If anyone on Earth is remotely surprised that European politicians couldn’t get the Brexit job done by their own chosen deadline of March 29, 2019 you haven’t been on this planet long.
Obviously, the process was bound to fail as no one on the EU side wanted it to succeed — and on the UK side the effort to Leave the EU was quarterbacked by a staunch Remainer; UK Prime Minister Theresa May.
Not only that, however. Seven days before the June 23, 2016 referendum to Leave the EU (when the ‘Leave’ side was polling at 65% – 35% among decided voters and climbing) a respected Scottish ‘Remain’ politician by the name of Jo Cox was murdered in a car park and Britons fell backwards in shock and horror at this appalling crime.
Almost instantly, the British mindset was thrown back to the time of ‘The Troubles’ in Northern Ireland where each terror attack was more horrific than the previous one, which had the effect of cowing large numbers of Britons who had been working through the process of deciding whether to back ‘Remain’ or ‘Leave’ in the campaign into maintaining the status quo (at least, for now, they told each other, until we see what happens) consequently, the final referendum result was 52% – 48% for the ‘Leave’ side.
Britain’s Prime Minister at the time of the referendum was the highly principled David Cameron, who decided to resign his premiership soon after the referendum result was announced, as he felt that as a staunch ‘Remainer’ he couldn’t do the job required of a ‘Leave’ Prime Minister. Much respect, David.
1009-Days Since the 2016 Referendum + 100’s of Brexit Promises by PM Theresa May = Still No Brexit
Theresa May the Remainer became Prime Minister on July 16, 2016 and immediately began promising the world to the winners of the 2016 referendum using the language of populists:
- “Brexit Means Brexit”
- “Brexit Delayed is Brexit Denied.”
- “No Deal is Better Than a Bad Deal”
- “The UK Will Regain Control of its Money”
- “The UK Will Become The Great Meritocracy”
- “Nothing is Agreed Until Everything is Agreed.”
- “The UK Will No Longer be Subject to a Foreign Court”
- “The UK Will Regain the Right to Write its Own Trade Deals”
- “The UK Will Regain Control of its Borders and Immigration”
- “The UK Will be Leaving the European Union on March 29, 2019.”
- “In Trade Deals With the U.S., the UK Will Now be at the Front of the Line.”
And all of it sounded sincere, legitimate, and oh-so-doable to Brexiteers. It was exactly what they wanted to hear. Those words were like icing on the cake, they were like pristine snow on the mountains, like apples of gold in pictures of silver. How they loved her!
In other words; Too good to be true.
So. Did Theresa May Lie or Fail?
Actually, nobody knows the answer to the question; Did Theresa May lie or fail?
What I suspect is that Theresa May tried to dampen enthusiasm for Brexit in the early days of her premiership, but soon realized the depth of determination among Britons to Leave the EU and reluctantly decided that the only way to stay in power (the goal of every politician, nothing personal against Theresa May) was to deliver Brexit to the British people.
And then, her bureaucratic training kicked-in. And Boom! Whole new ballgame.
Theresa May, the consummate Home Office bureaucrat became UK Prime Minister via a set of impossible to predict circumstances, and must have decided that if the UK was going to Leave the EU it might as well leave with the best deal possible — and that she was the best person to deliver that deal — which, if the universe were a fair place (it isn’t) would result in her winning the next two or three general elections. Fair enough, Theresa.
And I’ve no doubt that she would’ve succeeded — perhaps spectacularly — except for internal EU politics.
Enter the EU Agenda
The EU too, has its own agenda; And first on that list is that the EU is in a conflict of interest with regard to the UK’s European Union membership as the union receives a net annual payment of approximately £10 billion from British taxpayers. Click here to see where the EU has been spending all those 10’s of billions of UK taxpayer pounds. (Information and charts courtesy of TradingEconomics.com)
Second on that agenda is that other EU countries wanting to Leave the EU might feel more empowered to do so if the UK’s exit turned out to be a smooth and easy process.
Resulting in a Complicated Dance
The UK wanting to Leave the EU and led by a Remainer; The EU wanting to help the UK to leave but not wanting to encourage other European Union countries to follow the UK out of the union; And both sides with loud and spirited factions defending their point-of-view. What could possibly go wrong?
Yet, they’ll get it done eventually. ‘Just get us enough smoke and mirrors and we can make anything happen!’ said every policy wonk ever.
The Latest Complicated Dance Move is the UK Missing it’s Official Brexit Day (today)
Now, if Theresa May can’t get her excellent (except for the hated Irish backstop clause) Withdrawal Agreement passed by April 12, 2019, legal agreements between the two blocs will automatically kick-in and the UK will leave the EU in a so-called ‘No Deal’ Brexit and, apparently, the whole world will blow up, or the Sun will go out, or gravity will fail, or some other such nonsense will occur.
Of course, none of that will happen.
UK and EU politicians will simply read the public mood in both countries and if ‘Leave’ voices are still strident in the UK, and if smaller European Union countries are convinced that it’s too hard for them to leave the EU — then we might not only have a Brexit deal, but a decent trade deal — all of which could be cobbled together in a matter of days if the public supports it.
But if it looks like support for Brexit is waning in the UK, or if it looks like the UK is getting away too easily from the European Union, then more political bafflegab will be required and the UK may be stuck in the EU for however long it takes to get to a point of convergence where it works for both sides.
Eventually, There Will be a Brexit: Just That It’s Costing the UK Billions to Stay in the Meantime
Unfortunately for the UK, it’s losing £10 billion (net) per year to stay in the EU (on average) in the form of annual overpayments to the EU budget and it’s also losing multi-billions per month in lost international trade opportunities until Brexit occurs.
Has the continent ever done anything other than cost the UK money?
Not really. But they’ve been great partners in the postwar era and Britain has had Europe’s back just as many times as the EU has had the UK’s back.
And you can’t put a price on that. It’s an incredible accomplishment, especially when we factor-in what happened between European states in the early part of the 20th-century. Astonishing success after success… out of disaster, really.
Yet, the seeds for all that mutual support were laid down decades prior to the formation of the European Union. The EU isn’t responsible for that success, the European Union like the United Kingdom merely benefited from all that prescient pan-European thinking that began in the immediate postwar era.
And as great as it was to get together and to live in each other’s back pockets for a time, it’s costing the UK big time to stay in the EU.
I can only imagine that EU leaders see this for what it is and are sympathetic to the UK, but don’t want a cascade of smaller EU states to suddenly up-stakes and leave the union. Therefore, I understand where EU leaders are coming from.
So, it looks like the dance will continue until public opinion catches up with the legitimate concerns of both blocs (Britain losing billions per month & the EU rightly concerned about a re-fractionalization of European states) but for all the right reasons I hope that Brexit occurs sooner rather than later, and that all these valid concerns are completely addressed and resolved by Europeans working together on both sides of the English Channel.
As always, Europe remains a work-in-progress. May that ever be so.
Written by John Brian Shannon