Brexit Won’t Happen

by Eärendil

The European Union is not perfect. Having worked in the European Commission and European policy for several years, I was aware of the inefficiency, the slow progress and intractable bureaucracy. There are many things wrong with it. On balance, however, I argue that it does more good than bad. Over the next year people will realise this more and more and the sensible powers that be will stop the folly of jumping off the cliff edge, of this I am certain.

The main reason Brexit won’t happen is due to the Irish border issue. Europe has three negotiating red lines; the Irish border, the safeguarding of migrant rights (in the UK and mainland Europe) and the settling of the money the UK rightly owes. Two of these issues are solvable, the first is not. There are three options with the Irish border. The first is to implement a hard border, unacceptable to Ireland and thus Europe as Ireland is a member state. Albeit the overall Brexit deal will be settled by qualified majority voting (QMV) – not unanimity, so this could happen. It seems unlikely however as Barnier was involved in setting up the Good Friday Agreement and no one wants a return to the Troubles of the past. For interest, it is also worth noting that the QMV needed for Brexit makes Spain not entirely an obstacle for voting against Scotland staying in Europe; Spain not being a fan of ‘separatists’ clearly.

The second option is the reunification of Ireland. I can’t see the UK giving up Northern Ireland. Theresa May’s shady deal with the DUP is a sign of intent there. Interestingly the DUP has already not voted with the Tories on the public sector pay cap, making a Brexit deal getting through UK parliament increasingly unlikely. Even Labour says it won’t vote for the Brexit deal, but abstaining seems to be their hobby these days – so little hope there.

“Theresa May’s shady deal with the DUP is a sign of intent.”

The third option is the UK staying in the single market – by far the only and most workable solution. So we end up paying to stay in the single market whilst having no say how Europe forms our laws. A poor solution but better than the cliff edge. Hilariously this might also mean signing up to Schengen which will delight the racists no end. The transition deal is also in the gift of the EU and I can’t see any reason why member states will vote for it. They’d rather see us suffer, and our arrogant government deserves to be made an example of.

Many of the flaws people see with Europe stem from its pervasive neoliberalism. This is exemplified in the Common Agricultural and Common Fisheries Policies. Economies of scale and large scale production, compartmentalisation of the production line, is not compatible with localism and empowerment of communities. Scotland being in the European Free Trade Association (which allows us to opt out if the CAP and the CFP) could well be a good result here. I’m actually against the euro and the European Union having more control over our social security, foreign policy and defence too. This could be a way for Scotland and Northern Ireland to get what they want from this deal.

Greece and Spain have not been good points for the European Union lately. Neither of these situations have shown the EU in a good light. With Greece it was the assymetry of the economies entering the common currency that lead to their people being so shoddily treated. With Spain, I don’t think we could expect the European Union to interfere in the politics of a sovereign state. Individual member states must of course uphold democracy and denounce the actions of the Spanish government incarcerating elected leaders, many have such as Denmark. For the EU to impose diktat or invoke force over a sovereign state is exactly the kind of overreach of an EU superstate that people rally against. The EU is just a collection if sovereign states supported by the commission. If the Council of Ministers wants to agree to impose sanctions on Spain, fine. If someone wants to take a case against the Spanish government to the Council of Europe and the European court of Justice, also fine. If Brussels wants to give Catalan ministers asylum, great. For Juncker to say something however is no better than Baroso interfering in Scotland’s indyref. It is beyond the remit of non elected bureaucrats.

We must think on balance of the environmental, scientific and daily human right advances of the EU. The excellent work of member states collectively taking in migrants, of progressing higher living standards and working rights across Eastern Europe. Of maintaining “peace in our time” for decades. The EU is complex and delivers so many benefits. Leaving these behind will impoverish our country and give the Tories free reign to destroy our NHS and all that we hold dear.

Let’s face it, the UK can’t even roll seven benefits into one Universal Credit over seven years never mind negotiate hundreds of new trade agreements in one. Trade agreements that will exploit developing nations no doubt. The common standards and regulations that bind us together will not be untangled easily, and with time people will see it is folly to try. Brexit won’t happen, I bet my life on it.


The Butterfly Rebellion
Glasgow, Scotland

7 thoughts on “Brexit Won’t Happen

  1. Thank you for that interesting and informative post, you clearly have a far better idea of what the EU is and how it functions than most of us.

    Like you, I recently considered the EU to be imperfect (as is almost anything) but on balance a Good Thing. However the recent and ongoing develops re Catalonia have left me hovering between seriously sceptical and anti-EU.

    Some sort of Europe of the Peoples would be wonderful, but instead we have an unbalanced collection with on the one hand many small and often rather new, fairly uniform states, lumped in with a handful of large multi-national ex-colonial large states, namely the UK, France and Spain, now joined by a unified Germany. These latter players seem happy to throw their weight around and the smaller states are silent. Bullied somehow into submission maybe, I really don’t know?

    Why for example haven’t e.g. the Baltics or Ireland (Ireland FFS!) spoken up in support of Catalonia, given their history. Is politcial memory so short? How can we have a workable common European project, standards etc., where many small nations are restrained from taking a position, even when legally sovereign, while a good number of other historic/ethnic/cultural nations, be they Scotland or Catalonia, Euskadi or Breizh, have no status at all, are denied any part to play on the European stage, have no vote just as if they were underage kids?

    In these circumstances I find it hard to support the EU unless or until it is drastically reformed.


    • @marconatrix

      The EU is unique in that smaller nations have a disproportionately large voice. There are more MEPs per head of population for smaller nations than larger ones. The right of veto over any matter pertaining to commerce or national security means the tiniest country can finish off anything they don’t like. The right of veto over all treaty change gives smaller nations huge power, too. The idea that the EU is a club where only UK/France/Germany have a say is demonstrably false. In the past there were rather cosy chats about future direction between the big 3 but that has been formally replaced by the European Council and the participation of all.

      The EU is a collection of sovereign nations. Membership requires recognition in international law eg United Nations membership, Council of Europe, ability to participate in and uphold international agreements. You might not have noticed but Scotland isn’t a sovereign nation. It cannot legally participate with national representation in the EU because it is unable to uphold the obligations of membership. EFTA is exactly the same.

      Everyone seems very exercised by the fact that countries with a history of independence don’t “speak up”. International politics is a brutal business with everyone out for only themselves. It is the duty of the Estonian government to act on behalf of Estonia in the best interests of Estonia. I would guess they came to a view that it wasn’t in their best interests to “speak up”. Change is almost never in anyone’s short term interests. I can’t think of a single advantage that would come to Estonia in this situation. In fact, I can only think of risk.

      The simple truth here is that the EU only has power over EU law and EU law is restricted to the competences it has been granted by its members. That does not include policing or constitutional affairs. I’m in total agreement with the author here: I hope it stays that way.

      I do wish everyone would direct their ire elsewhere. It’s the International Court of Justice that would be responsible for deliberating on the right to self determination yet nobody is angry at António Guterres over the UN’s restrictive description of that right. It’s the Council of Europe that is charged with upholding human rights in Europe yet nobody directs their anger at Strasbourg courts. It’s heads of national governments that can engage in quiet diplomacy, yet nobody seems all that furious with Macron or even May or Johnson.


    • Thanks again for your insights, which I’m sure are streets ahead of mine.

      You say though that you “can’t think of a single advantage that would come to [e.g.] Estonia”. Well would it not be to any small member country’s advantage to have even one more of the same in the club? A small step, but an advance nevertheless, in the direction of a more equitable Europe, a small erosion of the dominance of the big post-imperial players? Not to mention the impact of another small language and associated culture showing it’s face above the parapet? (Until this all made the news I’d never seen a word of Catalan, and I’m quite interested in languages, the same must be true for most people outside of Catalonia itself).


    • That is a great question.

      The real advantage of a new member would be if it meant new opportunities. Catalonian membership would be the same people in the same territory but now with another small nation making a claim to that disproportionate MEP count per head of population and another country potentially using their veto to make it even harder to make decisions. I guess there is an argument if Catalonian interests merged with Estonian interests, as you said.


  2. Thanks for this excellent article. I wish I could have even a fraction of your optimism. I

    It’s the tiniest point but I’m not sure I’d describe the CAP as a neo-liberal policy. I’m not sure I could describe any system of state subsidy as neo-liberal. The CAP is a corruption of its original intention, out-dated, non redistributive, inefficient, and scandalous. It is all of those things and more but I’m not sure it could ever be called neo-liberal. Having said that, I’ve never really seen an agreed definition of the term so maybe we are talking at cross-purposes.


    • Thanks fir your comments on my blog Marconatrix and Terry!

      I think Terry answers most of your points well Marconatrix, or as well as they can be answered. Like I say, the EU is far from perfect. To be honest when I worked there I was shocked at the waste and the inefficiency (even corruption and certainly sleaze). Trying to get policy done was like wading through treacle – and that was when I only had to agree it with 15 member states. I hated having to change all my writing into euro speak – remove all my idiomatic expressions.

      I think what the Catalonia situation has has shown us is the nasty side of state power. This is where we verge into foreign policy and the large game of ‘risk’ which is perpetually played (I love that game of world domination – I always win). Someone has to be the global power – are you glad it us us? Wouldn’t you rather we were part of the big power that us Europe? To defend ourselves? I’d like to think we can all live in peace but I generally think men are selfish and to quite Hobbes life is ‘nasty, brutish and short’. I mean, once states start getting eroded away for simple aims such as ‘democracy’, where do the big powers end up! It’s horrid I know, but it is what it is, but hopefully things will change in time…

      Scotland has oil. Thinking maybe that’ll make EU want to keep us in their club. Plus our banter, whisky and general ingenuity is beyond compare – remember that time we head butted a burning terrorist? I’m thinking EU might just keep us it to stick it up to England hehe.

      Terry, I see your point about the CAP and CFP not being neoliberal, thanks. What I was meaning was that they aim to create a false global (pan eu) economy in agri and fish – with Henry Ford style compartmentalisation of production line and economy of scale efficiencies. It pushes toward large scale farms / fishing and pushing down of prices – such that e.g. dairy farmers are producing milk at a loss. Whatever it is, it is not a well functioning system, and I may well be happy to be out of it. It doesn’t seem to benefit Scotland at all anyway, although that could just be because UK manages our engagement with both CFP and CAP. I’d welcome your further thoughts on that….


  3. I believe a two tier, even three tier EU is an inevitable consequence of the euro (in a neofunctional sense). I’m not a fan. As you say, it is the large ex colonial states bullying the rest around, with their strong economies. Yes, EU has systems to ensure the small states have clout (weighted voting etc.) but I regret the euro ever being put into play. I’m glad we never joined it and personally, I think it should be ditched. The Lisbon Treaty also extended EU competence into areas of ‘high policy’ too far reaching for the EU superstate which lacks the democratic controls we enjoy at sovereign state level. Delors principle of subsidiarity – that what is best done at the local level should remain so – seems to have got lost somewhere along the way. Sovereign states have their place, as do local levels of democratic control. United in diversity is the EU motto – yet homogeneity and strict ‘convergence criteria’ seems to be the current path…


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