We have all had an amazing summer and are now entering our autumn of disquiet before the winter of discontent – and all because of the longest running political conundrum I have ever experienced, known as Brexit. I re-read an article I wrote just a week before the 2016 June referendum, where I examined the deficiencies of the European Commission, but eventually came down on the side of Remain in order to make the required changes to the European Union which I think most (if not all) Member States would still want. 2 years later, I am no longer a Remainer, and I wonder what our Readers feel about the behemoth that has been created.
I was thinking over the summer months of the comparison between the European Union and the United States of America. Citizens of the US refer to Washington as Uncle Sam. I can’t see any citizens of the European Union refer to Brussels as Uncle Fritz or Auntie Helga! So why is this?
Suppose Kentucky has a dire fiscal issue, California a migration problem from Mexico, New York an underfunding of the NYPD police force, or Florida a need to bolster pension funding – their saviour is the federal government in Washington, otherwise known as Uncle Sam.
Contrast that with problems that Cyprus, Greece, Italy and the UK (to name but a few) have experienced in the last decade. I could even include Germany and France in this list. What has happened when they have experienced issues which are damaging to their economic or social fabric?
Cyprus appealed to the EC in 2013 for a bail out of their banking problems, but was punished by the EU and refused a bail out by the powers that be, with two banks going into bankruptcy/administration. Greece did get its required bail out after months of riots and has now endured 6 years of austerity in attempting to fall within punishing fiscal policies of the EU whose arbitrary effects are economically questionable. Italy now has a very severe migrant issue (as has Germany) and again we have far right politics forging dissention and division within the country. And we have Brexit. How has the EU reacted to the wishes of the British public (albeit through a relatively slender majority in June 2016)?
Punishment is the word that comes to mind, and indeed has been voiced by those within the EU committed to maintaining the Brussels hierarchy in absolute power. And we all know what happens to dictators with absolute power. Too strong? Writing this before today’s meeting between Dominic Raab and Michel Barnier, there is currently an impasse leading up to the October meeting of European Ministers. I believe the way Brussels has treated the UK desire for autonomy in a dictatorial manner which has hardened the desire of Brexiteers to leave the EU with what has been expressed as a No-deal arrangement, and which has swayed the hesitant Remainer expressed in my June 2016 article to definitively decide that leaving the EU is our only option, albeit wishing for a deal which is satisfactory to all sides.
That deal should be relatively easy to negotiate, with goodwill on all sides. Why should there be what can only be effectively a trade war (with tariffs imposed between the UK and the EU), when the original concept of the EU was a common market to improve the economies of all EU countries. That improvement is still relevant, perhaps even more so to EU countries who export more to the UK than the other way around. And at a stroke, this solves the Irish border issue.
All countries should take responsibility for their own borders, but should agree on free movement of labour (labour implying actual employment rather than migrating to engineer social welfare benefits). Individual sectors of the economy, being agriculture, financial services, travel or whatever should have individually agreed compacts and if necessary should fall within the remit of the European Court of Justice if the UK has a negotiated agreement with the EU. And there should be monetary payments from the UK to the EU for shared platforms, such as anti-money laundering, terrorism and tax evasion measures adopted by the EU countries generally. How hard can this be?
It can be hard if the word punishment is used in the thinking of the European Commission. The UK voted to enter the Common Market, at that time, to ensure trade stability and prosperity that would discourage any more wars in Europe. That means we didn’t want any member State to punish another with force. It may well be that the European Union loses more member States if they allow the UK to leave the EU without punitive measures, but that freedom is what we all signed up to. If Cyprus, Greece or Italy wants to leave a Union which no longer serves their purpose, then the Union is not what they want and should recognise this.
This is why I voted to Remain, so that we could influence the European Commission in a positive way to adapt to sovereign requirements. It is time for the European Commission to recognise the need for sovereign rule and forget the dream of a United States of Europe, made up of countries with different cultures, different languages, different social requirements, and different economic interests.
With kind regards