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I think even nominal pro-Europeans in the UK tend to think of Europe as "That place with the quaint history and the tourist amenities we go on holiday to."
There's comparatively little sense of Europe as an industrial or scientific base, never mind an economic one. FT readers tend to have a broader view, but to most British people, Europe is a foreign country - somewhere essentially remote and other, with a slightly mysterious and probably backward-looking culture, because churches and castles and battles and stuff like that.
This is mostly the fault of the UK's media, which is relentlessly US-centric. A weather disaster in the US will make the headlines, while a weather disaster in France or Germany will barely merit a mention. The US presidential election gets huge coverage even though British people don't get a vote, while MEP elections get almost no coverage at all even though British people do.
And the older Boomer generation grew up with anti-German and anti-Russian war films which I'm sure have left many of them very confused about who our enemies are, and had a huge influence on Brexit voting.
So, generally the British don't see themselves as European, so much as a nation that might tolerate having European allies, as long as they behave themselves and don't get in the way of Empire.
There's a much closer sense of connection to the Anglosphere - although ironically it's not necessarily shared by the rest of the Anglosphere. (The US thinks of the UK in much the same way the UK thinks of Europe.)
Brexit has brought all of this to the surface. Britain, and especially the British establishment, simply doesn't think of Europe as anything other than a set of business opportunities made of multiple distantly related countries.
There's almost no sense of Europe as a political and economic entity in its own right. You could see this clearly when May went on her tour of Euro-leaders and tried to split them off one by one. She seemed genuinely surprised that this didn't work, and that this entity called "The EU" was likely to act as a unified whole.
The UK, meanwhile, has become a country without an identity. Brexit has revealed fault lines that were always there, but had always been suppressed by a kind of soft-liberal consensus.
The UK cannot negotiate Brexit - not just because Brexit is a political and economic impossibility for practical reasons, but because there is no longer any such country as "the UK". There are only squabbling interest groups with absolutely incompatible interests, which cannot be reconciled without eternal resentment and/or force.
I'm more sure than ever that a catastrophic No Deal is the plan, and always has been. One of those groups assumes this will allow it to take control of the country, but it's very likely indeed the outcome is going to be much messier than that.
They imagine that once the UK leaves the EU, that firstly, the EU might crumble without their financial contributions and leadership, and that would be great. Failing that, they imagine they can almost ignore the EU and carry on traveling to and trading with "Europe" as if the EU didn't exist.
The EU is seen as some sort of evil empire restricting free trade and freedom of action and an undemocratic interference in the free will of nations. They imagine that other countries will soon follow the UK's lead once they see the success that Brexit will become.
They even imagine that Ireland may want to rejoin the United Kingdom, and that will solve the backstop problem once and for all.
Many can't understand what all the fuss is about. Why doesn't the UK just leave? (They need us more than we need them, and that will force them to give us what we want in due course). There is a vague sense of entitlement encapsulated in the assumption that they can have their cake and eat it (Cakeism in the Soul) and that Jonny foreigner can go whistle if they don't like it.
They imagine that even if the UK leaves without a deal, sectoral and national deals will quickly be done because airplanes need to fly and Germans need to sell cars.
From an EU perspective, the view couldn't be more different. The EU is a complex structure of Treaties, laws and rules painstakingly put together, very difficult to change, and the only way you can function in a very complex world with competing interests and difficult trade-offs to be made.
If the UK leaves without a deal, it becomes just another country (like, for example, Russia) with which the EU doesn't have a trade deal or much in the way of bilateral deals and so some generic WTO trade rules may apply but otherwise it may as well be N. Korea. Special privileges cannot be given to the UK without also having to give them to all other WTO members under Most Favoured Nation rules.
For example, access to the Single Market cannot be given for free without Norway and others countries also being given that access for free.
A Free Trade Agreement with the UK may be negotiated in a few years time, but only if it doesn't upset any important interest groups in the EU (e.g. farmers) because of the requirement for unanimity. In practice it may never be agreed if the parting is very rancorous and there is a lack of mutual trust.
Problems like N. Ireland, Gibraltar, Cyprus bases, and the treatment of immigrants will become a source of ongoing tensions and antagonism.
Even a very limited deal which could be agreed without difficulty now may become impossible to agree later because of the requirement for unanimity and because both sides will have drifted very far apart politically, emotionally, and structurally.
A sort of Cold Peace could develop where there are no actual hostilities or trade war, but very little meeting of minds or cooperation either. People will hunker down in their respective bunkers nursing all manner of bitterness, resentments and grievances.
And it will all be the EU's fault.
Index of Frank's Diaries
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