The logical consequence of leaving Europe is that we are worse off. Brussels bullying simply doesn’t enter into itby Jonathan Lis / November 2, 2018 / Leave a comment
As the Brexit negotiations stutter towards a new deadline and a new opportunity to miss it, the rhetoric of punishment again hangs in the air. The narrative is predictable. The EU is attempting to blackmail us into accepting the Irish backstop, taking its revenge on us for leaving. We should have no desire to be in an organisation that bullies and humiliates us.
This is not simply the language of radio shock-jocks and nationalist commentators. The foreign secretary told the Conservative Party conference that the EU “[seems] to think the way to keep the club together is to punish a member who leaves… even by breaking up the United Kingdom with a border down the Irish Sea.” For good measure he then compared the bloc to a Soviet prison. That was a neat accompaniment to his predecessor’s remark that the French president “wants to administer punishment beatings to anybody who chooses to escape, rather in the manner of some World War Two movie.” If it’s not the empire, eventually it will be the Nazis.
The genre was recently best illuminated by former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott in the Spectator. He warned that the EU might, in a no deal scenario, “hit out with tariffs and impose burdens on Britain.” Students of global trade might be aware that these “tariffs and burdens” are otherwise known as following the rules of the World Trade Organisation.
The truth, should it need to be pointed out, is that the EU is not punishing us. It is simply refusing to grant us special privileges. From the beginning, Brussels’ deepest red line has demanded that the UK must not be able to enjoy the benefits of membership without its obligations, and must therefore be accorded no more favours than any other non-member. Originally the EU might have been motivated by a desire not to spread the “contagion” of exit, but that risk has long since abated. Now member states insist on the policy in order to boost their political cohesion and long-term interests.
The EU can only function with a commitment to common laws. This is particularly apparent in the case of no deal. When Brexiters are confronted with the reality of collapsed port infrastructure, empty supermarkets and grounded aircraft,…