But what the British appear to fail to understand is that divide and conquer tactics may not work to their benefit on this occasion. Any Brexit deal needs a qualified majority on the Council and European Commission and Parliament endorsement. A trade deal requires unanimity. Piss off too many countries and parties, and European divisions could work to prevent any deal being ratified. Threatening European unity risks provoking a very antagonistic response from those who see their future as being part of a cohesive Europe.
Chris Johns notes that
The debate has grown strangely quiet in the UK, with many people either bored or battered into submission. The national mood is sullen. Attention, never a strong suit of the Brexiteers, has wandered elsewhere. Even Nigel Farage couldn't attract much interest with his suggestion, quickly withdrawn, that a second referendum is needed. Only European leaders seemed to notice; several, including Emmanuel Macron, say the United Kingdom is more than welcome to forget the whole thing.
Ian Dunt, a prominent Brexit commentator, points out that Brexit is now happening without the British, with all the running made in Brussels. And by running he means preparations. It's as if the Brexiteers have behaved like teenagers trashing the family home during a particularly riotous party. The kids have moved on, leaving the adults with the clean-up. But there are consequences for the children, including punishment - perhaps even retribution.
If anything Brexit-related is going on in Britain right now it is invisible. Behind the scenes the civil service is making preparations, but they are all devoted to having your cake and eating it: a bespoke free-trade deal, encompassing all goods and services, plus complete freedom to negotiate third-party trade deals; no more freedom of movement; and no more European Court of Justice. It doesn't matter how many times or ways in which European politicians say no; the British just don't seem to listen.
In any battle, any negotiation, it is wise to try to understand what motivates the other side. Yes, EU countries have differing interests that the British will try to exploit. But this betrays only a very superficial understanding of what Europe is about. Europe's ideas about itself shape what it considers its interests to be. The effort needed to figure all this out, to understand their opponents, is clearly beyond the wit of the Brexiteers. It remains an uneven and brutal contest.
British enthusiasm for Brexit may diminish further as their hopes of achieving all these good outcomes are dashed. The usual Brexiteer response - more EU bashing - is only likely to consolidate European unity further. Whatever about the immediate economic interests of particular EU countries and industries, the long term interests of the EU as a whole are clear: Offer as difficult a Brexit deal as possible, if only to discourage other nationalist and separatist movements.
Meanwhile, other countries such as Ireland are busy building new alliances within the EU to protect their interests and consolidate their positions. David McWilliams is the nearest thing there is to a prominent Eurosceptic in Ireland, arguing that our cultural affinities and economic interests are much more closely aligned to Atlantic countries such as the USA and UK than they are with eastern European and Mediterranean countries. But even he has argued that Ireland should align itself with eastern European EU members if only to prevent a new Schultz/Merkel/Macron led drive for further EU integration.
Leo Varadker appears to have taken this advice by meeting Victor Orban in Hungary on a trip not announced to the Irish parliament beforehand and the subject of considerable criticism when announced. About the only things Orban and Varadker have in common is a preference for a low corporate taxation rate as a means of attracting FDI and the maintenance of CAP subsidies. There was, pointedly, no agreement on migration policies. Importantly, Orban also promised to support Ireland's position on Brexit.
However Varadker also schmoozed the European Parliament on his birthday and added an anecdote about his personal family history which put Nigel Farage firmly in his place - always a popular thing to do there - and leaving the Parliament in no doubt that Ireland remains committed to the European project. If the British Government wants to isolate Ireland within the European Union, it will have some work to do. Alliances are being built and consolidated all the time, and dividing and conquering the EU will not prove to be as easy as some Brexiteers expect.