A no-deal Brexit is exactly what we’ve been heading towards │Louis Jacques
In 2009, the BBC television series The Thick of It introduced a brand-new word to the political vocabulary: “omnishambles”. It’s defined as ‘a situation that has been comprehensively mismanaged, characterised by a string of blunders and miscalculations’ and is seemingly tailor-made for how Brexit has been handled throughout the last 2 years. Every month the headlines have seemed to pile up with more ways in which Theresa May has made a fool out of herself in Brussels or how meaningful progress seems to be achievable. The deal on the table is the culmination of this- ridiculed by nearly everyone from the moment it was put on the table, it currently stands approximately no chance whatsoever of passing through parliament, meaning that the government’s current strategy of delaying the vote to rake in MPs to back the deal makes a no-deal Brexit seem more and more inevitable. This is exactly what the EU wants.
Brexit came as a shock to European leaders, who within a day of the result all expressed in a way or another that this had dealt a blow to the European project. For EU president Jean-Claude Juncker, who was already helping to ready the EU’s budget for 2017 and was preparing for elections in 5 EU nations the next year, including France, Germany and The Netherlands, this could not come at a worse point in time. Imagine what a successful Brexit would do to the EU? With the rise of Eurosceptic movements in France, The Netherlands, Germany, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Italy, and profound Euroscepticism in many of the aforementioned states, Brexit could well be the tipping point.
The EU had to act fast. If Juncker’s dream of a more powerful EU (starting with an increased budget in 2018) was to get anywhere, he’d have to flip the tables and turn an ever-Eurosceptic continent into one scared of doubting the Union- he had to make an example out of Brexit. There was to be strictly no discussion about the nature of a deal before Article 50 was triggered, putting the ball in the EU’s court to play the long game. When negotiations started, the EU made their stance clear and never budged- they were to be the rule-maker. “You can’t be half-in and half-out” they constantly repeated (because in EU logic, a mutually beneficial deal is a bad one), making sure that there would be no common-sense trade deal. They kept negotiations short and stuttered, preferring to tell journalists that the negotiations were slow rather than stay in the conference room a few extra hours to iron out the creases. The worst thing is: we played into their hands.
They knew we couldn’t call their bluff, because no matter how diligently we negotiated (even though we didn’t) they would stay stubborn as a goat and would do anything to see us either leave with a deal that made us an EU vassal or crash out in dramatic fashion without a deal (guess what the current scenario is). We may be a massive trading partner and a huge contributor to the EU budget, but at the end of the day we are but one country and the EU makes up 27- we would take the most nominal damage from a no-deal exit. Sure, the EU was indeed shooting themselves in the foot, but in comparison we’re sawing our leg off at their mercy, which means that the bureaucrats’ project can go ahead.
You have to hand it to the EU here, they may be scheming, egotistical crooks, but they’ve done it well. EU favourability has increased in nearly all EU nations over the last 2 years and national elections in 2017 went *mostly* their way. The tide was tempered. The fear of God was re-instilled in Europeans far and wide. So, while both sides prepare for a no-deal exit, remember that the EU leaders cry crocodile tears about us crashing out of their Union.