Ambrose Evans-Pritchard (AE-P. Daily Telegraph 21/03/2019) has helpfully gathered together critical views on the Brexit negotiations and the proposed Withdrawal Agreement from some German commentators. To show that this blog is not alone in arguing that the future of the EU is, to say the least, uncertain, we copy some of these views here.
AE-P opens with this:
“Ever louder voices in Germany are denouncing the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement as a fundamental failure of European statecraft that can lead only to a diplomatic debacle and festering animosity.”
He then quotes Marcel Fratzscher, who is head of the German Institute for Economic Research:
“Europe is well on the way to inflicting huge damage on itself for decades by the way it has handled the failed Brexit talks”.
Professor Fratzscher argues that “the EU is undermining its own democratic legitimacy by demanding that Westminster MPs swallow the Barnier package [the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement]. He argues that if MPs capitulate and accept the Withdrawal Agreement this would be ‘just as catastrophic’ as a no-deal Brexit.”
AE-P quotes Professor Fratzscher as saying, “Not just the British but the whole European Union will pay an immense price unless EU leaders make a fair offer under plausible terms”.
He then quotes Sigmar Gabriel, who was until last year Germany’s Vice-Chancellor:
“Brexit will damage Europe’s role in the world in a way that we Europeans currently seem unable to grasp. It may be factually correct to point out that the UK put itself into this position, owing to the feckless behavior of its political elite. But this stance helps no one”.
AE-P himself points out that, “it is a constitutional absurdity to try to imprison a military power with a large industrial economy in the EU’s regulatory and legal orbit without EU voting rights. This must blow up in acrimony and end in an abrogation crisis.”
If the only way for Britain to regain full sovereignty is to abrogate its legal agreements with the EU and the only way for the EU to respond is to call on the CJEU to impose its judgements, then crisis is being built into the ‘solution’.
“Gabriel Felbermayr, President of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy (IFW), said any deal with Britain that is perceived to be coercive by the British people will fall apart. … Prof Felbermayr said the original sin of the Barnier team was to demand British submission to the Withdrawal Agreement before starting talks on the future relationship. Nothing in Article 50 stipulates such sequencing. It was a political choice and – we now know – a deliberate trap.”
We continue to wonder why the Government, and other Remainers, will not take the costs of remaining in, or nearly in, the EU into account, since its likely failure is a high risk.
Platitude de Jour
“You can’t just ignore a problem and hope it goes away”
“Where there’s a will there’s a way.”
“Necessity is the mother of invention.”
A problem with experts is that, buried in the detail, they often view problems as insurmountable obstacles rather than challenges. Perhaps that’s what Michael Gove meant when he said during the Referendum campaign, “I think the people of this country have had enough of experts.” He got ridiculed for that by the Remain side which implied that he was advocating blind ignorance over ‘facts’, furthering their characterisation of Leavers as uneducated fools. In the next sentence Gove added, “… getting it consistently wrong.” This context was ignored by his critics.
Sometimes you avoid a road block by finding another route, or you might just learn how to live with a problem and mitigate any ill effects. Organisations that stick with what they know will generally fail eventually because they don’t adapt to change. The rate at which businesses in the FTSE100 and Fortune500 (the US equivalent) fall out of the indexes after a few decades is surprising. Over 50 years about 90% of them have vanished, taken over by stronger rivals or because their mainstay products have diminished. Failing to innovate is a key reason.
In corporations where commercial experts vet every proposal for innovation and ask for proof of the new market usually create little innovation, just tweaks to existing products or services. Big companies tend to wait for start-ups to prove the demand and snap up the upstarts, in Britain if not so much in America. These passive giants seldom last.
Few organisations are more inflexible at their core than the EU. Nearly a century ago it conceived a theoretical path to solve Europe’s problems and tactics to ensure it would reach its destination. The route and destination haven’t changed but circumstances have.