overlaying Brexit from Brussels: ‘it’s like a excessive-stakes poker game’

Jun 11, 2018

overlaying Brexit from Brussels: ‘it’s like a excessive-stakes poker game’

overlaying Brexit from Brussels: ‘it’s like a excessive-stakes poker game’

Between the Guardian’s places of work in Brussels, two flooring above the old Hack pub on one side of Boulevard Charlemagne and the headquarters of the european commission on the other, stand 28 european flags, towering over the passing site visitors and pedestrians. at the stroke poker domino of middle of the night right here, on the evening of 29 March 2019, one of those fluttering flags might be lowered. My view of Jean-Claude Juncker’s monstrous Berlaymont building may be a little less cluttered, and Britain will not be a member of the ecu Union.

supplied by way of Guardian news & Media constrained EC president Jean-Claude Juncker greeting British major minister Theresa may additionally in Sofia prior this year. EC president Jean-Claude Juncker greeting British best minister Theresa may additionally in Sofia previous this year. HOAFP images

I arrived in Brussels very nearly 18 months ago because the newspaper’s bureau chief, from where I’ve had the blended blessing of observing close up the twists, turns and definitely cringeworthy contortions on display within the Brexit talks. no matter if an arch-Remoaner or a fervent hardline Brexiter, most followers of the procedure would agree that the united kingdom’s extraction from Brussels is proving to be a singularly painful recreation. it’s comparable to a excessive-stakes poker game in which one player is all the time bluffing, is well regular to be doing so, and is for this reason, fairly unsurprisingly, many times uncovered.

The process is unlikely to turn into any further comfy for the uk as we approach the formal withdrawal date, before getting into and leaving a 21-month or longer! duration of transition frequently-taker, after which launching right into a probably countless argument, debate and deliberation about whether it turned into all worth it, and what to do now with our hard-fought freedom and world reach. If some in the Conservative party believe that leaving the european will put an conclusion to its own interior agony over Britain’s location in Europe, I worry they may be deeply disillusioned. As some americans say in Switzerland, negotiations with the european, as soon as all started, not ever in fact come to an conclusion.

supplied through Guardian information & Media limited Dan chats with Jeremy Corbyn and John Mulholland. Daniel Boffey, centre, chats with Jeremy Corbyn, appropriate, and Guardian US editor John Mulholland. Gary Calton for the Observer

however let’s inaugurate at first. I got here to Brussels from the Palace of Westminster, the place i used to be the Observer’s coverage editor, once more with a close-up view of whatever elegant unpalatable. The influence of the referendum on european membership, fifty two% to forty eight% in favour of Brexit, caused an instantaneous earthquake in British politics. however, in terms of the British government truly attractive with the eu on its Brexit, there was in fact very little happening by poker domino the time I arrived within the Belgian capital. Historians call the first few months of the 2d world battle the “phoney war”, such turned into the inability of actual motion in the early degrees. And so it turned into right here. beneath the so-known as article 50 method, designed by means of the British diplomat Lord Kerr within the adventure of a member state asking to leave, the British major minister vital at hand in a letter of notification for a two-12 months negotiation period on the phrases of england’s withdrawal to originate.

there’s lots of speak these days about can also’s lack of foresight in triggering those talks with no need organized a plan for the long run. at the time, though, there become with no trouble loads of griping that it became taking so long to place in the letter and get the aspect going. 9 months had passed earlier than Sir Tim Barrow, Britain’s ambassador to the european, surpassed it to Donald Tusk, the president of the ecu council, all the way through which period the european had refused to talk with Whitehall about Brexit, beyond a few logistical discussions. It was clear from there that these talks had been going to be on the european’s phrases.

So the brilliant letter-giving changed into the factor at which the appropriate talks, and reporting on them, may get going? No. removed from it. The best minister, in her knowledge, called a time-honored election just a few weeks later.

That announcement become actually a shock in Britain, however in Brussels, it become welcome. Juncker, the president of the european fee, had even taken outing to privately lobby may additionally in favour of calling it.

For all of can also’s election-crusade talk about Brussels loving the theory of a vulnerable top minister to take advantage of, really they wanted a robust one who may face down the Brexiters. Democratically more advantageous, she may be start with the British public concerning the change-offs and compromises that might be required. on the time the optimal concern in Brussels became that the divorce invoice initially resisted, later settled at £39bn can be used via some in the birthday celebration to push the united kingdom to walk out of the negotiations, prompting the hardest of all Brexits.

Of course, once again neither can also nor Brussels obtained what they wanted from the British vote casting public. however neither, it seems, has it been the divorce invoice that has injected the ultimate drama and danger into the talks. Of all the surprise bumps in the street, from the commonplace election to the weird second when it emerged that Spain intended to make use of the Brexit talks to development their centuries-historic ambitions over Gibraltar, the one that could nonetheless upend the total thing is the difficulty of warding off a border on the island of eire.

It is that this problem that encapsulates the valuable difficulty of Brexit. In leaving the one market, the customs union and the jurisdiction of the ecu court of justice, Britain has poker domino sealed its fate: there’ll need to be border assessments between it and the membership. If a border is to be prevented on the island of ireland, Northern ireland is in impact going to ought to continue to be part of that membership.

supplied by using Guardian news & Media constrained Flags outdoor the Berlaymont building in Brussels. The flags outdoor the Berlaymont building in Brussels. Ben Pruchnie photographs

That could appear dogmatic and unreasonable to a few in the UK. and there is a danger, actually, of a correspondent from the Guardian in Brussels going native, given the paper’s editorial line and its doubts over the sagacity of the Johnsons and Goves of this world. however the ecu kindly vaccinates against that.

It isn’t so appealing a factor, pack up, either. A startlingly white service provider, final year the european fee launched a diversity drive to recruit “girls, body of workers with disabilities, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual and intersex LGBTI staff and older staff”, yet a spokesman became stunned, even indignant, when I requested why there become no mention of ethnic minority organizations. Its decision to pay Turkey, and fund the Libyan coastguard, to retain refugees from crossing its border is filled with moral hazard. The pandering to Viktor Orbán, the populist, anti-Islamic best minister of Hungary – who is a member of the identical pan-European political grouping as Juncker, Tusk and the German chancellor Angela Merkel – is pleasing nauseating. the european parliament is filled with showboaters, idle price-spongers and a fair share of cranks. meanwhile the commission’s managing of england’s negotiation requests can also be tough to the element of outrageously rude, from time to time even self-defeating, with a smug smile on no account too far from one of the crucial senior officials’ faces. in any case, the uk’s humiliation has been a real career-enhancer for some.

but possibly it is simply after sitting with ecu officials and hearing them talk in lovingly protective terms concerning the “normative order” of the european – the institutional and felony architecture that offers each of the member states the essential trust in each other to carry on going – that you possibly can take into account rather how confined are the selections on either side. You hear often from diplomats and officers that the talks aren’t a be counted of punishing Britain. That is right, to a degree. but what these talks actually are about isn’t enabling the united kingdom to disrupt a complex and evidently fragile structure that has practically kept the peace between international locations that wouldn’t have a superb listing in peacekeeping.

however what these talks most definitely are about is not permitting the uk to disrupt a posh structure that has very nearly kept the peace between countries that don’t have a very good record in peacekeeping.

when you are internal the membership, you can play round with the guidelines a little bit. outdoor, the rulebook performs round with you. one in every of my most appetizing articles to write down while right here become a chunk comparing and contrasting nowadays’s farce with Britain’s failed 1961-63 accession talks, which within the conclusion had been stopped brief with the aid of frequent de Gaulle’s “non”. A 28-page tale penned via the uk delegation – marked “secret” – had warned the major minister Harold Macmillan poker domino that their counterparts had “insisted that our place was that of the demandeur” and the “existing suggestions need to in principle be considered as sacrosanct”.

a much better deal than that provided to participants was not on the cards. it could, the uk officers because of this complained to their political masters, “were useful if we could have shaped a clearer view as to what could be negotiable” rather than put ahead “proposals … which in the event proved fairly unnegotiable”. It took a decade for Britain to rethink its method, swallow it all, and be part of the club in 1973. To misquote Mark Twain: “There isn’t any such component as a new anecdote”. perhaps I’ll watch that 28th flag go returned up again in a decade’s time too.


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