The papers have new French president Emmanuel Macron down as a europhile. Apparently he’s going to be a tough negotiator when it comes to Brexit.
I explained yesterday why he’s more likely to encourage a deal than cause problems. But there’s something else to consider.
So far we’re negotiating with the official EU negotiator Michel “Barmy” Barnier, the three EU presidents Donald Tusk, Jean-Claude Juncker and Antonio Tajani, chancellor Angela Merkel, Juncker’s chief of staff Martin Selmayr, and now the French president Macron too.
Anyone else want to join?
So many people will never be able to present a coherent strategy or deal. The Brexit negotiations probably aren’t going to be an issue compared to the negotiations and disagreements inside the EU camp itself.
The rifts are already appearing. According to German newspaper Der Speigel, Merkel is rather angry with Juncker’s attempts to sabotage Brexit negotiations. She reportedly said it’s inappropriate to “heat up” the issue by leaking meetings to the press.
This explains why Theresa May is on the offensive lately. She accused the Europeans of attempting to interfere in the British election. That’s something the Europeans accused the Russians of doing in France recently, making the issue a sensitive one.
The aim of May’s game is to split the EU negotiating team. By exposing the ardent anti-Brexit camp as overzealous, she creates the opportunity for Merkel and Macron to appear the reasonable ones by becoming conciliatory towards Britain.
Divide and conquer is an ironic strategy to take against the European Union. But it might just be a stroke of genius. And it’s not the only place she’s using the idea.
There’s little question that politicians and policymakers at the EU level are more or less against Brexit. It goes against their budgets, jobs, prestige and power. They want to punish Britain and make sure Brexit is not a success.
But what about the national level? Are German politicians against Brexit? Are French?
Assuming May is genuine about her threat that Brexit is going to happen no matter what, you’d think a deal is in the interest of national-level politicians in Europe. They’re far more accountable to their voters than MEPs and EU officials. And national voters want jobs and British goods and services. Like Marmite. That means national politicians in Europe want trade and other ties to Britain, especially on security.
By exposing the EU as the saboteur of negotiations and restraint on trade with Britain, May is charging into a rift here too. She’s exposing the conflict of interest EU politicians have with national level politics.
There’s one more rift in the EU’s lines. Britain’s old coalition partners in the EU are going to be left to the mercy of Germany and France. Not to mention the balance of power shift towards the rather eccentric eastern European states. The Dutch and Flemish feel like they’ve been left high and dry, which is rare for them.
Those countries are going to have to do some serious soul-searching in coming years. The more Britain forces the EU to expose its protectionist, collectivist and technocratic nature, the more discord within the EU will grow. In a sense, the EU is its own worst enemy and all its opponents must do is expose this.
Of course all this is inspired by watching the movie Alexander recently. Alexander the Great creates and then charges at a gap in the Persian line at the Battle of Gaugamela, making straight for the Emperor Darius III himself.
There’s no Darius for May to charge at though. The EU is more of a hydra with many heads. But divide and conquer is the only strategy that’s ever worked in Europe. With both Pippa Middleton and Prince Harry already paired up, there’s no hope of marrying someone off to a German politician.
After an extensive hunt, Darius was killed by his own commanders in an attempt to escape. May wants European nations to do the same to any anti-Brexit politicians.
What should Theresa May do next?
The prime minister’s strategy at home is the mirror image of EU foreign policy. Her call for an early election allows her to sure up her own lines to face off with the fragmented EU.
It’s become very fashionable to state what you think our prime minister should do with her new-found support and coming majority. Here’s my shot at it…
The answer is to simply enact her side of a decent Brexit bargain. Actually carry it out.
Give EU citizens their right to remain in the UK and extend the same invitation to all EU citizens our economy could use.
Exempt all imports and exports of goods and services to and from the EU from any sort of legal interference. Obviously, doing the same for goods and services for the rest of the world would be enormously beneficial too, otherwise the free trade premise of the EU is a lie, but nobody ever acknowledges that. And so the politically correct way to put it is, pursue trade deals with everyone. Don’t just negotiate, but get them signed.
Continue cooperation with the EU on matters of security, justice and rights. But make clear that this is cooperation, not EU-based compulsion. The UK needs its own courts where the EU used to rule.
Establish whatever the replacement policy of the Common Agricultural Policy is going to be. Preferably we shouldn’t have an agricultural policy at all, but that’s never popular politically.
Accept an appropriate amount of refugees from the Syrian crisis. Without consulting the EU about it.
Last but not least, send a cheque to Brussels for the net assets we owe based on a transparent, public and reasonable calculation. Then renounce ownership of both the assets and liabilities of EU membership.
Should the EU have any problem with any of this, promptly leave the EU. For example, if the EU claims that we cannot make trade deals with other countries until we have left the EU, then we simply do leave it.
The idea is to pursue a mutually beneficial Brexit strategy that draws public support from inside the EU, and then force the EU to kick us out if it sticks to its more bizarre demands.
Most importantly, it has to be clear that Britain’s eye is on its relationship with the rest of the world, not so much the EU. That we have gained more than the EU could ever force us to lose.
Until next time,
Capital & Conflict