A nasty edge has crept into relations between the UK and the rest of the EU and for my money, the fault for this lies in Brussels rather than London.
There is a suggestion being bandied about that the UK will have to pay billions on what is effectively a fine for pulling out. How is that justified and how could it be enforced? The UK joined a club and played its part for forty years. As a democracy, when demands were made by the people of the UK for a vote on continued membership, their Government naturally had to provide them a voice, and the people duly voted out.
So having joined the club, tried it out for a long time, they simply wanted to leave. OK, it's more complicated than that but, for the life of me, I cannot understand why the UK cannot still be a good friend to the EU and vice versa. We do not need to be enemies and the level of insults being thrown at the UK from Brussels must surely be counter-productive. Listening to the tenor of it currently, if they are genuine in what they are saying, then the EU seems to be gearing up for a trade war with the UK and that will hurt everyone.
My suggestion would be that the Brussels negotiators sit down with the UK counterparts and say, "OK, you have decided to leave the club and we wish you well in your venture. If we co-operate in the months and years ahead, it may benefit both of us. But don't forget, if this move should turn out to be a mistake for you, then you can come back and join us again in a United Europe if you wish because the door is always open to you." That, I would have thought, would be a practical and amicable approach to dealing with the split and may set the tone for more fruitful negotiations.
A cursory look at the trade figures, (2015), tells an interesting story. In world economics, the wealthy nations are the ones who export more than they import. In this regard the UK exports goods to a value of £133,831,907,353 to the EU countries but imports goods amounting to £220,149,955,910 from them. This means that the EU needs the UK more than the UK needs the EU by an amount of £86,318,048,557 in only one year. If trade barriers are erected then the EU risks losing over £86bn it currently earns from the UK. Would you really insult the guy bringing you in that kind of dough?
The largest exporters in Germany, the financial engine of the Union, are their motor manufacturers. Mercedes, BMW Opel (Vauxhall), and Volkswagen are very popular in right-hand drive mode. Germany is the UK's top supplier of imports also, even ahead of the USA by some margin. Seven of the top ten most popular cars in the UK are of German origin and I have no doubt that the CEO's of those companies have Angela's ear at the moment. I was surprised too when I looked down the list of countries that buy the most from the UK. In order of purchasing power, they are the USA, Germany, France, Holland and incredibly, little Ireland is in fifth place. We buy 5.6% of the UK's total exports!!
All of that aside though, this article is about the future of Europe and in that regard, it is hugely important that the harsh words are put aside in favour of crafting a win-win scenario for both the UK and the EU. But Irish economist David McWilliams this week is not optimistic. In an article entitled, "When fundamentalists take control," he suggests that an element of extreme positions have been taken up by both parties. When you assume a hard line on anything it makes it much more difficult to find any compromise, never mind a win-win one.
In his article he observes that, "Fundamentalism isn’t unique to the British. Terrifyingly for moderates, the European Jihadis marched into the light this week. These Jihadists want to wage a federalist bellum sacrum and put the British to the sword for having the temerity to leave the club. Like the British strain, the Euro Jihadists are also fundamentalists. They are federalist fundamentalists. Their end game is to root out infidels who believe in pagan notions of sovereignty and national interest. The fact that they refer to countries as member states, rather than nations, gives their game away. In war, language matters. The federalist fundamentalists want to crush the British because a British economic calamity after Brexit will prove definitively to any doubters that leaving the inner sanctum is a mistake. Equally, the British Jihadists want Brexit to be the beginning of the end of the EU because this will sanctify their own Brexit creed."
Certainly here in Ireland there is a sense of fear over the whole matter. The European Jihadis are here today with their gentle smarmy sentiments towards this island. But our politicians are quaking in their boots as they face the big boys of Brussels. Never mind that Ireland stands to have its economy decimated by a hard BREXIT or that a permanent border with Northern Ireland may have to return, our lot are still chirping that we are good little Europeans anyway. Meanwhile they talk to May with forked tongues. Teresa stated in Dublin last month that she doesn't want to see a hard border here and neither do we. I heard one of the EU delegation on radio laughing yesterday before saying, "Oh but what is a hard border anyway? It is impossible in the EU." That is not an answer ma,am.
Nobody here or elsewhere can say whether the UK will be better off or worse off in the years after their departure, but what we can say is that the island comprising the UK will still be a few miles from France, trade will still inevitably take place and a wider market of 5.5 billion people exists outside the EU. While on the point too, we do not know whether the EU will be better or worse off without the UK. What we do know for certainly though, in purely economic terms, a trade war with tariff barriers put in place for the nasty motive of bruised egos must damage all parties involved.