Nothing will satisfy the Eurocrats now

With Theresa May’s heavily trailed Europe speech rapidly approaching, the commentariat have gone into a kind of speculative overdrive as they feverishly try to second guess the shape and form of any revised Brexit offer the Prime Minister might make. Tales of a two year transition period and a £35 billion Brexit bill have been bandied about for the last week, and will no doubt become even more speculative as the big day draws closer.

People shouldn’t get their hopes up. As I explained in my earlier article, it seems unlikely that any deal offered by Britain will be sufficient to satisfy the EU negotiators, regardless of what each member state might privately think.

If, and it’s a big if, the figure of £35 billion is even reasonably accurate, it cannot simply be forked over without expecting something in return. Such an offer will surely be conditional on the UK exiting both the Single Market and the Customs Union in March 2019. This would allow the UK to negotiate trade on its own while retaining tariff free access to the Single Market for a short period. It will also deliver on Britain’s commitment to the current EU budget period which ends in 2020. This all seems quite reasonable, generous even, but Michel Barnier et al have thus far proved completely unwilling to accept any offer which is not an exact continuation of the current status quo.

Britain is often accused of wanting to have its Brexit cake and eat it, yet it’s the European Union which has steadfastly sought to retain every advantage it currently enjoys and give nothing in return.

For reasons that have never been fully explained, the EU seems to believe it can easily extract tens of billions of pounds from a leaving member state in return for a vague promise of future trade talks, with no certain outcome. Nobody in their right mind would accept that kind of dodgy get rich scheme pitch, and the Prime Minister must know the political and financial folly of such a lopsided arrangement.

Instead of engaging in constructive discussions, Brussels has embarked on a counterproductive campaign of deliberate discourtesy every time the UK has offered a solution to any Brexit problem. This cannot be an accident, just look at their responses so far…

Theresa May is “living in another galaxy” when it comes to the colossal, nebulous and ever-changing “divorce bill.”

Proposed customs and border arrangements are “a fantasy.”

An offer regarding citizens’ rights is a “damp squib.”

The Irish border proposals are “magical thinking.”

Conclusion: the EU has no interest in reaching any kind of pragmatic, mutually beneficial accommodation with the first nation ever to cut ties with this increasingly authoritarian bloc. They can’t risk setting a dangerous political precedent as they know for sure that other nations will follow. It’s becoming increasingly clear that the no-deal Brexit scenario was probably decided within hours of the referendum result.

This will be the background behind the Prime Minister’s speech on Friday. She may be gracious and accommodating, or combative and confrontational. In fact it doesn’t really matter which approach she adopts because the response has already been decided. It’ll probably take under an hour for the inevitable hoots of laughter and derision to pour forth from the Brussels bureaucrats and their metropolitan media enablers.

We’re wasting our time.

Image courtesy of Michal Zacharzewski at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Labour’s Back to the Future Brexit

Roll up, roll up! Get your new and improved Labour Brexit right here! Much softer than brand Tory and guaranteed to preserve the status quo by remaining inside the customs union and the single market. It’s kinder and more moral too, with extra freedom of movement and ECJ oversight baked in for another two years…or maybe that’s four, or maybe, perhaps, possibly even longer than that. But don’t you worry, Britain absolutely will be leaving the European Union in 2019. Oh sure, there are some details to sort out, but apart from the continued jurisdiction of the ECJ, freedom of movement, membership fees and EU trade supremacy, Britain will be completely independent. We are absolutely committed to delivering Brexit.

Seriously, is anyone still buying this snake oil b******t? If they are, then I have a very nice bridge…

If Sir Keir Starmer’s new Brexit formula feels oddly familiar, it’s because we’ve been here before, several times. The Labour Party is taking a well-trodden path to a certain dead end, and it clearly believes its voter base is either too dim or too blindly tribal to notice or care. Labour’s newly unveiled Brexit policy is exactly the kind of cherry picking fantasy the EU has firmly rejected from day one, and with good cause. If the whole Brexit process has proven one indisputable fact, it’s that you’re either in the EU or you’re not. There are no half measures, yet the Labour Party seems to think it can somehow leave and remain at the same time. Good luck with that.

Why should the EU even consider the concept of such an unprecedented and awkward arrangement, especially for a member state that’s going to be leaving anyway? Unless it’s a ruse to keep Britain shackled to Brussels indefinitely, they have no incentive to even discuss such a ridiculous idea.

Back in June, millions of Labour Leave voters cast their ballots in good faith, safe in the knowledge that the party they backed were not attempting to remain in the EU via the back door, just as their arch enemy Theresa May had previously warned. Then…abracadabra…poof! Overnight the Labour Party has press-ganged their votes into serving a mendacious attempt to remain in the EU in all but name. At least Tory and Lib Dem backers knew what they were signing up for.

I guess a lot of younger Labour voters are now starting to understand why their elders voted Leave in such huge numbers. They’ve now had a direct taste of the utter contempt in which the party the many holds both them and their views.

Feeling angry and duped? You bloody well should be!

Image courtesy of artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

True Colours

Unless things change dramatically, it’s looking increasingly like Britain will leave the European Union without any kind of meaningful trade deal or reciprocal arrangements on citizens’ rights.

This will be a great disappointment to the vast majority of both leave and remain voters, but the latest round of talks in Brussels has demonstrated that both sides are approaching the negotiations from fundamentally different perspectives. Interestingly, these two divergent viewpoints neatly serve to illustrate the fundamental reason behind Britain’s restive relationship with the European Union, and its true motivation for walking away.

Whilst frustrating and very concerning for everyone involved, the increasingly fraught Brexit process has finally killed any pretence that the European Project is about anything other than ever increasing political power. Don’t take my word for it, but look instead at the primary motivations of the opposing parties.

While the British approach is essentially pragmatic, focusing on trade, cooperation and partnership, the EU is concerned primarily with maximising political influence over the UK after March 2019. This is why the talks will most likely fail as neither side is capable of relinquishing what it sees as its own inalienable rights. The idea of EU institutions continuing to control UK law is anathema to the British, while the EU simply cannot imagine any kind of relationship with the UK which doesn’t involve direct political influence. Oddly enough, they’re easily able to imagine such a relationship with Canada and Japan, but the UK will be treated very differently. The reason for this glaring double standard is because the UK is now a clear and present threat to the European Project.

The increasingly acrimonious wrangling over EU citizens is an excellent example of these two incompatible viewpoints. Leaving aside any quibble over details, the UK has made a meaningful and substantive opening offer on citizens’ rights. Tentative discussion of a possible transition period for EU citizens living in or moving to the UK shows some level of flexibility, and a willingness to compromise on important issues.

In stark contrast, the EU has been exposed as utterly unwilling to accept the reality that it will no longer wield direct legal influence over UK affairs once Britain has withdrawn from the bloc. This is why their negotiators continue to indulge the fantasy of the European Court of Justice continuing its jurisdiction over EU citizens residing in the UK after March 2019.

One does not need a Master’s degree in treaty law to realise that such an idea is patently absurd and completely unworkable. An old friend of mine is married to a lady from East Germany (and an hour spent talking with someone who grew up behind the Iron Curtain is an education in itself). Is the EU seriously suggesting that my friend would have to appeal to one Supreme Court for his justice, while his wife would have to appeal to a different one for hers? What about their young child, where would he have to go when he grows up? Could he choose whichever he fancies? What happens if one Supreme Court rules against him, can he just run to the other like a child playing his parents?

No sovereign nation, of any stripe, can be expected to allow a foreign court to rule on issues of law within its own borders. The fact that drinking alcohol is legal in the UK does not save British citizens from arrest in Saudi Arabia. How could it?

The EU negotiators must know this because they are extensively educated, yet still they persist, in the full knowledge that such intransigence will probably scupper the whole negotiation process.

With each round of talks, my suspicion grows that the no-deal scenario has already been decided by Brussels. The EU knows the UK is leaving and there’s nothing it can do to stop that from happening. The only course of action left is to catch Britain’s fingers in the door as it walks out in a last ditch effort to discourage others from following.

It gives me no pleasure to say it, but there will probably be no meaningful Brexit deal. It’s going to get a lot nastier from here on in, and we can expect undisguised EU hostility to continue for many years after we’ve gone. We’d best get used to it now and adjust accordingly.

Ballooning Bill

It’s taken a while, but finally the truth is out there. After all the false pretence, official leaks and political theatre, we now know exactly what the European Union’s priorities are as far as any Brexit negotiation is concerned.

It’s all about the money…it’s always been about the money.

It has to be about the money, because the truth that dare not speak its name in polite politics is that the European Union is in fact one colossal wealth redistribution engine. Not so much a welfare state as welfare for states, and Brexit represents a de facto tax strike.

It’s still not clear exactly how much of the average UK worker’s wage packet Brussels believes it’s entitled to, but we know it’ll more than enough to keep Juncker and the rest of his unelected inner circle in comfort and cognac for the rest of their days. The fact that the EU has been obsessing about the Brexit bill being settled in advance of any trade negotiations shows just how vital the UK’s contributions are in propping up the increasingly rickety superstructure of this increasingly embattled superstate.

Only this morning the press is reporting that Poland and France have weighed in with an extra demand for still greater contributions to support the hated Common Agricultural Policy. Quelle surprise!

At first glance it would appear that the European Union is single minded in its ambition to shaft us one last time before we finally slam the door on this unhappy marriage, but that unity is just a little too polished a little too well rehearsed to be entirely authentic. Since when did all the member states agree anything in 4 months, let alone 4 minutes?

The truth is that the Brussels bureaucrats are facing an existential crisis, and they know it. One member state has already decided to quit the bloc, and the remaining twenty-seven will inevitably turn on each other and Brussels as recipients become contributors and the age of acquiescence bought with confiscated cash finally comes to an abrupt and painful end.

George Osborne was right during the referendum campaign when he said that Brexit would cause a profound economic shock…but it won’t just be for us.

This looming and inescapable crisis explains why Brussels is so insistent on treating the UK as a supplicant state rather than the union’s second largest economy.

We should get used to this kind of abuse and grandstanding, because it’ll drone on for years before we go and long after we’ve left. Once the European Union collapses under the weight of its own hubris, naturally it’s the Brexiting British who will be blamed. The next Greek debt crisis, blame Brexit. The rise of nationalism, Brexit. Conflict on the Korean peninsula, Brussels will doubtless find a way to blame Brexit for that too. Just look across the ocean to where an increasingly unhinged Hillary Clinton has blamed everything from misogyny to voter stupidity, and even some Machiavellian Russian plot to disguise her own colossal, epoch defining ineptitude and corruption. So will it be with Brexit.

The European Union may appear to be an immovable object, but the nations upon which it has imposed itself are far less interested in penalising one reluctant member state than they are with providing jobs, trade and prosperity for their own voting and taxpaying citizenry. Sooner or later, they will find themselves in direct conflict with Brussels as economic pragmatism collides with the inflexible zeal of the EU’s ideologues.

There is much talk among the pundit classes of a possible future breakup of the EU, but I would say that Brussels’ growing obsession with scoring one last shot of UK cash suggests that process is already underway. Last orders have been called and the tab’s being tallied.

The party’s over.

The Soft 48

So the unofficial Brexit election is officially on, and already there’s talk in the mainstream press about a possible Lib-Dem resurgence. Given that they’re currently languishing at about 11% in the polls along with UKIP and others, that seems like wishful thinking.

There can be little doubt that the newly crowned party of the diehard Remainer will wrestle a few trendy metropolitan seats from the Conservatives. The kind of constituencies that boast expensive coffee served up by migrants who sleep four to a room. However, the Remainers’ resurgence will be much smaller than Mr Farron might hope, and his dream of a sizeable Parliamentary presence is nothing more than a pleasant fantasy. Wishing doesn’t make it so, and the 48% is much softer and more diverse than the hardcore Remainers have talked themselves into believing.

Throughout the ensuing blizzard of post-referendum dialogue in the mainstream press and on the internet, the single biggest complaint among Brexiteers seems to be the fact that their opponents continually characterise them as poorly educated, bigoted and probably racist little Englanders.

Unfortunately for the committed Remain camp, just a few seconds of sustained rational thought will reveal the ridiculous implausibility of 17.4 million people voting to leave the European Union through an irrational xenophobic hatred of those people in this world who are most like themselves. With that especially spiteful and deluded label rightly consigned to the dustbin of discourse, it’s equally important not to blithely write off the 16.1 million who voted to remain as soulless, humourless, identikit authoritarians, hell bent on stealing political power from a European demographic they despise as an intransigent blot on their blueprint for a supreme European superstate.

Such a mischaracterisation of remain voters is insulting to their intelligence, motives and aspirations for the UK, and within that easy demolition of such a crude caricature lies the truth that will soon expose the shallowness of Remain’s support pool.

The one thing that has not yet been spoken about through all of the pre-and post-referendum autopsy are the forces that really drove intelligent, articulate individual voters to align themselves with the increasingly authoritarian, remote and unpopular bureaucratic class embodied by the EU. It’s highly unlikely that the vast majority of those 16.1 million citizens were guided by snobbery or elitism, and it’s much more likely that Project Fear had persuaded them to rationally cast their votes in favour of the lesser evil. After all, why take the risk?

Ten months on from that momentous day, we are a good deal further down the road and we all have a little more perspective on the landscape through which we travel. Many Remain leaning publications are still shivering on their widow’s walks, fervently scanning a distant horizon for even the slightest signs of Bregret, from anyone, anywhere. This has led them into the unfortunate habit of making themselves look foolish when they smugly declare that the malaise has taken hold among the leave supporting troglodyte class. When it clearly hasn’t.

Whilst they are busily searching for signs of weakness in their enemy’s defences, they’ve remained blissfully unaware of the mutinous mutterings much closer to home.

If anyone cares to stop shouting and listen carefully, they may hear the distant approach of a growing insurgent army of Remain deserters who feel they’ve been thoroughly hoodwinked by a dishonest establishment. An increasing number of these reluctant Remainers are actually glad that Britain is leaving an EU that they never really loved, now that the Project Fear hoax has been exposed as a cynical campaign of coercion and misinformation.

Some commentators are already touting Theresa May’s snap election as Brexit referendum 2.0 and are dutifully preparing to reboot Project Fear as the spectre of a “disastrous hard Brexit” is predictably conjured up. They seem to be wilfully ignorant of the unknown but growing number of recanting Remainers who are just waiting to throw their weight behind our now certain exit from the EU. The scales have fallen from their eyes and they now see that the emperor wears no clothes.

They won’t get fooled again, and come June 8th, they will have their revenge.

Show me the Money!!

So, the pint guzzling, tab smoking scourge of civilised society has been hard at it again. Sensitive and enlightened souls are still picking themselves up from their carbon neutral reclaimed hardwood floors across a huge swathe of North London and the Cotswolds following this latest cultural and political mugging by the emboldened hoody of European populism.

While the Daily Mail characterises the former UKIP leader’s deliberately and unnecessarily provocative language as an act of defiance, the Guardian predictably paints Wednesday morning’s fiery exchanges as proof positive that the EU is attempting to reach a reasonable accommodation in the face of ongoing nationalist hostility. Business as usual.

Leaving the screeching hyperbole of frothing Brexiteers and finger wagging Remainers aside for a moment, if that’s even possible, we actually find ourselves on wearyingly familiar territory once again. All the noise emanating from Strasbourg this week boils down to the fact that Brexit means Brexit, and the UK cannot cherry pick the benefits of EU membership.

Okay, we get it, we heard you. No really, we did…ages ago, before we even voted in the referendum.

You know, as somebody who voted to leave the EU, I can say for sure that both my leave and remain voting friends are sick to the back teeth of hearing these increasingly clichéd and hackneyed phrases. It’s almost as though the big guns on either side believe that their opposite numbers are so monumentally dense that they cannot grasp these simple ideas, even though Theresa May has repeatedly stated that the UK will not seek to remain within the European single market or the customs union. Therefore, it is not clear to me where all this talk of cherry picking is coming from. Nobody’s asking for cherries.

One thing that has become increasingly clear is that Mr Farage is a man who thrives on controversy and confrontation, so we shouldn’t be surprised that he’s taking this opportunity to stick it to the European establishment while he still can. After all, he’ll have to find another platform after 2019, but I don’t think that will be too much of a problem for him.

The difficulty with someone like Farage is that he is most definitely a Marmite character, which leads people to either cheer ecstatically the moment he appears on screen or simply switch off. While these are admittedly heartfelt responses, neither lends itself to actually hearing the position he is espousing on any given topic.

One can always tell when Farage is in the chamber, as there’s a knot of expectant reporters and cameramen gathered whenever he is about to deliver one of his historically bruising and deliberately insensitive monologues. Whether you love him or loathe him, Farage has succeeded in making himself the single most famous MEP in the history of the European Parliament.

Wednesday morning’s verbal assault began with Nigel Farage’s entirely predictable condemnation of the European Union as bullying, dictatorial and undemocratic. This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone as such attacks are both his trademark and how he makes his living, which leads me to suspect that even an EU offer of a free gold bar to every child of woman born would be viewed with suspicion, and characterised as a form of bribery or financial coercion.

That said, the former UKIP leader did raise a couple important points that actually are worthy of serious discussion.

First was the vexed and increasingly malleable “divorce bill” which ranges from a straightforward payment of €60 billion, through various permutations of assets and liabilities and ends up the EU owing us an unspecified number of billions. Behind all the bluster and grandstanding, Mr Farage did make the very valid point that, at the moment, all of these figures appear to have been just plucked from the air. Maybe the EU is right and we do actually owe them a couple of well stacked pallets of clingfilmed currency, but the conspicuous absence of any supporting calculations is making this writer increasingly sceptical. The quicker we all put some meat on these bones the better, then at least we’ll have something solid to argue about. At the moment we’re all just shouting at smoke.

The other point which is well worth remembering was that Farage was quite correct when he pointed out that the UK did not in fact join the European Union in 1973, for the simple reason that the European Union did not come into existence until 1992 when the Maastricht Treaty was signed by the member states of the then European Community. Bearing this in mind, it’s quite revealing that the demographic who voted most strongly in favour of leaving the European Union is the same group who would’ve been old enough to vote in the 1975 plebiscite. Can this possibly be a coincidence? Naturally there is an army of bloggers and wailing commentators who see this as a vindication of their unfounded view that the grammar school generation is inherently xenophobic, probably a bit racist and certainly less well educated than their younger, intellectual superiors. The more likely explanation is that the older generation is the one that feels most abused and betrayed by the EU. When speaking to my father’s friends, I’ve found that they are almost of one voice in expressing their desire to leave because they feel they’ve been duped and deceived. The European Union of today doesn’t remotely resemble any trading bloc they voted to join…and we all know it.

In fact, the 2016 referendum has been the first and only time that the UK population has been offered any kind of meaningful choice as to whether they wished to be a part of “the ever closer union” of the European project. Their answer was clear enough.

If the European Project’s democratic deficit had been honestly confronted back in the nineties and not swept under the carpet, then smothered by an increasingly authoritarian EU and aided by a sycophantic, out of touch media class then history might’ve been very different.

Alas we’ll never know, as the EU is too far gone to be saved in its present form. It’s just a matter of time.

The Rise of the Naton State

Ok, so after a very long and not at all tiring campaign of procrastination, I’ve finally given in to friends and fans and started a blog. As a writer, it seems to make sense…kind of.

What’s gonna be in this blog?

I’m glad you asked. The Naton State will be populated by articles and essays on current events, politics and culture, with a sprinkling of film, TV & music thrown in just because I can.

I tend to approach the world from a classical liberal/libertarian viewpoint, which means I’m naturally suspicious of state control and enjoy mocking the ever-reliable stupidity of identity politics.

This will not be a politically correct blog…but neither is it designed to be deliberately offensive or provocative. I will make no apologies for speaking the truth as I see it, and I don’t have time to get into endless online arguments. Trolls and hyperbole have no place here, so if you’re looking for a fight, go some place else because I’m too old and too busy to listen to bullshit.

That’s it for now, and I’ll be starting with a couple of my blog entries from minds.com regarding Brexit and the snap election – I voted to leave by the way. Remember that bit about state control?

All the best

Charles Naton