hms iron duke

hms iron duke

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Brexit: Pour Encourager les Autres?

“In this country, it is good to kill an admiral from time to time, in order to encourage the others”.
Voltaire, Candide

Alphen, Netherlands. 11 April. Is it really in the interests of the EU and Germany to destroy the UK? One of the many pleasures of being in the US last week was to have a week off from the partisan lunacy which appears to have descended on the denizens of the political swamp that is Brexit. Even respected commentators are now writing nonsense. One fanatical Remainer, having (of course) said that he respects the vote of the people (NOT!), even went as far as to suggest that because German feelings were hurt by Brexit Britain should be very gentle in its dealings with Berlin. Poor little diddums. This nonsense is either a failure to understand the ‘doings’ of international politics, or more likely simply another stratagem to weaken Britain and its position. From what I have been told Berlin and Brussels have absolutely no desire to be gentle with Britain, ‘pour encourager les autres’.

The EU is meant to be a voluntary association of democracies who voluntarily agree to pool sovereignty in pursuit of their own and some greater good. Given Europe’s violent history that greater good is plain to see. However, implicit in all the treaties (although quite deliberately not explicit – Article 50 or no) is the right of a member-state if its people so wish to leave the EU if a democratic mandate for exit has been established. Equally implicit in the idea of Union is that any such state should not be attacked for so deciding if a vote was held across the length and breadth of the land and a majority confirmed. This is precisely what happened with the June 23rd Brexit referendum vote.

And yet over the past week key members of the EU have behaved less like fellow members of a voluntary association and more like Imperial Rome. Their weapon of choice is Scotland and their apparent support for the nationalist secessionists led by Nicola Sturgeon. This is at best hypocrisy. Scottish Nationalist Party leader Ms Sturgeon legitimised the UK-wide vote by campaigning in it, but then refused to accept the result. Rather, she sees Brexit as simply yet another opportunity to destroy the UK.

Given that it was galling to say the least to hear senior German MEP Elmar Brok encouraging the secessionists by saying that there would be few obstacles to Scotland joining the EU. This attack on the UK was reinforced by the Spanish Foreign Minister saying that Madrid would not veto a membership application from an independent Scotland. A well-placed source of mine in Brussels told me that Brok was speaking with the support of Berlin and that Spain had been lent on by said Berlin to shift its position, even if that establishes a principle that would permit Catalonia to secede from Spain.

So, let’s pause for a moment and consider the implications for Europe of the destruction of the UK. Even though the Scottish population is only 8.3% of the UK the loss of Scotland would end Britain as a major international player. The result would be yet another weak, broke, small state Germany would have to support (having destroyed my country I would not support it), and an angry, resentful, broken rump UK that would see the EU, Germany in particular, as at best a frenemy, at worst an enemy. For a time rump UK would probably go through the motions of supporting NATO, but our heart (and my heart) would have gone out of it as we all wondered why we should risk lives and spend reduced our geld defending people who had consciously set out to destroy our country. The winner would be Vladimir Putin. The losers would be NATO, the US and, of course, the defence of Europe.

The Americans are fully aware of this. Time and again last week I was told by senior people on both sides of the Washington political divide that maintaining the integrity of the United Kingdom was a fundamental US interest. And, that the loss of the UK would also deal a potential death blow to NATO. Those are indeed the stakes, and Mr Brok and other German politicians need to be aware that they are playing with fire if they are seen to encourage Scotland to secede.  If they persist such a stance could well break already fragile US-German relations.

My preference from the beginning of all this Brexit farago has been to find an equitable solution to that is in the interests of all given the circumstances. As a pro-German Brit who sees little to fear in Germany’s leadership of Europe I am particularly keen to establish a post-Brexit relationship between Britain and Germany built on respect and friendship. Playing the Scotland card will destroy any hope of that.  Of course, some will say this is all pre-negotiation posturing. They would be wrong. Threatening the integrity of the UK is not what friends do, even if it is a pre-Brexit, pre-negotiating posture. Negotiate hard Germany by all means, but do not actively encourage Sturgeon and her fellow secessionists by artificially tipping the political field in their favour by making promises to them you know you cannot keep. 

As for my fellow Remainers my message is clear; a vote was taken, the result was clear, get over it! Given the horrors happening elsewhere around Europe’s borders it is vital, for the sake of Britain, the EU and NATO, that we come to an equitable deal and quickly.  If not I will fight for my country Britain (peacefully of course) and people I had regarded as friends would soon become non-friends.

Given that, is it really in the interests of the EU and Germany to destroy the UK simply ‘pour encourager les autres’? Is it really in your interests Germany to have the rest of us in the UK hate you? Can you really build a democratic Union, Berlin and Brussels, by enforcing membership through fear?

Julian Lindley-French

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