Monday, September 24, 2018 at 7:12 AM

On Brexit Plan, EU to May: No Way!

Posted by Anthony L. Hall

UK Prime Minster Theresa May met with EU leaders in Salzburg on Thursday to discuss terms for a Brexit deal. The setting was idyllic, perfect for the kind of schmoozing and cajoling she had in mind.

More to the point, May reportedly thought her Chequers plan provided just what both sides needed to break up and still be friends … with benefits.

Except that it went over like a lead balloon. Even worse, EU leaders made clear that it was her, not them.

Theresa May was humiliated by all 27 EU leaders in Salzburg today as they rejected her Chequers plan as unworkable.

The Prime Minister was left visibly furious after the French President Emmanuel Macron said Brexit had been sold to the British public by “liars” and that Mrs May must come up with “new propositions” if she wants to salvage a deal.

Mrs May had gone to Austria expecting warm words of encouragement from her fellow leaders, but instead Donald Tusk, the President of the European Council, said key parts of Chequers ‘will not work’ in a brutal assessment of Mrs May’s proposal.

(The Telegraph, September 20, 2018)

You might think this was an EU ambush motivated by spite. But, trust me, the humiliation May suffered was her own fault. Moreover, it had far more to do with UK arrogance and persistence than EU resentment and intransigence.

In fact, May is just the latest UK prime minister trying to negotiate a relationship with EU leaders that smacks of cherry picking, or of the UK wanting to have its cake and eat it too.

I’ve been denouncing, even ridiculing their efforts ever since I wrote “A Dead EU Constitution Resurrected as a ‘New Treaty’ Is Still a Dead EU Constitution!” November 13, 2007. But here in part is how I presaged May’s humiliation in “Brexit: Having Cake and Eating It Too or ‘Volunteering for Economic Vassalage,” July 24, 2018.

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Her [Chequers] White Paper is just a formal version of the idea May floated earlier this year for a ‘managed divergence’ from EU rules. But it should have been instructive that, according to the March 8 edition of The Economist, the EU dismissed it back then as cherry-picking that would undermine the single market.

To be fair, though, in proposing her managed divergence, May was just doing what her predecessors did. …

I’ve been decrying Britain’s ill-fated efforts to negotiate one-foot-in/one-foot-out deals with the EU for years. Therefore, I see no point in delving too deep into Brexit’s murky waters here.

It should suffice to know that at least half of the Britons who voted for Brexit can’t even name the EU’s four ‘indivisible’ freedoms, namely the free movement of goods, capital, services, and people. This, despite the fact that Britain’s attempt to divvy up these freedoms (e.g., by cherry picking to allow goods but restrict people) has been the most animating feature of the Brexit debate.

More to the point, this prevailing ignorance is why so many Britons, across the political spectrum, have been calling for a second referendum (a.k.a. a mulligan) before any UK-EU divorce settlement is executed. …

Britain is fated to end up an island unto itself … marooned in the global sea by the foolish, ignorant pride Brexit reflects. Even worse, as Obama famously warned (and Trump hinted), it will find itself at the back of the line of weak and relatively poor countries trying to strike trade deals with the world’s biggest trading blocs, including the American-led NAFTA, the Chinese-led ACFTA, and yes, ironically enough, the German-led EU.

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And so Britain is finally facing the untenable but all-too-foreseeable consequences of voting for Brexit. It risks becoming a fantasy island unto itself – with loony Brexiteers screaming delusional chants at the moon about the sun never setting on their empire.

Frankly, Britain’s only hope lies in taking one of two corrective courses:

  • A second referendum, which former Prime Minister Tony Blair is championing
  • A snap election – with support for or opposition to Brexit as the only galvanizing issue, which dismayed Brexiteers in May’s own party are championing – complete with a plan to oust her in favor of ousted foreign secretary Boris Johnson as their standard bearer.

Stay tuned …

Related commentaries:
EU constitution
Brexit: having cake

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