It’s just so tough getting up, in the morning. One thing I never do before, during, or straight after breakfast, is take a glance at newspaper headlines on my tablet. That would really put me in a bad mood. The EU leaders who assembled in the beautiful Austrian town of Salzburg, should have done the same. Had they gone for an early morning walk in the Austrian mountains, instead of reading Theresa May’s guest appearance column in the German national newspaper, “Die Welt,” the UK prime minister might have got less of a hiding, later in the day.
Well, even I could have warned Theresa May not to write in German. Mind you, it’s not just the language she used, but the way she used it. French philosopher Jacques Derrida would have been proud of the way she used the written word to endlessly elaborate on a topic that was only allocated 10 minutes of EU time – in-between the apple strudel and the Irish-coffee that was intentionally part of the menu.
My United Kingdom for a horse
What went on in Salzburg only confirms the law of magnetism stating that like poles repel and unlike poles attract. Theresa May wants only what is good for the UK, whilst the EU will do nothing that goes against its own rule books. And you know just how much the EU loves its own rule books. It seems that there are too many interests at stake, and rule books that must be followed, making the chances of an agreement that suits everyone, just about as likely as Theresa May wanting her own country to work for everyone.
The problem was that the EU-27, having already read Theresa May’s tantrum in the German newspaper, had come to dinner upset over the tone she used in the article, and prepared to send her packing into the Austrian countryside, to the sound of music – the final movement of Beethoven’s ninth, to be more precise. Theresa May was naive enough to repeat the very same words she had written the day before, and fell into the trap set up by the EU – a trap that was of her own making.
A UK-EU free trade area for goods and agricultural products, together with a business-friendly facilitated customs arrangement, would avoid the need for customs and regulatory checks at our shared borders and protect the uniquely integrated supply chains and just-in-time processes on which jobs and livelihoods across our countries depend. It is profoundly in both sides’ economic interest, it respects the integrity of the Single Market and, crucially, no one else has come up with a proposal that could command cross-community support in Northern Ireland that is the only true foundation for stability there.
Donald Tusk has been accused of mocking the UK and the democratic vote. It may have escaped the UK’s attention, but the EU has been saying for years that the 4 freedoms – goods, capital, services, and people – forming the foundation of the EU, are inseparable. What part of that does Theresa May not understand? As for Donald Tusk being an unelected Brussels bureaucrat, The Economist – a well-respected weekly – can argue against that, beter than I can,
Every government has bureaucrats, who are by nature unelected. The EU, with about 33,000 civil servants, is dwarfed by the British government, which employs over 400,000. The complaint might be that not only junior EU officials, but many senior ones are appointed rather than elected; yet this, too, is true of all governments. British papers that disparage the “unelected” Michel Barnier, the EU’s lead Brexit negotiator, would struggle to find a country that has an elected trade representative. As for the 28 commissioners who make up the European Commission, the EU’s cabinet, they are nominated by member countries (each gets one) and approved by the European Parliament, which is directly elected by voters. This is similar to the United States, where cabinet members are nominated by the president and approved by the Senate. The European Council, which is essentially the EU’s chief executive body, comprises the 28 member countries’ leaders, all democratically elected. Its president, Donald Tusk, is elected by those leaders rather than directly by voters, but his role is more that of a mediator than a leader in his own right.
It’s quite obvious that Theresa May’s Chequers fantasia is just not workable, for the simple reason that it separates goods from everything else. It would mean that chlorinated US chickens could freely make their way from California to Wallonia, without so much as a brushed feather, but if I decided to travel to England on the back of a horse, the latter would be let in scot-free, whereas I would face a long queue by the customs post.
To come to a successful conclusion, just as the UK has evolved its position, the EU will need to do the same. Neither side can demand the unacceptable of the other, such as an external customs border between different parts of the United Kingdom – which no other country would accept if they were in the same situation, or the UK seeking the rights of EU membership without the obligations.
Do I detect a slight contradiction here? The EU finds it unacceptable that the 4 freedoms be split, and is therefore perfectly within its rights to uphold and defend their unity.
In or out of the EU, we are still all part of our European family of nations and must stay good friends who support each other’s safety and prosperity.
Well, God gave each one of us our family. We must thank God that we can choose our friends.