Still Bickering

Remainers and Leavers still argue about the benefits of Brexit and the EU, arguments that have divided friends and families. Here we imagine a family argument, still raging after two years of bickering.

The UK population became a lot more engaged in politics during the prolonged exit negotiations and started to recognise some details of what had previously seemed an amorphous union—the EU. In February two years ago we illustrated how family members were often bickering about Brexit [1]. Many who voted to stay in the EU have now accepted that we have left and some of them have been offended by the imperiousness of the Union and no longer regret the fact. Others cannot reconcile themselves to our departure and are still quarrelling—Levi and Stacey (from our earlier post) are still at it and we pick up their story again as they argue about the negotiating mandates of the two sides.

Partners-2“You can’t just leave, stop paying the membership and expect the same benefits,” says Stacey.

As always, Levi disagrees, “What benefits? We get some money but a lot less than we pay, and why shouldn’t we decide what to do with our own money?”

“The difference goes to poorer countries that need the money, it’s selfish to deny them that help.” Stacey has high moral standards which she believes the EU’s principles embody. Levi is more cynical and always ready with some example of failure by the EU.

“The UK pays more in foreign aid than any EU country, how is that selfish? Why can’t we decide who needs our help most? We may not always make the best decisions but neither does the EU. Corruption and misspending are pretty notorious, like ski slopes with no snow, expensively built by mates of the ruling party’s bosses (that’s in Hungary by the way).”

“Well, I think we should stand by our friends first and foremost, and we have more chance of fixing these problems in Europe than in Africa.”

“Possibly, though they are pretty endemic in many cases. But how can you call them friends when it’s clear they are behaving like adversaries, if not economic enemies? They want to punish us for leaving.”

Unfair advantage-2“They just want to make sure we don’t get all the same advantages without contributing anything and that we don’t undercut them unfairly.”

“We’re not asking for the same advantages as before, only the same as others get, like Canada.”

“But we’re not like Canada, our economies are much closer and more entangled.”

“What has that got to do with anything? It’s a fake issue they’ve just invented to cover up what really bothers them– that we might be more successful without the “benefits” you reckon they’ve given us. If we are then other members that aren’t feeling the “benefits” of being controlled by Germany and France might realise they could do better without the EU’s ‘help’. The EU’s bosses know it’s a fight for their political survival.”

“They don’t want a competitor on their doorstep undercutting them by ignoring and undermining their standards.”

“That’s the heart of it; they fear that the UK will be a successful competitor and show up their lack of growth. We’re hardly a low-standards country and being close geographically doesn’t make any difference, that’s just an excuse to keep us in step with their lack of progress economically. They don’t impose such rules on anyone else and shouldn’t try it on us.”

“We’re going to suffer by leaving, we’re going to be poorer.”

“You don’t know that. Being in the EU hasn’t done us much good up to now and it’s all (crystal) balls to guess the economic outcome, which hasn’t worked so far since we voted and long-term guesses are even less reliable. Of course there’ll be disruption but also opportunities and anyway the EU has its own problems that can drag us down. It’s not all about economics anyway.”

“Fishermen are going to suffer when their biggest market imposes tariffs, and the farmers.”

“Fishermen and farmers have been very brave, most of them voted to leave the EU despite knowing they’d have to find other markets. They know the EU has taken unfair advantage and want to be free of it. And both fish stocks and our fishing fleet have almost been destroyed by the EU’s policies and practices, which they want to continue.”

British Isles“Oh you think you know everything. I just feel we ought to have stayed and be part of something bigger than our own little island.”

“Well that wraps up the argument. It’s all about feelings not outcomes.”

If it’s true that ‘opposites attract’ perhaps Stacey and Levi like bickering and enjoy how they make up afterwards, maybe that’s why they’re still together. The UK has always been an uncomfortable partner in its marriage to the EU and the divorce proceedings look like they will continue being rancorous. We hope there will be a fair agreement but we’re not banking on it in view of the incompatible mandates and aggressive statements from both sides.

[1] European Values


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