Rethinking Europe

Brexit: How Trump Strengthens the Case of the Remainers

The Leavers’ hopes for a bilateral trade deal with the United States always seemed very iffy. After Trump’s UK visit, they are now wholly unrealistic.

Credit: Prachatai www.flickr.com

Takeaways


  • The Leavers’ hopes for a bilateral trade deal with the US always seemed very iffy. After Trump’s UK visit, they are now wholly unrealistic.
  • Does Britain seriously want to become a guinea pig for Trump’s preference for bilateral deals?
  • Negotiating with Trump is worse than negotiating with pudding. Pudding might be mushy -- but it has no evil intentions.
  • Traditionally, the UK has been the hallmark of rigorous pragmatism, always blended with a more than healthy pursuit of self-interest. That seems history.

The hopes of the Brexiteers – hard or soft – for a positive outcome of their Brexit venture have always run on fumes. And a key part of those “fumes” that have given the Brexiteers hope for their vision of a “global Britain” was a future free trade deal with the United States.

Three facts stand in the way of such a deal becoming a reality. First, a bilateral deal would be monstrously difficult to negotiate. Just consider the already announced U.S. intention not to allow any lower drug pricing for the NHS. That alone would make a US-UK FTA near impossible.

Second, does Britain seriously want to become a guinea pig for Trump’s preference for bilateral deals? The U.S. President has long let it be known that he likes such deals because he is convinced that the U.S. side, by virtue of the size of its domestic market, can pull the respective other side across the table.

An enfeebled UK, which would have just recently put itself on the sidelines of the EU, represents an ideal target for Mr. Trump to handle.

One can even count on him to state in the midst of such negotiations – if they ever came to pass – that he would see to it that the immense unfairness the British colonizers imposed on the American colonizers would need to be recompensed for in the new deal.

Third, to the extent that such talks seemed to be in the realm of the possible, the interview released by The Sun newspaper moments after the dinner in honor of Donald Trump at Blenheim Palace had been concluded pretty much puts paid to any realistic prospect of a bilateral FTA.

Dealing with a schizophrenic and a misogynist

Trump said so himself, even if he now calls the interview, conducted with the journalists of Britain’s leading rabidly conservative and pro-hard-Brexit yellow press, “fake news.”

In reality, Trump was just being his usual self. For some weird reason, he feels a constant need to beat up on women who are political leaders. So far, his target was Germany’s Angela Merkel. Now, it is Theresa May.

What are the Tories smoking?

Do British Conservatives seriously want to base the future prosperity of their country’s economy on dealing with a man about whom the nicest thing to say is that he is, at best, a schizophrenic?

Negotiating with Trump is worse than negotiating with pudding. Pudding might be mushy — but it has no evil intentions.

The White Paper is DOA in Brussels

What makes the ever more problematic situation for Mrs. May and the Leavers so much worse is that the White Paper, drawn up to unify her cabinet (and failing even in that goal), is but a cherry-picked wish list of the British side.

It is based on the false notion that the exit deal is a matter of negotiation among equals. That may have been so two centuries ago, but now it is pretty much a deal where one country negotiates against 27 others – all of which are not just remarkably, but even miraculously united.

All British efforts to get, say, the Poles or Frau Merkel to become the water carrier for the Tories’ attempt to get a deal they can live with have been for naught.

The Conservative pipedream

Understandably so. The EU is in a difficult pickle on many fronts, but the Brexit maneuver is considered little more than a nuisance. Every single one of the 27 knows that one cannot change the precariously balanced EU edifice just to please British conservatives in the pursuit of their pipedream.

Without ever saying so out loud, the other EU capitals don’t mind the UK having pipedreams. After all, it is every nation’s sovereign right to take leave of its sense and/or well-understood self-interest.

What really bewilders most other European politicians is that it is the UK side that entertains that pipedream.

Traditionally, the country has been the hallmark of rigorous pragmatism, always blended with a more than healthy pursuit of self-interest. That seems history.

And when even liberal voices such as Charles Grant of the London-based Center for European Reform talks about it being unacceptable to having a deal with the EU like Norway because that would make the UK a “vassal state,” it goes to show one sad fact: The UK is still very long on imperial attitudes – and very short on realism.

Conclusion

Just as Trump has worked wonders to unify the EU 27, so does Britain with its Brexit maneuver. The EU’s presumable detractors are — de facto, though certainly not by their intent — its best promoters.

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About Stephan Richter

Stephan Richter is the publisher and editor-in-chief of The Globalist. [Berlin/Germany]

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