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An amusing column, but I doubt very much that CIS is anything other than an extremely isolated phenomenon.

keep to the Fen Causeway
by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Oct 18th, 2018 at 07:59:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'm not so sure. Having moved to Europe I'm finding I'm readjusting some attitudes, sometimes in surprising ways.

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.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Thu Oct 18th, 2018 at 10:03:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think you are onto something here. The impression I get is that most English people see the EU as some sort of optional extra sitting on top of historic nation states which they would like to business with on a one to one case by case basis on terms they can dictate and without the EU "interfering" in any way - almost like returning to a time before the EU existed.

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

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Thu Oct 18th, 2018 at 11:24:07 PM EST
[ Parent ]
When I arrived in Germany, I was of the opinion that the US was unique in its degree of insularity.  Then I kept running into English who spoke only English and who knew roughly squat about anyplace but their own locale.  Rather like the English couple in Casablanca (The husband gets his pocket picked.).  Then I realized we'd simply inherited it, with local modifications.
by rifek on Fri Oct 19th, 2018 at 01:29:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I hear the UK looks to the US like Ireland looks to the UK. But the bigger cousins rarely look back to the smaller (embarassing?) cousins. Which is why the UK establishment is now surprised by 'uppity' Ireland in the Brexit negotiations. And the UK will be surprised by how shallow the spheshial relashionship with the US is when trade negotiations start and they will be forced to import their crappy food.

Schengen is toast!
by epochepoque on Fri Oct 19th, 2018 at 10:24:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The US media coverage of the UK focuses almost entirely on the royal family. The vast majority of Americans have little knowledge of or interest in contemporary Britain, and do not know about and could not care less about Brexit. Any thought that the US might somehow bail out the UK from its problems is completely off the track.
by asdf on Fri Oct 19th, 2018 at 09:24:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
UK politicians have shown very little understanding of Irish politics and many have taken their lead mainly from the DUP. Being a small country beside a much larger one means that you have you have to be very aware of its politics. Brexit is an even bigger issue for Ireland than it is for the UK, and yet it is driven entirely by our bigger neighbour with little regard for its impact elsewhere. Without the EU on our side, there is little we could have done - a fact which probably annoys Brexiteers even more and reinforces their hatred of the EU.

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Oct 19th, 2018 at 09:48:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So the establishment is going more for blatant cakeism but the reality of leaving has still not sunk in.

Schengen is toast!
by epochepoque on Fri Oct 19th, 2018 at 10:49:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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