The Brexit deal snatched at the last minute by Boris Johnson is not the amazing coup, trumped by his media officials or the conservative press. But it is a good deal for the UK and a pretty good escape plan for the EU which was faced with a new battle in 2021: to deal with the political turmoil of Britain ‘going alone’. Given that the EU already has enough political tumult with Poland and Hungary blocking a 2 trillion dollar rescue package for countries hit hard by Covid, the last thing the EU needed was a new crisis of its own making.
Yet the deal is still controversial both in the UK and in Brussels as in many ways the real test will be in the coming years, whether EU giants like Germany and France chose to allow the UK to grow – thus becoming a bigger and bigger customer to the EU 27 – or for it to become a pariah which the EU punishes through its arbitration system, agreed in the fine print of the final draft. Some sceptics will argue that when Britain starts to grow in certain sectors, it will have its wings clipped by an overzealous EU which will cry foul play every time one EU member state complains that it can’t compete with British goods or services. This is the real heart of the deal: whether this part of the agreement will be exercised fairly.
But does the EU really do “fair”? One look at how it treats Iran within a human rights prism while not condemning Saudi Arabia’s appalling war in Yemen should tell you much. Or how it supports the repressive regimes of many North African countries who acknowledge its fake hegemony while signing up to training courses for its police forces in how to effectively spread fake news through social media platforms and carry out better “surveillance”. Or just the number of human rights scandals on home soil which dog the EU, as more and more debating chambers in the European Parliament are named after journalists murdered while uncovering graft – while the perpetrators remain free.
The EU doesn’t really do well when we examine it in this light. Fairness and equality are not really its traits. In fact, the quip from Vladimir Putin that the EU “can’t even create a single market in its energy sector” when complaining about market access in Germany is very true. The “level playing field” is very much just a buzz phrase in Brussels to distract the embedded journalist to not look too hard at how ineffective the EU is at playing on it. A sort of reverse theory of logic which dictates the more you talk about something the less likely you are to do anything about it. And there are too many examples of this doctrine. SMEs is another. “Small and medium-sized business” which we are told in tomes of EU reports provide the solution to unemployment as studies show that they are the ones who employ workers quickly. And yet, the EU does almost everything it can to destroy them in reality through allowing the European parliament to be an orgy scene of multinational companies – invariably non-EU ones – who use the lobbying system to ensure than new EU directives push them out of the market altogether.
There’s a lot of smoke and mirrors in Brussels and for remainers in the UK, who are still angry over Brexit now going though, much of their grief is really based on ideals built on the foundations supporting a pantheon of ignorance and mythology.
The EU doesn’t do fairness. It doesn’t even do democracy and in fact doesn’t even faintly pretend to. Yet it remains quiet when its millions of supporters harp on about how democratic it is, chiefly sighting the most useless and futile institution ever created: the European parliament. “Look, the EU is democratic. It has its own parliament!” people often say without taking stock of how the European parliament is probably the only assembly in the world which has no power whatsoever to propose draft legislation and is more or less run by powerful lobbying firms. For the EU itself, it is a farcical, last minute idea bolted on to allude to the idea of being democratic. But most portly MEPs who blow hundreds of millions of dollars each year travelling to Strasbourg every three weeks – burning a hole in the ozone layer the size of London – will tell you after two glasses of Chilean house red that they are nothing more than EU civil servants rubber stamping the important stuff that the adults do down the road in the European Commission. And that’s on a good day.
Yet fairness and its opaque interpretations is a big part of what Brexit is really all about. Certainly, the feral remainers in the UK who still dream of the deal being scuppered. Many are left-wing and believe naively that to belong to the EU assures Britain stays multicultural and will never fall victim to a rise of the far right – a desperate, yet equally hilarious notion, given that the EU itself is a white supremacist organisation essentially ran by white, middle aged men, many of whom are European freemasons whose delusion views about taking more power in Brussels is actually feeding the far right movement in Europe. The more the political crisis the EU finds itself in, the higher the number of far right seats in the European Parliament. It’s no longer a mystery or an enigma. Many top EU officials now admit that the EU has a real identity problem and are dumbfounded to see that its power grab is part of the solution.
But it’s also about how British people see themselves and how they cope with achievement. Winners and losers, if you like. Many remainers believe that any excursion to win in any given field should be discouraged and that being an EU member state was a perfect way of instilling this assiduous virtue which comes from the same loins as “it’s not the winning that matters, but the taking part”.
For 11 years I worked in Brussels as a journalist pouring over the texts of financial services directives, many hundreds of pages. A theme always became clear though in all of them which was that the City of London needed to “harmonize” its rules more in line with new rules which France and Germany wanted to introduce. The effect of this each and every time was to take away the business from London. And this is really the crux of Brexit. The EU has been trying to diminish the UK’s lead in many sectors through a disingenuous ruse which led Britain to believe that its membership was a genuinely fair and decent one. In reality it was entirely indecent and in the end enough people woke up and realised that EU membership really wasn’t worth much, given that it meant Britain handing over much of its gains from being a leader.
And what in God’s name is so wrong with leading? Remainers who pen clever op-eds now in the left-wing press are the real conservatives obsessed with Britain’s colonial past when they make the erroneous link with Britain’s pink history. It is just plain wrong to assume that British leadership at anything is colonial. Those same journalists fail to see that Britain’s colonial past was a failed venture and ended up almost bankrupting the country. Many, by contrast, who voted for Brexit see the UK embracing new relationships all over the world and signing trade deals with countries like Turkey, free now of the “colonialism” of old white men in Brussels who probably dance naked around trees once a year and have funny handshakes. Brexit is very much about an anticolonialism and yet many remainers are still joined at the hip with their khaki pasts. They are, by definition, conservative and racist as they equate anything to do with coming first with Britain’s war with the Mau Mau in the 1950s. They want Britain to be an “also ran” and dependent on Brussels for help tied to a colonial and abusive master who can’t look forward, is out of touch with reality and is racist to the core. If anything, Brexit is an end to colonialism and the embrace of a new set of economic ideals which places Britain as equal partners in trade with countries like India. If India can put aside its colonial past and wrongs by Britain, then why can’t remainers? The real link between Britain’s imperial past and Brexit is that the European Commission is still stuck with this model of governance itself, complete with the Brylcreem, the Sten and the khaki shorts. Remainers are not anti-imperialists at all. They are just anti-British imperialists who much prefer to be enslaved by Jean-Christophe, Luc or Hans in Brussels.