The Party’s over, it’s time to call it a day.
David Ingall, Past President of the UK200Group discusses the EU's position following Brexit.
These are the opening words of a song released by Doris Day in 1956 from a little known musical “Bells are Ringing”. Believe it or not the story (if there is ever a real story in any musical) surrounds the life of a girl who works in a telephone answering business and the lead character was played by Judy Holliday when it was first performed on Broadway.
That’s strayed off the straight and narrow quite enough for the present but I found the words apposite for the EU’s current position now that we have voted (overall) for Brexit. The next 6 lines just about sum the position up.
“They’ve burst your pretty balloon
And taken the moon away.
It’s time to wind up
Just make your mind up
The piper must be paid”
Whether you are avidly Leave or Remain there has at least been a vote (which I believe probably came 30 years or more too late) and the people have spoken. This was a great shock for those who believe they know what is best for us and should not have happened. But now the reality is biting both us and the EU including J-C Junckers who is directing the great plan, apparently to grind the UK into the ground.
Our new prime minister is determined not to declare our negotiating position just yet. And those who hotly declare that she is bereft of ideas obviously have no understanding of conducting high level negotiations. This is high stakes poker and frankly the only time to tip your hand is when you want your opponent to understand your position, or at least so think they do. Would you want to play poker with the entire country looking over your shoulder and watching your hand and every intention?
It is clear the EU is desperate to give the impression that they have won the negotiations and we will undoubtedly see many triumphant declarations and dismissive assertions as the negotiations proceed. The appointment of Michel Barnier as chief negotiator is indicative of certainly the position of the Commission. Apart from showing his complete misunderstanding of the ironies of life when commenting of the failure of auditors in his role as Commissioner for Banking (bearing in mind the lack of a clean audit report for the EU for many years) he has twice held Commissioner positions and held various positions in the French government. It is clear the Commission wants to control the negotiations but the EU’s strength and weakness is in the tensions between the leaders of the individual countries, the EU parliament and the Commission.
Of course the EU is as dangerous as a cornered, wounded wild animal currently. We’ve (or at least 52% or so of us have) given them the finger and they see the danger that this will create a domino effect with other countries wanting to leave. For the individual leaders they see the anti EU (or is it migration or whatever?) factions taking heart from our vote, putting them under enormous pressure in their own domestic politics. That is both an advantage and a disadvantage. Will the individual leaders want to drive a harder bargain or will they want to sweep us under the carpet to get us out of everyone’s mind? Who knows?
We are going to see, as in the referendum campaign, rumour and counter rumour as supporters and the media on each side of the argument within our own country seek to frighten or reassure but now the EU will be in there too, straining for every advantage. Both sides will be playing for keeps and the future of our nation. Headlines recently have suggested that we will need visas to go to Europe. But like every bit of tittle-tattle that’s come out since June there is more than one view. Once we leave the EU we will be aliens as they will here. Visas (at the worst applied for or like the American ESTA system) are a two way matter. Similarly can you imagine Germany contemplating a duty of say 25% on all their exports of cars to the UK?
This goes right to the heart of the inherent weakness of the EU, the conflict between national interests and the stated position of the Commission. Angela Merkel cannot afford to put even more pressure on Germany’s economy but similarly can a good deal for the UK put even more pressure on her domestic position?
So in the coming months we approach the moment when the party’s over and time for paying the piper comes ever closer. There will be sleepless nights for the negotiating teams as both sides come to grips with the reality of the situation but truly the party is over and now is the time to call it a day.
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