Great Britain: Is it Up To It? – BALKAN NEWS MAGAZINE

A Monty Python view of Theresa May & Brexit

It is sometimes hard to understand why so many UK citizens, view their EU counterparts with such contempt. From the politically unsafe, and totally unacceptable, although frequently remarked 18th Century British view, that “all w*g’s begin in Calais,” is it any wonder that certain avid right wing politicians, and Brexiteers, still retain the misbegotten believe that the UK is somehow superior to the rest of Europe? Not just this, but there also seems to be a somewhat jingoistic view, that negotiating with the EU is a bit like trading with some colonial, and vulnerable sub-species from central Africa!

When you hear the internal remarks, and interviews on British TV and throughout the news media, you might think that ‘UK PLC’ imagines that the rest of Europe only watches cartoons on TV, and reads comic books, or even seed catalogues. But, you only have to swap channels a few times, to see what the French think on France24, the Germans on Deutsche Welle, and Mr Putin on RT. We all know what Mr. Trump thinks, which is not very much, and usually off the wall. So, how well is the British Government doing, in their quest to leave the exclusive club of Europe, according to their newly antagonized and irritated fellow members?

The German Perspective

Kantinka Barysch of Allianz SE says – German business is another matter. The British government is right to say that there is a lot at stake for the German economy. In 2016, Germany exported €86 billion worth of goods to the UK, while imports from the UK were less than half that. Some 750,000 jobs in Germany are said to depend on exports to the UK. And 2,500 German companies are active in the UK, having invested €120 billion there.

The German car sector is especially dependent on UK-based factories and sales, but also German pharmaceuticals, machine building, financial institutions and others. No wonder that four in ten German companies expect Brexit to harm their business.

Will Chancellor Angela Merkel cave in to the demands of German companies and adopt a softer stance in the negotiations, like many of the British expect? In the past, German foreign policy was indeed often driven by economic interests. But that is not necessarily the case today. The sanctions on Russia are an important precedent: even the strongest lobbying groups could not sway Berlin’s determination to sanction Russia for the annexation of Crimea.

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Merkel’s priority is to keep the EU27 together and protect the EU’s achievements. Speaking to the German employers federation in 2016, Merkel explicitly asked the assembled business leaders to put the sanctity of the single market above their individual business interests. And, indeed, for many German companies, maintaining their pan-European supply chains which, link German car assembly plants with suppliers in Central Europe is more important than preserving the business they do with the UK.

While Germany is unlikely to take a softer approach, it is not out to “punish” Great Britain either. That is not to deny that there is disappointment. “The Brits have always been half-hearted members”, many Germans complain. And many more are puzzled that a country could go into such a momentous referendum totally unprepared for the outcome.But the Germans also remember the UK’s great contributions to the EU – the single market, eastward enlargement, the common security policy – and they hope that the country can still stay a close and productive partner.

The French Perspective

Desiree Lopez, CEO of TNS thinks that the British referendum on EU membership, and the results will certainly remind French voters of their stormy electoral history with Europe. Everyone will remember the 2005 referendum, which saw the French reject the ratification of the Lisbon Treaty. At that time, France almost surprised itself, unveiling a near equal divide between those – the most wealthy and educated half of voters – who wanted to continue to believe in a positive Europe and the others – the majority –  who choose to send a strong signal to an overly complex and inefficient Europe.

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Beyond French politics, as the refugee crisis undermines some of the EU’s fundamental principles, the French people will also begin to wonder how the outcome of the British referendum could impact a Europe is increasingly torn between nations that would fight for an ever closer union, and others that could choose to leave it.

Finally, the average French pupil in a European classroom will probably ask himself how to consider both the generous, but questioned the German teacher and they’re brilliant, but trouble making British classmate; the latter threatening to storm out unless concessions to the rules are made, all the while distracting and disrupting the rest of the class.

Political Leaders in Italy

In the days leading up to the referendum vote, then Prime Minster Matteo Renzi made pleas to the UK voters, but seemed confident they would vote to remain. On 22nd June, ANSA reported this statement from Renzi – “If there is one thing that the British have never done in front of a challenge that affects their future, their very identity, is making the wrong choice.”

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And his view of those who want to leave was, “They would trade independence for loneliness, pride for weakness and identity for self-harm “. Following the Referendum Mr Renzi tweeted*: “We have to change it to make it more humane and more just, but Europe is our home, it’s our future.”

Renzi said – “Italy is in the front row to change Europe.” He also added that, “If there are difficulties, the Italian Government and the European institutions are ready to intervene in order to give certainty to consumers and Italian savers.” He hopes that Europe will now put growth center stage.

Even, Beppe Grillo of Italy’s second most popular party, the Five Star Movement (M5S), has voiced his support for the EU. In a post on his blog, he stated that Italy needed to “change the EU from within”.

Only the Eurosceptic leaders of the “Fratelli d’Italia and “Lega” have made calls for an EU Referendum to be held in Italy, fuelled by panic selling on the Milan stock exchange on June 24th. Without the support of the leaders of the top parties, a referendum in Italy is unlikely to happen, but they will be pushing for changes to be made in the EU, especially relating to the Economy and Immigration.

It would seem that most of the EU pundits, follow a ‘suck it and see’ approach to the shenanigans in Britain, and are still bewildered about the reasons some people want to leave a good party, with lashings of food and drink. They are also baffled at those who presume to represent the people of the United Kingdom, the political ‘U’ turns, the infighting and squabbling, the ignorance and brinkmanship, and finally the glib smugness. Do you think they know what they are doing?

The Editor