will all go very well, that it is easy and there will be lots of money, are liars" (McCann et. al., 2018:1).
As part of the 'recriminations' stage, the EU is still trying to fight a rearguard action, having instituted 'Project Fear' (part 2). The aim is to re-introduce the scare-mongering tactics we saw two years ago, with the objective of defeating proposals put forward by the UK government (the 'Chequers Agreement') and forcing a political crisis that would ultimately lead to the downfall of the current government. Once this has happened, and with presumably a Labour government in power, Brussels could easily pressure Jeremy Corbyn to take Brexit no further, to halt and/or reverse the process of leaving the EU, and may be even call another referendum – which would, hopefully for Brussels, result in the 'right' outcome, aided by 'remoaners' from all parties and professions.
Significantly, however, for UK democracy, there are a number of political 'Fifth Columnists', such as Tony Blair and John Major who would have strongly opposed undemocratic challenges to their authority when they were in government. Bill Cash (MP for Stone) pointed out that this sidelining of a democratic decision is alien to the principles on which UK democracy is based: "They are completely defying the British people who made a decision which was given to them by Parliament itself." (Kerr, 2018)
This brings us to the current 'negotiations.'We cannot gain anything of value for our future relations with the EU since Brussels is determined to give away nothing. The only reason we are locked into this meaningless charade is due to the stipulation in Article 50 that, following a declaration of intent to leave, there has to be a two year period during which the terms and conditions of departure are agreed:
"…the Union [EU] shall negotiate and conclude an agreement with that State [in this case the UK], setting out the arrangements for the withdrawal, taking account of the framework for its future relationship with the Union…" (2)
However, there is no stipulation that negotiations should be taken seriously. Brussels knows that the UK is under pressure to leave with some form of trade deal and that the government of the UK will be held accountable to Parliament and the electorate should favourable terms not be secured. In contrast, the Brussels negotiating team led by Barnier is under no such pressures, as they are not politicians elected by the people, but Civil Servants appointed to their positions on the whim of the Brussels hierarchy. This means that they answer only to the EU Commission (i.e. Jean-Claude Juncker), and can ignore any pressures from EU businesses wishing to reach a speedy deal with the UK. While EU and UK businesses both want a deal that allows tariff-free access to each other's markets, the EU Commission does not.The EU Commission wishes to punish the UK and make an example of us to discourage others from adopting a similar course of action.
Thus, while one side (the UK) is serious about negotiations, the other (the EU) is not. Neither now, nor at any time before, has the EU had the slightest intention of letting us leave – other than under such circumstances that would see us financially, politically, and socially crippled; an effective deterrent to other Eurosceptic parties within the various EU member states – in particular in Germany and France.
Following the referendum result, German Chancellor Angela Merkel sought to diffuse what could have become a highly-explosive situation by acknowledging that many EU citizens have doubts about greater European integration – this being a major plank of the Brexit argument. She said that, "…we must ensure that the citizens feel that the EU can improve their lives. The EU is strong enough to find the right responses to today's problems." (Hertner, 2016) Unfortunately, she subsequently authorised the entry of thousands of 'refugees' into Germany, and in the process actually strengthened the attraction of nationalist opposition parties such as the AFD.
Ironically, the endgame is remarkably simple: do nothing. As the days tick away to 29th March 2019, it is the EU, not the UK, that will become increasingly worried by any lack of agreement. Despite the doom-laden scenarios postulated by the remainers, fifth columnists and their fellow-travellers, we can afford to leave the EU without a deal. In fact, we should be actively seeking to do so and not regarding 'no deal' as an admission of failure.
At a strategic level, it would give us the space needed to develop the UK as an internationally-focussed global trading nation, ready and capable of developing relations with any country in the world. At a more immediate level, 'no deal' would obviate the need to pay Brussels their outrageous reparations of around 60 million Euros – money which could be used to fund the NHS, education, armed forces and the farming and fishing sectors as well as overseas market research for UK exporters.
In the end, negotiating with the EU is a waste of time since it is both suffering from a form of post-traumatic stress disorder and can only envision a future where Britain will be destroyed. To get a flavour of the difficulties of negotiating with the duplicitous power bases that typify the EU, one only has to read the excellent book by Yanis Varoufakis – a former Greek Finance Minister – who was in Brussels when the IMF imposed draconian terms on loans to Greece (Varoufakis, 2017).
While it is true that Brussels has given ground somewhat since the referendum, it is a question of degree: now rather than simply trying to bully us into staying, the EU has obviously decided to cripple the UK. At the centre of this anti-UK conspiracy sits the malevolent and mendacious figure of Jean-Claude Juncker.His interventions range far-and-wide, and include attacks on democracy in Europe in general: "I expect Europe's politicians to stand in the way of populists…" (Squires and Crisp, 2018:12) and against the UK in particular, such as when he addressed the European Parliament on 13th March,2018:
'I would rather have preferred Britain not to have decided to leave the European Union, but anyone who leaves the European Union has to know, frankly, what this means" (BBC News, 2018).
This antagonistic attitude towards the UK is increasingly apparent in Michel Barnier and Donald Tusk, who appear to have been instructed by their boss (Junker) to ensure that when the UK leaves, it is crippled financially. They also want us to remain subject to as many EU regulations as possible, unable to develop new trading relations, without exclusive fishing rights in our own territorial waters and with no benefit to leaving. In fact, Brussels would be happy if Brexit were reduced to BRNO (Brexit in Name Only).
Sitting in the centre of his growing empire, Juncker has become the most powerful man in Europe, and he has achieved this position without having to canvas votes from any electorate. He has too much power for a civil servant and he is too arrogant in his dealings with those he does not like. Judging by his pronouncements over Brexit, his admission that he tells lies, accusations over his alcohol intake, his dislike of the free press, his animosity towards the UK and his increasing megalomania, surely he cannot be considered fit to do the job he has. During his campaign for the Presidency, he was described as a "…rather shabby and dishonest democracy-hater…" (The Commentator, 2014).
All of this suggests that, rather than the 'fatherly' President of the Commission, he has more in common with the Bond villain Auric Goldfinger. He has made clear through his negotiating team led by Barnier that the EU has no interest in dialogue, just like when Bond asks Goldfinger if he expected him to talk (negotiate), the reply given is: "No …. I expect you to die." This, I suggest, admirably sums up the attitude of the EU.
As stated at the beginning of this article, negotiating with the EU is impossible, so the only real option we have is to leave without a deal. If Theresa May can maintain this threat until the last minute, I feel sure that she will find that the EU's 'red lines' will magically disappear into thin air – just like Goldfinger did!
(1) Gert Fröbe (Auric Goldfinger) uttered the memorable line in the Bond film "Goldfinger"References BBC News (2016) "Referendum Results" (24th June); https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/politics/ eureferendum/results BBC News (2018) "Brexit: Jean-Claude Juncker says UK will 'regret' decision." (13th March); https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-43384357 Boyle, Nicholas (2018) "Brexit is a collective English mental breakdown." The Irish Times (16th January); https://www.irishtimes.com/opinion/brexit-is-a-collective-english-mental-breakdown-1.3356258
Burkle, Frederick M. (1996) "Acute-Phase Mental Health Consequences of Disasters: Implications for Triage and Emergency Medical Services." Annals of Emergency Medicine, Vol. 28 (August), pp. 119-128
Chope, Christopher (2017) "After meeting Michel Barnier and Guy Verhofstadt, I've concluded that 'no deal' will be better than their deal." (10th November); https://brexitcentral.com/author/christopher-chope-mp)
Crisp, James, Peter Foster, Gordon Rayner, and Ben Farmer (2017) "Britain's fury at 'unhelpful Barnier'" The Daily Telegraph (29th August), p.1
Editorial (2016) "Mr Juncker's power must be curtailed." The Daily Telegraph (29th June), p. 19
Editorial (2018) "Mr Juncker is just not up to the job." The Daily Telegraph (2nd June), p. 21
Fraser, Isabelle (2016) "What does Brexit mean for house prices? If we leave will it solve the housing crisis?" The Telegraph (20th June); http://www.telegraph.co.uk/property/house-prices/what-does-brexit-mean-for-house-prices-if-we-leave-will-it-solve
Heisbourg, François (2016) "Brexit spells disaster for France." Financial Times (24th June); https://www.ft.com/content/11bde1d6-39e8-11e6-a780-b48ed7b6126f (p.32)
Hertner, Isabelle (2016) "Germany's reaction to Brexit: a catastrophe but we'll cope." The Conversation (24th June); https://theconversation.com/germanys-reaction-to-brexit-a-catastrophe-but-well-cope-61459
Johnston, Phillip (2016) "EU referendum: BMW warns staff in Rolls Royce factories of Brexit risks." Independent (2nd March); http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/eu
Kerr, Chloe (2018) "Eurosceptic's disgust as Remainers launch £1m campaign to STOP Brexit" The Express (12th April); https://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/945014/brexit-news-the-peoples-vote-remain-campaign-bill-cash
McCann, Kate, James Crisp, and Gordon Rayner (2018) "Brexit is the choice of the British people … pushed by those who predicted easy solutions …Those people are liars." The Daily Telegraph (21st September), p.1
Milne, Richard and Spiegel, Peter (2016) "Fraying Union." Financial Times (26th February), p. 11
Oltermann, Phillip (2016) "German poll finds one in three firms would leave UK after Brexit." The Guardian (14th February); https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2016/feb/14/eu
Omer, Haim and Alon, Nahman (1994) "The Continuity Principle: a Unified Approach to Disaster and Trauma." American Journal of Community Psychology, Vol. 22 (2), pp. 273-287
Pearson, Allison (2016) "The risks of staying in are infinitely greater."The Daily Telegraph (28th May), p.27
Rayner, Gordon (2018) "Barnier: We don't want to negotiate with UK." The Daily Telegraph (2nd June), p.4
Squires, Nick and Crisp, James (2018) "Italy celebrates unity before EU showdown." The Sunday Telegraph (3rd June), p.12
Swift, Jonathan S. (2018a) Brexit KBO. Cambridge Academic, Cambridge. ISBN: 1-903-499-94-1
Swift, Jonathan S. (2018b) "Go Now: Call Brussels' Bluff – Leave the EU Immediately and Without a Deal." The Bruges Group (Blog: 20th June); https://www.brugesgroup.com/blog/ go-now-call-brussels-bluffleave-the-eu-immediately-and-without-a-deal
Swinford, Steven and Chan, Szu Ping (2016) "IMF accused of trying to bully Britons to staying in the EU." The Daily Telegraph (14th May), p.8The Commentator (2014) "Juncker attacks UK press, but it's a free press he hates." (6th June); http://www.thecommentator.com/article/5005/juncker_attacks_uk_press_but_it_s_a_free_press_he_hates
Tusk, Donald (2016) Speech delivered by President Donald Tusk at the event marking the 40th anniversary of the European People's Party. Speech 299/16. Press Release (English). Council of the EU, Brussels (30th May); http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-release/2016/05/30/pec-speech-epp/pdf
Varoufakis, Yanis (2017) Adults in the Room: my Battle with Europe's Deep Establishment. The Bodley Head, London. ISBN: 9781847924469
Wirtz, Bill (2017) "The EU's Chief Brexit Negotiator is an Anti-Anglophone." Foundation for Economic Education (15th July); https://fee.org/articles/the-eus-chief-brexit-negotiator-is-an-anti-anglophone/